A Bright Moment

Published 12:54 am Monday, June 28, 2010

CINCINNATI — Breaking ball? Gone. Changeup? Gone, too. A pair of fastballs? Shin-Soo Choo clobbered those just as well.

The outfielder provided Cleveland’s few bright moments in an intrastate series that won’t be remembered for much else.

Choo homered twice off Bronson Arroyo — the second time he’s done it this season — and the Indians ended their seven-game losing streak on Sunday, beating the Cincinnati Reds 5-3 right after they started playing for next year.

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The Indians traded power hitter Russell Branyan to Seattle for a pair of prospects before the game, conceding this season is a lost cause. Then, Choo gave them a brief respite from their misery.

“I feel good about stopping the losing streak,” Choo said.

He hit a solo homer in the first and a three-run shot in the fifth off Arroyo (7-4), who can’t seem to get him out. Choo also homered twice off Arroyo on May 21 during Cincinnati’s 7-4 win in Cleveland. The four homers have come off a breaking ball, a changeup and a pair of fastballs.

“Matchups in this game are strange sometimes,” Arroyo said. “Obviously, he’s confident against me. Four home runs in two games is outstanding.”

Despite the loss, Cincinnati remained a half-game ahead of St. Louis in the NL Central. The Cardinals lost to Kansas City 10-3 on Sunday. It’s the latest in a season that the Reds have been in first place since 1999.

Rookie Mitch Talbot (8-6) held the NL’s most prolific lineup to three singles over seven innings. Talbot is one of the AL’s best pitchers on the road, a trend that held when he crossed leagues. He retired 12 in a row over one stretch.

Just what the shaken Indians needed to break that losing streak.

“Maybe the night before, you think you really need to do what you can to get that win,” Talbot said. “Maybe you can break something up.”

Chris Perez gave up a two-run homer by Joey Votto in the eighth, cutting it to 5-3. Kerry Wood struck out the side in the ninth for his sixth save in nine tries.

Now, their manager can get a clean shave for the first time since the losing streak began. He’d been putting it off until they won a game.

It took a week.

“First off, I get to shave my salt-and-pepper goatee,” manager Manny Acta said.

The rare Indians win — only their second in 13 games — completed a dismal interleague showing. Cleveland went 5-13 this year against NL teams, including 2-4 against the intrastate rival Reds. Cincinnati has dominated the series lately, going 13-5 over the past three years.

Things are so bad that the Indians already started looking to next year and beyond. They traded Branyan for prospects and called up first baseman Matt LaPorta, who will play every day as part of his development. Catching prospect Carlos Santana, who was called up June 11, added a solo homer on Sunday.

Outfielder Michael Brantley — acquired two years ago in the C.C. Sabathia trade along with LaPorta — will likely get promoted soon to establish his career.

“Becoming younger — we won’t shy away from it,” Acta said. “The kids need to keep going hard and continue to learn at this level. This is never the easiest level to learn, but good times are coming.”

Cleveland has the third-worst record in the majors only three years after it lost to Boston in the AL championship series. The Indians on pace to lose 100 games for the first time since 1991, when they were playing at Cleveland Stadium.

Choo provided a one-day respite with his fifth career multihomer game. He’s 6 for 12 in his career off Arroyo with four homers and a pair of doubles.

“He has Bronson’s number,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It was all Talbot and Choo today.”

NOTES: The start of the game was delayed 1 hour, 21 minutes by a storm. … The Indians acquired 22-year-old OF Ezequiel Carrera and 21-year-old SS Juan Diaz for Branyan. … LaPorta was 0 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts. He also grounded into a double play. … Cleveland pitchers went 1 for 18 with nine strikeouts in NL ballparks this year. … The Reds optioned RH starter Sam LeCure to Triple-A Louisville and called up Bill Bray, giving them three left-handed relievers for an upcoming series against Philadelphia.