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Belliard strokes grand slam as Tribe thump Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The Cleveland Indians knew what they
had to do to keep pace in AL wild-card race.

Ronnie Belliard hit his first career grand slam during a
seven-run third inning, leading the Indians to a 12-4 victory over
the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Thursday night.

Jose Hernandez went 3-for-5 with three RBI for Cleveland, which
stayed less than a percentage point behind the New York Yankees and
Oakland Athletics in the AL wild-card race.

The Indians took the field Thursday night knowing the Yankees
and Athletics had already won afternoon games.

"We created opportunities and took advantage of them when they
came about," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said.

Cleveland has won seven of eight overall, and are 39-26 on the
road. The Indians are 17-6 since July 31, the best record in the
majors.

Eduardo Perez homered and tied a career-high with four RBI for
Tampa Bay, which lost for the fourth time in 13 games.

"That was a long game, wasn't it?" Devil Rays manager Lou
Piniella asked of the game that lasted five minutes short of three
hours.

In the third, Hernandez had an RBI single to make it 4-1. Two
runs scored on Kazmir's errant throw home on Ben Broussard's
grounder with the bases loaded. Replays appeared to show the
groundball went off Broussard's foot, which would have made it a
foul ball.

Broussard said the ball did hit his foot.

"It barely nicked my foot, and took a funny bounce," Broussard
said. "None of the umps really had a good look at it."

Belliard's grand slam off Travis Harper on a 3-2 pitch gave
Cleveland a nine-run lead.

"He made a mistake," said Belliard, who entered hitting .231
with runners in scoring position and two outs. "It's been hard for
me to get hits with two outs and guys on base. I'm excited we won
the game."

An anticipated pitching duel between Cliff Lee of the Indians
and 21-year old Tampa Bay rookie Scott Kazmir never happened.

Lee (14-4) allowed four runs and four hits over six innings. He
is 5-0 in his last eight starts.

"He gave up the one three-run shot," Wedge said, referring to
Perez's homer. "Other than that, he was down in the zone
effectively."

Kazmir (7-9) lasted 2 1-3 innings, giving up eight runs -- four
earned -- and eight hits. The left-hander had been 4-1 with a 2.44
ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break.

"The main thing is just, the slider I was throwing, everyone
was hanging right down the middle," Kazmir said. "It's
frustrating on the mound."

It was Kazmir's shortest outing this season

"With young pitchers, you're going to get what you saw tonight
at times," Piniella said.

Lee and Kazmir faced each other in Cleveland on Aug. 14, when
the Devil Rays won 1-0. Neither was involved in the decision that
saw Lee work eight scoreless innings and Kazmir not allow a run
over six innings.

Consecutive run-scoring doubles by Hernandez and Aaron Boone,
and an RBI single by Broussard put the Indians up 3-1 in the
second.

Hernandez, who had four hits in his last 31 at-bats, had an RBI
single in fourth, and Travis Hafner hit his 20th homer -- a solo
shot -- one inning later.

Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in the first on Perez's RBI grounder.
He hit the three-run homer in the third.

Lee retired his final 10 batters after Perez's homer. He had
five strikeouts and no walks.

Game notes
Tampa Bay has allowed nine grand slams this season. The
major league record of 14 was set by the Detroit Tigers in 1996.
... Cleveland C Victor Martinez singled in his first four at-bats
before grounding out hard to second in the eighth. He went 3-for-3
with a sacrifice fly on Wednesday. ... Lee is 8-2 on the road this
season. ... Kazmir has 137 strikeouts this year, the most by an AL
rookie in one season since Baltimore's Rodrigo Lopez had 136 in
2003. ... Perez's homer was his 10th of the season, coming on his
129th at-bat.