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Mench homer not enough as Indians top Rangers

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Bob Wickman didn't care about Kevin Mench's
home run streak. The Indians closer went after Mench like any other
hitter.

Mench homered in his seventh straight game for Texas, but made
the final out against Wickman as the Cleveland Indians held on to
beat the Rangers 7-6 Friday night for their third straight victory.

"I was coming after him because he already had his homer
tonight," Wickman said after yielding a run in the ninth before
getting Mench to pop out with a runner on third for his fifth save.

Wickman thought he had Mench struck out on a 2-2 pitch.

"I wanted that punch-out," he said. "I was going for a
strikeout. I figured if I went and got beat it would have been on
good pitches. I made a lot of good ones to him."

Mench then fouled off three straight with a 3-2 count before
popping to second baseman Ronnie Belliard -- as Wickman pumped his
fist in exhaltation.

Wickman tied a career high with his 21st consecutive save since
Aug. 6 and matched Doug Jones for the Cleveland club record with
129.

"There's huge satisfaction in that, but I've got to credit all
the doctors and trainers in Cleveland," said Wickman, who missed
all of 2003 and part of 2004 after having elbow surgery before
recording a career-best 45 saves last season.

Mench was 0-for-3 before hitting an 0-2 pitch from Guillermo
Mota just over the left-field wall to open the eighth after
Cleveland had scored twice in the seventh.

He became the first right-handed batter ever to reach the
plateau, joining Jim Thome, Don Mattingly, Dale Long and Ken
Griffey Jr.

"When you say 'ever' in our game, that better get your
attention," Texas manager Buck Showalter said.

Long, Mattingly and Griffey share the major league record with
homers in eight straight games.

"I don't care about records, I care about winning," said
Mench.

Victor Martinez drew a bases-loaded walk off Ron Mahay to snap a
4-4 tie in the seventh and Eduardo Perez followed with an RBI on a
fielder's choice to put Cleveland ahead, 6-4.

"We walked too many people," Showalter said after Texas issued
seven bases on balls. "That was the difference. That's a tough
lineup. They can do enough damage without us helping them."

Rick Bauer (1-1) put the first two runners on before Mahay came
on with one out and walked both Travis Hafner and Martinez to force
in a run.

"They didn't give in and showed great patience," said Indians
manager Eric Wedge. "We battled back all night."

The Rangers closed to 6-5 on Mench's homer, but the Indians got
the run back on an RBI double by Jason Michaels, who had three hits
to snap a 6-for-38 (.158) slide.

"J-Mike came through in a huge way tonight," said Wedge.

Then Wickman gave up one run on consecutive doubles by Michael
Young and Mark Teixeira in the ninth, before getting three straight
outs.

The teams exchanged leads all night.

Hank Blalock had an RBI single in the first off Jason Johnson.
Teixeira was out trying to score from second on the play. Plate
umpire Brian O'Nora waited to see if catcher Martinez held the ball
before signalling out -- triggering a protest from Rangers
third-base coach Steve Smith, who was quickly ejected.

Jhonny Peralta had a run-scoring single and scored on a double
by Martinez in the bottom half to put Cleveland ahead 2-1 against
John Koronka.

Texas got consecutive RBI singles from Phil Nevin and Blalock in
the fifth for a 3-2 lead.

Cleveland tied it when Blake walked and scored from first on
Michaels' one-out double.

Texas took a 4-3 lead on Gary Matthews Jr.'s sacrifice fly, but
Cleveland answered with an RBI single by Aaron Boone.

Matthews' RBI came on a line shot to left-center with the bases
loaded that center fielder Grady Sizemore caught with a dive.

"He probably saved two or three runs," said Teixeira. "If he
doesn't make that play, I think the game is ours."

Game notes
Koronka, who had won his three previous starts, gave up six
hits and four runs over 5 2-3 innings. The left-hander walked four
and struck out two. ... Johnson allowed 12 hits and four runs over
six innings, walking two and striking out one. The 12 hits tied a
career high. He also gave up 12 at Tampa Bay on Aug. 9, 1999. ...
Martinez has reached base safely in all 23 games this season and 38
straight since Sept. 17.<