ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Kevin Kouzmanoff stepped into the
batter's box with the bases loaded for his first major league at-bat, and his Cleveland Indians teammates had the audacity to
predict a grand slam for the rookie.
Kouzmanoff, subbing for grand-slam master Travis Hafner, homered
with the bases loaded on the first major league pitch he faced, and
the Indians went on to stretch their winning streak to five games
with a 6-5 victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday night."Everybody in the dugout was saying he was about to do it,"
Indians starter Cliff Lee said. "It's pretty impressive to do it
on the first pitch he faced in the big leagues. He wasn't scared.
He went up there and hit his pitch."With Hafner out due to a bruised right hand, Kouzmanoff made a
smashing major league debut as a designated hitter a few hours
after he was called up from Triple-A Buffalo.Kouzmanoff had a few nervous moments on Saturday afternoon when
his flight to Dallas/Fort Worth International was delayed, but he
reached the ballpark in time for batting practice.It wasn't long before he was circling the bases on his grand
slam, just like Hafner has done six times this season to tie a
major league record."I don't really remember running around the bases," Kouzmanoff
said. "I couldn't believe I did it. It hasn't sunk in yet. I still
can't believe I did it."Grady Sizemore led off the game with a homer for the fourth time
this season and seventh of his career.The Indians loaded the bases later in the first against Rangers
starter Edinson Volquez (1-4). Kouzmanoff knocked Volquez's first
pitch over the center field wall to give the Indians a 5-0 lead."He went up there ready to hit and got on one," Cleveland
manager Eric Wedge said. "Obviously it was a huge lift for us. It
was a big hit early and it ended up being the difference in the
ball game."Volquez allowed eight baserunners in 1 2/3 innings, giving up
six runs and five hits.Kouzmanoff became the third player in major league history with
a grand slam in his first at bat. The others are Jeremy Hermida for
the Florida Marlins against St. Louis Cardinals on Aug. 31, 2005,
and Bill Duggleby for Philadelphia Phillies against the New York
Giants on April 21, 1898.Kouzmanoff joins Hermida, Duggleby and Bobby Bonds (on June 25,
1968 for the San Francisco Giants against the Los Angeles Dodgers)
as the only players with grand slams in their first major league
game.Cleveland, which has won nine of 10, padded its advantage to 6-0
in the second on Victor Martinez's sacrifice fly.Lee (11-10) allowed four runs and seven hits in seven innings.
He struck out four and walked one.The Rangers cut the deficit to 6-2 in the second on Nelson
Cruz's RBI double and Gary Matthews Jr.'s run-producing ground-out,
and then made it 6-4 in the sixth on Ian Kinsler's two-run single.Tom Mastny pitched the ninth for his fifth save in as many
chances despite allowing a run. Gerald Laird led off the ninth with
a single and went to third on Kinsler's double. After Nelson Cruz
grounded out, Matthews Jr. singled in Laird but Kinsler was called
out on right fielder Casey Blake's one-hop throw to Martinez.Rangers third base coach Steve Smith did not hesitate to send
Kinsler, and Smith was convinced that home plate umpire Dale Scott
made the wrong decision."If I don't send him, I've got 40,000 (fans) yelling at me,"
Smith said. "It took a perfect throw and (Kinsler) was still
safe."Said Kinsler: "I thought my foot beat the ball. I thought I got
in there. It's frustrating because that play could have tied the
game but it didn't go our way."From the perspective of the other dugout, Wedge felt that
Kinsler was out."I haven't seen the replay but it looked like the ball beat
him," Wedge said. "And (Martinez) did a good job of catching and
hanging on with the tag."
The Indians' longest winning streak of the season is six
games, accomplished twice. ... Cleveland has 12 grand slams this
season, tying the 1999 club record. ...The Indians are within four
games of .500 (65-69) for the first time since July 4 when they
were 39-43. ... The Rangers have lost eight of 12. ... Lee had been
1-4 with three no-decisions since July 13.