Indians sweep Orioles out of Cleveland

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The only numbers Travis Hafner is concerned with are the ones in Cleveland's win column.

Hafner drove in four runs to help C.C. Sabathia win his fourth straight start as the Indians completed a three-game sweep of the
Baltimore Orioles with a 5-1 victory Sunday.

The Indians, a half-game behind Oakland in the AL wild-card race, won their fourth straight and fifth in six games to move a season-high 12 games over .500.

"All we want to do is win," Hafner said after getting three hits. "If we win, we make up ground in the wild card and the division. All I care about is getting to the playoffs any way possible."

Though Cleveland has trimmed 6½ games off a 15-game deficit to AL Central leader Chicago since July 25, Hafner doesn't quite consider it a race with the White Sox -- yet.

"If you get it under five, that's realistic," he said. "Time will tell over the next month how much we have learned."

The skidding Orioles, who had playoff hopes in the first half, fell to 13-23 since the All-Star break and lost for the 26th time in 36 road games -- despite opening a six-game trip with a three-game sweep in Oakland.

"I'm disappointed," said Sam Perlozzo, who is 9-7 as interim manager. "I didn't expect to come in here and get swept."

Sabathia (10-9) improved to 4-0 in August after losing his last five starts in July.

"I've felt good all year, but I've been more in control lately," Sabathia said. "I feel a huge difference."

The left-hander gave up one run and three hits in eight innings, punctuating his performance by getting Eric Byrnes to hit his final pitch for a double play.

"Yeah, I'm pumped," Sabathia said. "We're pretty close in the wild card and creeping up on the White Sox."

Cleveland broke a 1-all tie in the sixth and extended the lead when Hafner's two-run double capped a three-run seventh.

Jhonny Peralta began the sixth with a soft liner to left-center off the glove of left fielder Byrnes, who was brushed by center fielder Luis Matos as he tried for the catch. Matos was charged with an error -- one of six by Baltimore in the last two games -- for causing the bobble.

"At the last second, I heard Luis call for it," Byrnes said. "It's tough to get out of the way, but that's my job. I screwed up."

Hafner lined a single to left and Peralta slid home ahead of Byrnes' throw for a 2-1 lead.

Coco Crisp made it 3-1 in the seventh with a sacrifice fly off reliever Tim Byrdak. After Peralta walked, Hafner lined a shot inches fair down the right field line for two more runs. Two wild pitches by Byrdak, one that allowed Grady Sizemore to reach base on a strikeout, fueled the rally.

Hafner put Cleveland ahead 1-0 with an RBI double in the first off Bruce Chen (10-7), who lost for the first time in four starts in August.

"I thought it was a homer," Hafner said of the drive that hit the top of the left field wall. "I still do, but the umpires said no."

Baltimore tied it in the fifth. Alejandro Freire was hit in the left foot by a pitch, bunted to second by Matos, took third on a single to left by Chris Gomez and scored on a groundout by Brian Roberts.

Sabathia worked out of an odd third inning in which Baltimore put three runners on without hitting the ball hard -- which might have unnerved the 25-year-old lefty and led to a big inning when he struggled in July.

Matos reached when his grounder went off shortstop Peralta's glove for an error. One out later, Matos took off for second, but Sabathia stepped off the mound and ran directly at the runner to start a textbook rundown sequence that emptied the bases.

Roberts walked, stole second and went to third when Byrnes beat out a grounder to Peralta for the Orioles' first hit. Sabathia, however, got Melvin Mora to line to left to end the threat.

Game notes
Hafner hit .353 (12-for-34) with 10 RBI, six doubles and one homer during a nine-game homestand. ... Indians second baseman Ronnie Belliard returned after missing two games with a sore neck, the result of a collision with umpire Eric Cooper on Thursday. ... Orioles first baseman-DH Rafael Palmeiro sat out his fifth straight game with a sprained right ankle. ... Crisp, who stranded eight runners Saturday night, struck out with the bases loaded to end the second and hit into a double play to end the fifth. ... Byrnes has hit .081 (3-for-37) over his last 10 games.