Indians sink Mariners


CLEVELAND – Jhonny Peralta and Travis Hafner hit consecutive homers in the fifth inning to back Cliff Lee and the Cleveland Indians won their sixth straight, 9-5 over the Seattle Mariners.

At 6-1, the Indians are off to their best start since opening 11-1 in 2002. It’s also the first time they’ve been in first place in the AL Central since April 18, 2002, a season they finished 74-88.

Peralta’s two-run homer and Hafner’s solo shot off Jarrod Washburn (1-1) gave the Indians a 6-0 lead and provided Lee (1-0) with all the cushion he would need.

The left-hander, who improved to 5-0 in six career starts against Seattle, allowed two runs and four hits in six innings. He didn’t have his best stuff, but with the way the Indians are playing right now, he didn’t need it.

Jose Lopez hit a two-run homer for the Mariners, who have lost four in a row.

Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-4 and is 0-for-17 in his last four games – the first time he has gone that long without a hit since Aug. 2-5, 2002.

Peralta and Hafner connected for two-out homers totaling an estimated 813 feet in the fifth off Washburn, tagged for six runs and nine hits in five innings.

Casey Blake doubled leading off, but Washburn retired the next two hitters. However, Peralta, who set a franchise home run record for shortstops last season with 24, hit his first of 06 to make it 5-0.

Hafner followed with his fifth homer in 15 at-bats, a laser shot into the budding trees and empty picnic tables in straightaway center. Hafner, who hit 33 homers last season, didn’t hit No. 5 of 2005 until May 17.

Seattle cut it to 6-2 in the sixth on Lopez’s homer, and the Mariners pulled to 6-3 in the seventh on Yuniesky Betancourt’s RBI single.

But the Indians added three runs in the seventh on Victor Martinez’s RBI single and Ronnie Belliard’s two-out, two-run single. In the eighth, Belliard made a nice backhand stop up the middle and flipped the ball to Peralta to start a double play.

The Mariners hit a couple line drives off Lee, but didn’t get one to fall for a hit until the fifth when Kenji Johjima doubled with two outs.

The Indians came out swinging – literally – against Washburn, who needed just 10 pitches to get through the first two innings and threw only 22 after three. But in the fourth, Cleveland’s aggressiveness paid off.

Peralta singled and went to second when left fielder Raul Ibanez misjudged his one-hopper and let it hop over his head for an error. Hafner ripped Washburn’s first pitch for an RBI single, and Martinez didn’t let Washburn relax by following with a run-scoring double on the first pitch.

Grady Sizemore’s RBI single in the third put Cleveland up 1-0.

Notes: Suzuki’s average dropped to .176 (6-for-34), but Mariners manager Mike Hargrove is hardly ready to press the panic button because of the Japanese hitting machine. “In 04 he had the same kind of start, and what did he get about 260 hits (262)? We’ll take that,” Hargrove said. “Death, taxes and Ichiro getting base hits. Some things are a solid bet.” … Belliard returned to the lineup after missing two games with a strained calf.

AP-ES-04-11-06 2144EDT