IndiansInk: Blankety Blanco Beats Tribe Again

Henry Blanco put his .218 batting average up against Jason Johnson's 55-93 record in a battle of career ne'er-do-wells. It was no contest. Blanco went 3-for-4, tied a career high with four RBI and led the Chicago Cubs to a 12-8 victory over the Indians in an interleague battle of underachievers in their respective Central divisions on Monday night.

The Cubs came to Cleveland after an 0-6 homestand and without starting catcher Michael Barrett, who on Monday began serving a 10-game suspension for punching the White Sox's A.J. Pierzynski to trigger a brawl on May 20.

Blanco hit the Indians with a few shots of his own, including a three-run homer off Johnson (3-8) that broke a 3-3 tie in the fourth inning.

"We needed it badly to get off the losing streak," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said.

Indians manager Eric Wedge needs a win even more now that Cleveland has lost four in a row, 12 of 16 overall and dropped 15 games back in the AL Central.

"We've done a very poor job," Wedge said of the Indians' ninth consecutive loss to open a series. "We recognize how bad things are right now, but good ballclubs find a way to overcome and win."

Blanco has bounced back this season. After going just 2-for-39 (.051) at the plate in his first 14 games, the veteran has batted .542 (13-for-24) during a seven-game hitting streak.

"I've been working hard," he said. "I'm seeing the ball good and getting good pitches to hit."

He got a great one from Johnson, a hanging slider that he hit over the wall in left for his third homer of the season.

"I hung a slider and it's a pitch I wish I had back," said Johnson, 1-7 with a 7.38 ERA since April 18.

Wedge was particularly upset at the timing, which came immediately after Cleveland had scored three runs in the third inning to tie the score. Eduardo Perez hit his eighth homer and Travis Hafner added his 19th -- a monstrous 461-shot to the second deck in right.

"Baseball is a game of momentum and when you get it you want to keep it," he said. "He hung a breaking ball in a situation that obviously hurt us, that's all there is to it."

Jacque Jones put Chicago ahead 1-0 with his 13th homer in the second inning. In the third, Blanco singled and lumbered all the way home from first when Juan Pierre tripled into the right-field corner. Pierre scored on a sacrifice fly by Todd Walker to make it 3-0.

After Blanco made it 6-3, Jhonny Peralta hit his seventh homer in the fifth to get Cleveland within 6-4 against Cubs starter Sean Marshall (4-5). The rookie left-hander allowed four runs and seven hits over five innings -- leaving after a 73-minute rain delay in the top of the sixth.

"He wasn't as sharp as we would have liked, but he had a couple games where he pitched well and didn't get the win so this is kind of a make up win for him," Baker said.

When play resumed, the Cubs got three hits on the first four pitches by Fernando Cabrera, including a two-run single by Pierre.

Phil Nevin hit a two-run homer -- his fifth of the season and 200th of his career -- in the seventh off Jeremy Guthrie, who gave up two more runs to make it 12-4 in the eighth.

Cleveland scored four runs off Cubs closer Ryan Dempster, trying to get some work in during the ninth. Former Cubs outfielder Todd Hollandsworth, Victor Martinez and Ramon Vazquez had RBI singles and Ben Broussard a sacrifice fly in the late rally.

Freddie Bynum and Blanco each had three of Chicago's 16 hits. Blanco raised his career average at Jacobs Field to .436 (17-for-39).

"This is a good place to hit. I see the ball well here," he said.

He's always hit well against the Indians, carrying a .320 career average against Cleveland into the game. That includes a whopping .396 (13-for-41) mark against them while with Minnesota in 2004.

He is expected to be the Cubs' primary catcher while starter Barrett is gone.

"He was hitting the ball," Blanco said of Barrett, who had hit .404 in 12 games in June. "We'll try to keep it going. I'm here to back him up. I'm getting a chance to get some playing time and I need to take advantage of it."

The Cubs are not allowed to add a player to the roster during the suspension. Nevin, who played one inning at catcher Sunday, will be the backup.

"I'm disappointed, but there's nothing we can do about it," Baker said when Barrett's appeal of the decision was denied.

"We brought in some precedence of similar fights in the past that ended up being less than my suspension," Barrett said. "Obviously, it's 10 games. I've got to serve it and put it behind me. I knew there would be consequences for my actions."

Barrett, batting .308 with eight homers and 30 RBIs this season, can participate in the Cubs' pregame workouts, but must leave the ballpark when the game begins.

"It's going to be tough to stay sharp in baseball terms," he said.

The Indians may be losing a player, too. Outfielder Jason Michaels, who sprained his right ankle Thursday when he ran into the left-field wall at Yankee Stadium, had an MRI exam Monday afternoon.

"You'll have to ask the doctors and trainers," Michaels said when asked about the results.

Wedge said he is not certain who may be called up to fill the roster spot. Third baseman Andy Marte has hit five homers in five games and nine overall in June at Triple-A Buffalo, but can't play the outfield. A possibility is former Cubs outfielder Jason Dubois, hitting .251 with eight homers and 46 RBI in 62 games at Buffalo.

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