JACOBS FIELD Tribe, Elarton continue to soar
Cleveland jolted the Twins to move within two games of first place.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CLEVELAND -- On May 17, Tribe pitcher Scott Elarton was an injured outcast from the Colorado Rockies and the Indians were a sub-.500 team hoping to contend in 2005.
Three months later, both are thinking about the playoffs.
Talk about a turnaround.
"It's just nice to be pitching in a game that means something," Elarton said. "The last time I did that was in Houston in 1999. You get used to it, and it's hard to go back."
Elarton, a castoff the Tribe picked up off the waiver wire, evened his American League record at 2-2 Friday after pitching seven solid innings, as the Indians crushed the American League Central-leading Twins 8-2 in the first game of a three-game series at Jacobs Field.
Tribe eyes playoffs
The Tribe is just two games back of the Twins in the division and the players are starting to dream about the playoffs.
Does this look like a playoff team?
"Definitely," Elarton said. "The thing about this team is, they're not scared. They're not hesitant. We could have gone out tonight and fell flat on our faces. But we didn't. We just had a great time."
Of course, 5-0 first-inning leads will do that.
Ben Broussard, fresh off Thursday's game-winning, pinch-hit grand slam, hit a three-run homer in the first as the Indians jumped on Twins starter Carlos Silva.
And the crowd of 30,101 loved every minute.
"Cleveland is just awesome," Broussard said. "They were behind us and the momentum carried throughout the whole game. They're real rambunctious. They're yelling and cheering.
"It's cool to see that."
Broussard on a tear
Since the All-Star break, Broussard is hitting .397 (27-for-68) with six homers and 20 RBIs, helping the Tribe go 20-10 over that stretch -- fourth-best in the majors.
Cleveland has won five straight and nine of its last 10.
Minnesota, meanwhile, has lost seven of nine.
"When you play a team like Minnesota at this time of year, obviously there's a little behind it," said Indians manager Eric Wedge. "It's good to get the first one."
Omar Vizquel scored twice and went 4-for-5 to up his batting average to .304. Coco Crisp doubled and homered and Travis Hafner added two hits.
"Everyone is doing their part," said Vizquel. "You don't see too many guys doing their own thing. Everyone is doing it together."
If the Indians are going to make a run at the division title, they'll need Elarton to stay hot. He began the season with Colorado, but went 0-6 in his eight starts after missing the entire 2002 season with a shoulder injury.
"I was just pitching for my job for a while there," Elarton said. "I wasn't throwing well enough to win early in the season and I've felt a lot better the last six weeks."
Elarton has a 4.94 ERA in 12 starts with the Indians, who signed him on June 12. He's gotten better physically, but the main improvement has been mental, he said.
"I feel like I'm back to normal," said Elarton, who went 28-13 from 1998-00 with the Astros. "Everyone here is playing well and it's contagious."
Lew Ford had three hits, while Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer each added two for Minnesota, which had an eight-game lead in the AL Central on Aug. 4. Silva pitched just two innings -- the shortest stint of his career -- to drop to 10-8.
"When you play a pretty good team, you have to play all the way through," said Wedge. "Everyone did a good job today and I like the way we've been playing.
"But there's a lot of baseball to be played."