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Sabathia starts strong, leads Tribe past Seattle



Published: Sat, April 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Ronnie Belliard added a three-run homer for the Indians.

SEATTLE (AP) -- C.C. Sabathia is counting on this being the season where he doesn't have a letdown after a good start.

Sabathia pitched seven innings and Ronnie Belliard hit a three-run homer, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 6-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.

"I felt great," he said. "Hopefully, I can keep up the way I'm pitching the whole year. I'm excited I'm throwing a lot of strikes. I usually start off my seasons pretty good. I'm just hoping I can throw like this in August and September."

The Indians handed Sabathia (1-0), a two-time All-Star making his second start of the season because he missed all of spring training with a strained right oblique muscle, a 5-0 lead in the first.

Coco Crisp and Alex Cora led off the game with singles, and Travis Hafner and Casey Blake had RBI singles. With two outs, Belliard hit his fourth homer of the season, a 335-foot shot near the right-field corner for three more runs off Gil Meche (1-1).

"It was huge," Sabathia said of the big lead. "It takes a lot of pressure off you when the guys go out there and score some runs early and you can just go out there and focus on throwing strikes."

Sabathia limited the Mariners to one run on five hits and two walks, with five strikeouts.

Blossoming

Eric Wedge, in his third full season as the Indians manager, thinks Sabathia is finally blossoming into a premier starting pitcher.

"I love where he's at right now," he said. "He is being more efficient. I think that just goes along with him pitching, his mentality and his focus."

The Mariners scored against Sabathia in the second on singles by Bret Boone and Raul Ibanez, and Willie Bloomquist's sacrifice fly.

Cora's RBI single off Julio Mateo in the sixth made the score 6-1.

Sabathia left the game after throwing 97 pitches, and David Riske came on to finish the six-hitter for the Indians.

Meche went five innings, allowing five runs on seven hits and four walks, with three strikeouts.

Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-4 and is 3-for-20 in his last five games. He went hitless for the third time this season.

Suzuki, who came into the game 11-for-25 (.440) in his career against Sabathia, was retired on three infield groundballs when he faced Sabathia.

"That's weird, huh?" Sabathia said. "I never get Ichiro out. I think that's the key to their lineup. If you can keep Ichiro off base, you don't have to worry about him stealing second and third. Then you don't have to worry about making bad pitches to the other guys."

The Indians lost 6-5 in 10 innings in Anaheim Thursday night after taking a 5-0 lead in the first two innings.

Belliard, who was a first-time All-Star last season, said he took that defeat exceptionally hard.

"We talk about it last night on the plane and again today," he said. "But we come back today."




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