Breaking up: Teammates teased catcher Kelly Shoppach after he broke a bat over his knee after striking out for the third straight time Sunday. After the game, both pieces of the bat, along with a sign reading “Kelly [Quadzilla] Shoppach ... Stop The Violence Day” were displayed above his locker. “It’s not the first time I’ve done it when I’ve been frustrated,” an embarrassed Shoppach said. “I just kept swinging and swinging at everything. “I just kind of lost my mind for a second. It won’t happen again, I guarantee it.”
Saving the day: Right-hander Joe Borowski has converted his last 12 save opportunities and is on pace for 48 saves, which would break Jose Mesa’s team record of 46 set in 1995. “I feel good and am happy to contribute to this team being in first place,” Borowski said. “That’s the important part.” Overall, the first-place Indians have 24 saves in 29 chances. After 81 games last year, the club had 12 blown saves in 24 chances and was 17 games back in the AL Central at 38-43.
June boon: The Indians won six of their last eight games in June to go 15-13, giving them three consecutive winning months for the first time since 1999. The club batted .272 (263-for-968) with 45 doubles, 34 homers and 136 runs in 28 games, averaging 4.9 runs in the month. In the farm system, left-hander Aaron Laffey went 6-0 with an 0.87 ERA at Triple-A Buffalo in June. In 41 1/3 innings, the 22-year-old allowed only 30 hits and struck out 38. The Indians’ 16th-round draft pick in 2003 began the season at Double-A Akron, going 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA. Overall this year, Laffey is 10-4 with a 3.10 ERA at the two levels.
Still beaming: One night after hitting the game-winning home run in the ninth inning, Ben Francisco was back on the Indians’ bench. Welcome to life as a big-league rookie, Ben. “That’s OK, I’m just happy to be here,” Francisco said Saturday as he unwrapped several submarine sandwiches delivered to the clubhouse with his name on them. Francisco, a former Mahoning Valley Scrapper, frequented a sandwich shop 20 minutes from Jacobs Field when he played at Class A Lake County in 2003. The owners sent him his pre-game meal to thank him for his patronage and to honor his delivering the Indians a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in his first major-league start. Francisco got his first career hit, a fourth-inning single, then won the game by hitting a 2-2 slider over the wall in left field as the leadoff hitter in the bottom of the ninth. “It was a night Ben will never forget,” said manager Eric Wedge, who left the 25-year-old outfielder off his lineup card Saturday. “Benny will be ready to go in case we need him. We needed him last night and he came through.” Maybe Wedge thought Francisco needed a break after being inundated with phone calls all day. “I heard from guys I played with in Little League, high school, college, the minors, everywhere,” said Francisco, who admitted he got a special kick out of watching replays of the homer on TV. “I’ve only seen it twice,” he said. “It was the last thing I saw when I went to bed. I got up this morning, turned on the TV and there it was again. That’s awesome. It’s still kind of hard to believe.”
Time to change: Jake Westbrook used his change-up more Friday night and got good results. The right-hander allowed one run and five hits over seven innings, striking out seven. “It was working for me and they’re an aggressive team,” Westbrook said of the young Tampa Bay Devil Rays. “I kept using it. It’s probably the most I’ve thrown it in a long time.” Westbrook loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, but wiggled out of the jam with two strikeouts. “When I got two strikes on [Carlos] Pena, I got him to go after a changeup,” Westbrook said. “Then I used [Ty] Wigginton’s aggressiveness against him and got him on a change.”
Bo knows baseball: The Indians on Saturday signed infielder-outfielder Bo Greenwell, their sixth-round pick in the 2007 draft. He’s the son of former Boston outfielder Mike Greenwell, who was Wedge’s teammate with the Red Sox. “I kind of remember him running around as a little kid,” Wedge said. “We had a veteran team at the time and a lot of players had their sons around.” Bo Greenwell batted .510 with three homers, 31 RBIs and 22 stolen bases at Riverdale High School in Fort Myers, Fla., this spring. Cleveland has signed nine of its first 12 selections in this year’s draft.
Getting defensive: Wedge said one of the highlights of the first half of the season has been the Indians’ improved defense. “It has been a lot better — and it had to be,” Wedge said. “Last year, we made a lot of errors at important intervals of the game. We’re not doing that this year.” One area of significant improvement has been catcher Victor Martinez’s throwing. Through 79 games, Martinez threw out 24 of 51 (27.5 percent) baserunners attempting to steal. That is the third-best mark in the AL and includes a 36 percent (6-for-17) ratio in June. Through 79 games a year ago, Martinez had stopped only five of 56 (8.9 percent) of opponents trying to steal.