Austin Kearns hit two home runs and drove in four RBI to lead the Cleveland Indians over the Nationals 7-2 Friday night. After an RBI double by Adam Dunn in the first inning, Adam Kennedy botched a grounder in the bottom half that allowed Russell Branyan to reach base and continue the inning.
Kearns would capitalize, driving a Luis Atilano fastball over the left-field fence to give the Indians a 3-1 lead and they wouldn’t relinquish it from there.
Kearns would homer again in the fourth and Travis Hafner would add one of his own as the Indians continued to tack on runs throughout the game. Ivan Rodriguez would add a run in the eighth for the Nats on an error, but that would be all the scoring the Nationals would be able to do for the rest of the game.
On the day, Atilano struggled. He threw 103 pitches in his five-plus innings of work, surrendering seven hits, three earned runs, two walks and two strikeouts. The Travis Hafner sixth inning home run knocked Atilano out of the game.
It didn’t help that the Nationals put up a poor effort against sinker-baller Jake Westbrook, who is one of the starting pitching names to watch come the trade deadline. While the top third of the batting order produced a productive 6-11 with both of the Nationals runs, the rest of the line-up managed a meager 1-20. No team will win ball games when over half their line-up accounts for one hit in their 20 at-bats.
Well, Austin Kearns played as if he had a chip on his shoulder. Actually, he’s been playing all year for former Nats manager Manny Acta as if he’s had a chip on his shoulder. From 2008 through 2009, we can all agree that Kearns was a walking disaster. Last year, in 174 at bats, he posted a line of .195/.336/.305. The year before, that line read .217/.311/.316. This year, however, in his first 179 at-bats, Kearns has posted a .307/.393/.508. Maybe it’s the change of scenery, I really can’t say for certain. But Kearns is a new man in Cleveland this year.
It’s also important to take note of the performance from Jake Westbrook tonight. Westbrook is under contract next year, but the predominately groundball pitcher may be one of the best, realistic options on the trade market. If the Nats don’t want to splurge on Oswalt or Cliff Lee, the second-tier guys are looking like Westbrook, Jeremy Guthrie and Kevin Millwood. Of the three, Westbrook might be the best of the bunch and most reliable.
The Nats and Indians square off again today, with JD Martin (0-1, 2.31) takes on Fausto Carmona (4-5, 3.49) at 7:05. But hey! Before the game, don’t forget about the World Cup. USA v. England, 2:30 on ABC. Grab a beer, grab a friend, today is a good day for sports.