Welcome to Dirtbags Baseball blog! I was introduced to Long Beach State baseball in 2002 when my nephew, Neil Jamison, joined the team (and university) as a freshman. I started the blog in March of 2004, and generally discuss the team, current players and those that have moved on to professional baseball - as Neil has done in the San Diego Padres organization. Living in San Diego County, and with Neil moving to the next level, I won't be attending as many Dirtbags games. But, mostly from a distance, I'll remain a Dirtbags fan. I welcome tips on stories and information concerning the Dirtbags (current, past and future). I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Jeff Liefer won one the end of last week for the Indians (hat tip to reader Rhonda) - from MLB.com:
Liefer assures grand sweep Seventh-inning heroics make winner of Millwood By Matt LaWell / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- Another night, another grand slam, another hero.
Only the hero this time around wasn't Travis Hafner or Victor Martinez or Jhonny Peralta. It wasn't even Grady Sizemore, back for more after his grand slam Wednesday night.
It was Jeff Liefer.
Yes, Liefer, the 30-year-old journeyman backup infielder with the .232 career batting average, sent a first-pitch cutter high over the right-field wall in the seventh inning Thursday night for the Indians' second grand slam in as many games, and the difference in a 4-2 win over the free-falling Royals.
"With runners on base, I was trying to be aggressive," he said. "It might be the best pitch I would have seen, and I didn't want to miss it. I was looking for a good pitch to hit and I got it."
He got it, all right. That much was certain as soon as the ball flew off his bat and landed 386 feet away, ripping its way through the muggy air of one of those unmistakable Midwestern summer nights.
Liefer's homer is representative of how well the Indians have played during much of the last three weeks, evidence that even role players who haven't homered in more than a year can steal the spotlight on a given night.
That's right, Liefer's last home run came last season -- June 26, 2004, to be exact -- while he was still a member of the Brewers. He hadn't hit a grand slam since Sept. 10, 2002. And coincidentally, that slam, which he hit as a member of the White Sox, also came at Kauffman Stadium.
So, Jeff, you like playing in Kansas City, huh?
"Yeah," he said, "I do like playing here. It's one of my favorite places to play. I see the ball well here, I like the atmosphere here, I like the ball here. I just like playing here."
So do the Indians, who rode Liefer's slam to another win and a three-game sweep of the Royals. The win was their sixth straight, and 11th in their last 13 games.
Until Liefer connected, though, it appeared the Tribe might finally lose a game during its just-completed six-game road swing through Detroit and Kansas City. The Indians trailed 2-0 entering the seventh with Kevin Millwood on the mound, surely a recipe for a loss. The Tribe, after all, was just 4-8 this season when Millwood turned in a quality start, and this was a quality start.
Indeed, Millwood battled through seven innings, working his way in and out of jams, and stranding a trio of Royals base runners on third along the way. He faltered just once when, in the third he yielded four straight base hits the Royals turned in to a pair of runs. That was all they got off of Millwood, who allowed eight hits, walked one and struck out five over seven innings.
"He's a competitor," manager Eric Wedge said. "And he's been doing it all year long. He doesn't give in to anybody.
"He really set the tone in terms of keeping us in the ball game. He had to work his way into it a little bit, but he just kept getting better as the game went along. As we've seen so many time before, he's at his best when his back's against the wall out there."
Millwood finally got some breathing room in the seventh after Hafner walked, and Martinez and Ronnie Belliard singled to load the bases. It was the first time an Indians runner had advanced past second base all night, and the team wasn't about to let slip away its best chance to give its starter a little support.
Not that Millwood ever had any doubts, of course.
"When we loaded the bases with nobody out, I figured we were going to score at least one run there," Millwood said. "Probably two."
Instead, they scored four after Liefer drove the ball to almost the same spot Sizemore hit his just one night before. The grand slam was the Indians' lone knock with runners in scoring position -- they finished 1-for-7 in that category -- but it was enough.
"[Liefer's] had some big hits for us," Wedge said. "He's really had some big hits for us. He goes up there, he's ready to hit, ready to drive the ball, and he's had some very big hits for us in a very short time."
When coupled with the A's matinee win over the Angels, the Tribe now stands 2 1/2 games back of the Angels for the American League Wild Card lead. The Indians trail the division-leading White Sox, who were off Thursday, by 12 games.
The Indians, of course, have done everything they could during their week away from home -- their 6-0 finish marked their first perfect road trip of six or more games since May 2001.
"You never expect to have this kind of road trip," Wedge said. "But it's a credit to those guys out there and how they're playing, and the consistency with which they're playing."
Added Millwood: "You can't beat that. It should be a good flight home."