Indians notebook: Garko's homer ends drought

Andy Call

Ryan Garko has to work hard not to give in to the urge.

“(Hitting coach) Derek Shelton and I always talk about not trying to change too much,” Cleveland’s first baseman said Monday after hitting his first home run since July 31 during a 5-0 win at Minnesota. “If I’m struggling and I see a guy hitting well in the cage or see a guy do something on TV, I want that guy’s swing.

“If I’m not having results, I want to change. I’ve got to fight against that. The hits will come. I need to concentrate on the process.”

Garko had gone 27 games, 104 at-bats and 115 plate appearances without a homer until driving a 1-1 pitch from left-hander Johan Santana into the seats, just a few feet inside the left-field foul pole.

“He was a little out in front, but he was able to get enough of it to hook it down the line,” Indians Manager Eric Wedge said.

He singled off Santana earlier in the game, giving Garko just his second multi-hit game since Aug. 19.

Garko’s 15th home run of the season, a solo shot, gave him 51 RBIs in 2007. In his  29 most recent games through Sunday, he was batting .257 with eight RBIs.

“Home runs are a byproduct of trying to drive the ball into the gap,” Garko said. “I really want to work on staying in the middle of the field and driving the ball into the gaps.

“But, you know, at this time of the year, you’ve got to throw numbers out the window and worry about winning first.”

COMING UP  The series continues tonight at 8:10. Aaron Laffey (2-1, 5.01) will start against Kevin Slowey (3-0, 5.84).

A DAY OFF  Grady Sizemore was left out of the starting lineup for just the second time this season, but entered the game as a pinch-runner in the sixth inning. Sizemore has played in 333 consecutive games, second-longest active streak in the majors to Juan Pierre (408). “I think, the more people ask about it, the more of a red flag it is,” Indians Manager Eric Wedge said. “It’s about our team, and about getting the most out of Grady the rest of the season.” Monday was No. 14 in a stretch of 23 consecutive games without a day off for the Indians.

THE NEW GUYS  Wedge said more reinforcements will be called up today from Triple-A Buffalo, including Manager Torey Lovullo. Some likely candidates are LHP Jeremy Sowers, 3B Andy Marte and OF Shin-Soo Choo. Wedge said Double-A Akron Manager Tim Bogar will also join the Indians at the conclusion of the Eastern League playoffs. “The biggest area we’re looking to fill is pinch-runners,” Wedge said. “I don’t know how much more creative we can be (with lineups) than we have been.”

HEADS UP  Wedge said he believes little can be done to protect players in the on-deck circle from being struck by foul balls, as happened to St. Louis outfielder Juan Encarnacion  on Friday. “There’s not much you can do without interfering with the game,” Wedge said. “There’s always a certain amount of risk involved.” Perhaps more could be done to protect fans, however. “I’d love to see nets down both lines,” Wedge said. “Kids have no chance, and baseballs are hard.” 1B Ryan Garko agreed, noting, “The screen here is so small, you’ve got a 7-year-old kid 15 feet from home plate.”

ON THE FARM  Triple-A Buffalo was eliminated from postseason contention Sunday and concluded its regular-season schedule Monday with an 8-5 loss to Rochester. Buffalo RHP Jason Stanford struck out four in four innings, bringing his career total in Buffalo to 293. That broke the franchise record of 290 held by Rick Reed (1988-91). Ben Francisco (.318) won the International League batting title, the first Bisons player to win a batting championship since Mark Ryal in 1990.

Reach Canton Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or e-mail andy.call@cantonrep.com.