CLEVELAND -- Travis Hafner is slam dancing his way to an unforgettable season. Surprisingly, he's not doing it as an All-Star.
Hafner became the first player in major league history to hit five grand slams before the All-Star break, backing C.C. Sabathia's fourth career shutout and sending the Cleveland Indians to a 9-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.
Hafner's second-inning shot off Kris Benson (9-7) padded the gaudy stats of Cleveland's hard-hitting designated hitter, who despite being ranked in the top five in the American League in nine offensive categories, won't be playing in next Tuesday's All-Star Game.
"That's unbelievable," Sabathia said. "He's got better numbers than probably anybody in the home run derby. It's a joke is what it is. He probably should have been an All-Star three years in a row."
Sabathia (7-4) threw a career-low three-hitter -- all singles -- and didn't allow the Orioles to get a runner to second base. The only one who came close was Jeff Conine, who singled in the second but was thrown out trying to steal.
The fans selected Boston's David Ortiz as the starting first baseman for the AL. The players voted to add Chicago DH Jim Thome to the roster and first baseman Paul Konerko, his teammate, was added by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen in conjunction with the commissioner's office. Hafner then finished third in an Internet poll to determine the AL's final roster spot.
"It was kind of out of my control," said Hafner, now one grand slam shy of the season record set by Don Mattingly of the New York Yankees in 1987. "It didn't happen, but this is the best season that I've had, and I'm happy with that."
With his 25th homer, a laser drive into the seats in right that made it 6-0, Hafner set Cleveland's season record for grand slams, breaking his tie with Al Rosen, who hit four in 1951.
The 29-year-old Hafner is the fourth major leaguer to hit five slams in a season, joining Mattingly and Jim Gentile of the Baltimore Orioles (1961) and Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs (1955), who each had five.
But Hafner's in a class by himself with five before the NL and AL square off in their annual July game.
"It's an honor," Hafner said. "It's cool and something that I'm proud of."
Sabathia didn't walk a batter and struck out seven. The left-hander improved to 5-1 with a 1.06 ERA in seven starts following an Indians loss this season. He had little trouble with the Orioles, who couldn't catch up with his fastball or solve his breaking pitches.
"It's as good as I've seen him," Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar said. "The score looked a lot worse at 9-0, but I think he would have beaten us if it was 1-0."
Rookie Franklin Gutierrez went 3-for-4 with two RBI for Cleveland.
Jhonny Peralta opened the Indians' second with a double and scored on Gutierrez's one-out single. Jason Michaels reached on a fielder's choice and Ronnie Belliard singled. With the Jacobs Field crowd twirling white giveaway towels, Hafner followed by hitting Benson's first pitch over the wall in right.
"I was thinking about one (slam) when I got up there, and then I was thinking where did all these white towels come from?" Hafner said. "I didn't know what they had going on."
Hafner, who is 7-for-10 with five homers and 25 RBI this season with the bases loaded, insists he isn't trying to hit grand slams. They're just happening.
"It's kind of a surprise," he said. "You see it go, and it's like, `Wow, there goes another one."'
The Indians tagged Benson for seven runs and 10 hits in three innings, his second shortest outing of 2006.
Cleveland scored runs in the third, fourth and fifth to open a 9-0 lead.
The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the first on Belliard's sacrifice fly, and they probably would have scored more but Ben Broussard, who beat out a two-out infield single, was picked off first by catcher Ramon Hernandez.
|Travis Hafner takes off after hitting his fifth grand slam. But he is not playing in the All-Star Game. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
|Brian Roberts, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.301|
|Melvin Mora, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||0||1||.283|
|Miguel Tejada, SS||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.315|
|Jeff Conine, LF||3||0||1||0||0||0||1||.258|
|Ramon Hernandez, C||3||0||0||0||0||0||1||.271|
|Kevin Millar, 1B||3||0||0||0||0||2||1||.249|
|Javy Lopez, DH||3||0||1||0||0||2||0||.268|
|Corey Patterson, CF||2||0||0||0||0||2||1||.283|
|a- Ed Rogers, PH-RF||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.174|
|Luis Terrero, RF-CF||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a-flied out for Patterson in the 8th|
|CS - Jeff Conine (2, 2nd base by Sabathia/Martinez)|
|Team LOB - 3|
|DP - Tejada-B. Roberts-Millar, Tejada-B. Roberts-Millar|
|E - Jeff Conine (2, fielding error), Corey Patterson (3, fielding error)|
|Kris Benson (L,9-7)||3||10||7||7||1||2||1||4.79|
|Pitches-Strikes - Kris Benson 74-45, Bruce Chen 50-29, Chris Britton 22-13, Sendy Rleal 8-5|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Kris Benson 2-4, Bruce Chen 5-0, Chris Britton 2-3, Sendy Rleal 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Kris Benson 19, Bruce Chen 12, Chris Britton 8, Sendy Rleal 3|
|Grady Sizemore, CF||4||1||2||1||0||1||2||.299|
|a- Joe Inglett, PH-CF||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.111|
|Jason Michaels, LF||5||2||2||0||0||0||1||.275|
|Ronnie Belliard, 2B||3||1||1||1||1||0||0||.294|
|Travis Hafner, DH||4||1||1||4||1||0||3||.318|
|Victor Martinez, C||4||0||3||0||1||0||0||.313|
|Ben Broussard, 1B||5||1||2||1||0||0||2||.327|
|Jhonny Peralta, SS||4||1||1||0||0||0||7||.249|
|Ramon Vazquez, 3B||3||1||2||0||1||1||1||.191|
|Franklin Gutierrez, RF||4||1||3||2||0||1||2||.254|
|a-grounded out for Sizemore in the 7th|
|2B - Victor Martinez (19, Britton), Ben Broussard (12, Benson), Jhonny Peralta (17, Benson), Ramon Vazquez (1, Chen)|
|HR - Travis Hafner (25, Benson)|
|SF - Ronnie Belliard (1)|
|RBI - Grady Sizemore (43), Ronnie Belliard (42), Travis Hafner 4 (74), Ben Broussard (41), Franklin Gutierrez 2 (3)|
|2-OUT RBI - Travis Hafner 4 (27), Franklin Gutierrez (1)|
|SB - Jason Michaels (5, 2nd base off Benson/Hernandez)|
|PK - Ben Broussard (1, Benson)|
|Team LOB - 9|
|DP - Martinez-Belliard|
|C.C. Sabathia (W,7-4)||9||3||0||0||0||7||0||3.51|
|HBP - Terrero (by C.C. Sabathia)|
|Pitches-Strikes - C.C. Sabathia 118-89|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - C.C. Sabathia 6-13|
|Batters Faced - C.C. Sabathia 30|
|Attendance - 27110|
|Game Time - 2:35|
|Temperature - 74|
|Umpires - Home - Field Culbreth, First Base - Bill Welke, Second Base - Marty Foster, Third Base - Tim McClelland|