CLEVELAND (AP) -Even when the Cleveland Indians lost their season-worst seventh in a row last week, manager Manny Acta keep believing in his team.
Acta's faith in his players seems to be have paid off. Behind Justin Masterson's pitching and Matt LaPorta's slugging, the Indians beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-1 Thursday for their season-high fifth straight win.
The Indians, with several young players in their everyday lineup, skidded on the road before closing the trip with a win in Cincinnati on Sunday. Cleveland returned home Monday and sent the Blue Jays out of town with a four-game sweep.
``I felt we were our own worst enemy in those games,' Acta said. ``We had an opportunity to win four of them. We felt we were very close from having a good road trip.'
The Indians combined solid starting pitching, good work from the bullpen and timely hitting against the Blue Jays.
``It was an outstanding series by the kids,' Acta said.
The mood down the hall in the Blue Jays' clubhouse was decidedly different. Toronto has lost five in a row, matching its worst slump this year, and has dropped nine of 11.
Asked to describe his team's play in the series, Toronto manager Cito Gaston gave a blunt assessment.
``Terrible, awful, we played terrible,' he said.
Masterson took a shutout into the ninth inning and LaPorta homered for the third straight game.
Masterson (3-7) blanked the Blue Jays until Jose Bautista led off the ninth with a double and Aaron Hill hit an RBI single with one out. Frank Herrmann relieved with the bases loaded and got Jose Molina to bounce into a double play for his first major league save.
Masterson gave up eight hits, walked none and struck out five.
``He was very good,' Acta said. ``He was just short of dominant.'
Masterson gave most of the credit to his teammates.
``It helps out when you're pitching and you get a big inning like we did,' Masterson said. ``I had the great defense behind me and there was great bullpen work. It all worked out together.'
Shawn Marcum (7-4) didn't allow a hit in the first three innings, but fell apart in a six-run fourth. The inning started with walks to Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana, and a pair of wild pitches moved the runners into scoring position. After Travis Hafner struck out, LaPorta homered.
LaPorta, recalled from Triple-A Columbus on June 27 when first baseman Russell Branyan was traded to Seattle, has hit four home runs. Shelley Duncan followed with a solo homer, the first time the Indians have hit back-to-back home runs this season.
``Walks obviously kill you and then it kills you even more when you don't locate a pitch and they hit it for a three-run homer,' Marcum said.
Marcum's problems weren't over, either. Andy Marte singled and scored when Jason Donald's single bounced past left fielder Fred Lewis. Donald went to second on the error and scored on Trevor Crowe's bloop single to center.
Marcum, who allowed six runs and five hits, didn't come out for the fifth. He lost for the first time since June 9.
``I think guys pitched pretty good, except for today,' Gaston said. ``We did not swing the bats well at all. The pitchers did good three out of the four games.'
Gaston has seen his offense come to a complete stop. Toronto has been shut out twice and scored two or fewer runs six times in its last 11 games. The Blue Jays, who lead the majors with 115 home runs, failed to homer in the series. Toronto hit five home runs when it swept a three-game series in Cleveland in May.
``We were able to keep them in the ballpark, which is something we weren't able to do the first time,' Acta said. ``It was big.'
NOTES: Gaston started Bautista, who usually plays right field, at third base. Bautista misplayed a ground ball for an error in the fifth. Dewayne Wise started in right field. ... Indians OF Austin Kearns was given the day off ... Home plate umpire Mike Reilly was hit on the left arm by a Masterson pitch in the third inning, but stayed in the game. ... Cleveland last swept a four-game series from Toronto in August 1995. ... The Blue Jays, who fell to .500 for the first time since May 2, open a three-game series in Yankee Stadium on Friday.
The Associated Press News Service
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