Last night, the Indians were in danger of giving away another game to the Tigers after having lead 7-1 after four innings and handing over a four-run lead to their bullpen to start the seventh inning. However, on the strength of Chris Perez and Bryan Shaw holding serve in the 9th and extras, Ryan Raburn turned an initial bunt situation into a 3-run bomb to the home run porch in left for the team’s seventh walkoff win, their fifth on a Friday night as they took this one 11-8.
Things started great for the Tribe with Nick Swisher’s crushing his 11th homer of the year in the first inning to left-center. Swisher’s is 6-for-18 with two homers in the two spot in the lineup since moving there earlier this week. Two more runs scored for Cleveland in the second thanks largely due Texas starter Martin Perez throwing two wild pitches with Drew Stubbs at-bat. One scored on the second wild pitch, while a Michael Bourn groundout plated the second. It was the fourth inning, however, when the Tribe bats really broke the game wide open. Raburn, Brantley, and Aviles loaded the bases to start the inning with two singles and a walk. Then, Drew Stubbs singled on a liner to right which scored two and a misplay of the ball by Nelson Cruz allowed the other two runners to advance into scoring position. Bourn brought those two in with a single up the middle with the infield drawn in.
The Rangers didn’t give up at 7-1, though. They scored their first run in the third thanks to back-to-back errors by Corey Kluber and Carlos Santana. With a leadoff walk on first, Kluber fielded a grounder and launched it into left-center field to put runners on the corners. Leonys Martin’s sac fly put a run on the board, but it would’ve been another assist for Michael Brantley had Carlos Santana not dropped the ball on the tag. Kluber retired the next two batters to prevent further damage. Texas then scored one in the fifth and a pair of runs in each of the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings.
Corey Kluber wasn’t quite as sharp as he has been in recent months, but he did get through six innings with four runs (three earned) allowed. That meant turning it over to the back end of the bullpen with a four-run lead. First up was Cody Allen, one of the team’s most steady arms all season. Cody just didn’t have it though as he allowed two singles, a double steal, and then a sac fly by Kinsler followed by an Engel Beltre RBI single to cut the Indians’ lead in half. Brantley did eventually get his assist as he erased Beltre trying to stretch it into a double. After a Cruz walk and Adrian Beltre single, Rich Hill was summoned from the bullpen. The lefty did his job on this night, retiring A.J. Pierzynski to end the threat.
Next up out of the bullpen was Joe Smith. Smith gave up a leadoff hit and hit a batter with one out. After retiring Martin on a sac bunt, Ian Kinsler tied the game with a two-out two-run single to right. Smith ended up getting the last out of the eighth, but the damage was done. The sidearming righty has now allowed a run in five of his last nine appearances, and his ERA has raised about two runs in the last month. With Vinnie Pestano’s troubles well chronicled, Smith’s struggles couldn’t have come at a worse time as the team tries to piece together those sixth, seventh, and eighth innings ahead of Chris Perez.
My reluctance to throw your closer in a tie game in the top of the ninth at home is well chronicled. However, Chris Perez really came up big for the Tribe in that situation. Pure Rage only needed five pitches to retire the side in the top of the ninth on three groundouts, allowing him to come out for a second inning of work in the 10th. Perez sent the Rangers down 1-2-3 once again and needed just 17 pitches over two innings. Perez had not pitched two innings in over two years, so credit Tito for not cutting Perez off at one frame with the short part of his pen available. Bryan Shaw pitched a scoreless 11th, allowing one hit.
The Tribe broke through for the heroics in the 11th. Both Asdrubal Cabrera and Santana singled to start the inning, which brought Raburn to the plate. The obvious reflex is to have Raburn bunt the runners into scoring position. I indicated as much on Twitter. But, when you do that, the Rangers were going to intentionally walk Brantley to work around him, set up the double play, and pitch to Mike Aviles (or possibly a pinch-hitter in Giambi, Chisenhall, or Reynolds) instead. After offering to bunt and pulling back on strike one, Raburn swung away on a hanging slider and crushed it into the seats.
This was a game the Indians, after squandering one-run games left and right for the last week, could NOT afford to lose. They kept pace with the Tigers and remain three games back in both the Central and Wild Card races. Tonight, we get a dynamite pitching matchup with Justin Masterson facing Yu Darvish.
(Photo: @MarkShapiro, Cleveland Indians)