Indians net another walk-off victory, defeat Chicago 6-5 in extras
Tribe comes from behind to stun Chicago to win their seventh-straight
CLEVELAND—Resilience is defined as the ability to recover or adjust easily to misfortune or change.
It wasn’t easy, but the Indians sure keep playing like it.
Trailing the Chicago White Sox 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth, two sacrifice flies tied the ballgame up before catcher Carlos Santana hit the biggest fly of the night in the 10th.
Santana took a 3-2 pitch from ChiSox reliever Dylan Axelrod (3-7, 5.26 ERA) over the right field wall for the game-winning homer, sending Cleveland to the 6-5 win and seventh-straight victory.
“When he hit it, Sandy [Alomar] was already high-fiving,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I was thinking about maybe bunting him over. Sandy knows this ballpark better than I do.”
Having not hit a home run since July 7, the Tribe catcher wasn’t sure if his 12th long ball had enough to get out either.
“I’m so happy,” Santana said. “This moment makes me remember two years ago where I hit a grand slam over Detroit. I don’t think walk-off, but I tried to make good contact and it just happened to go out. I love these situations.”
The win puts Cleveland (59-48) a season-high 11 games above the .500 mark, staying just 2 1/2 games in back of the Detroit Tigers for first place in the A.L. Central. More importantly, the team gains a game on the Baltimore Orioles as the Indians are now up a half game in the standings for one of baseball’s wild card spots.
If play were to end today, the Indians would face the Tampa Bay Rays in a one-game playoff at Tropicana Field.
“You can have that debate whether fun causes winning or winning causes fun, but either way we have both right now,” designated hitter Nick Swisher said. I feel like we’re starting to believe in ourselves and understand we are a good team.”
For the 17th time over their last 18 games, the Tribe got on the board first with a RBI groundout by Jason Kipnis in the first inning. Two RBI doubles, one by Michael Brantley in the fourth and the other by Santana in the fifth inning, put Cleveland ahead, 3-0.
All three runs were charged to White Sox lefty Jose Quintana (5-3, 3.62 ERA) as he went five innings, giving up seven hits in the ballgame.
For a while, it looked as though it would be more than enough for Indians starter Corey Kluber (7-5, 3.77). The right-hander gave his team another dominant outing, tossing a career-high 8 2/3 innings, but was unable to notch the win.
After shutting down the Chicago offense allowing just three hits through the first five innings, the struggling White Sox got to Kluber in the sixth. An RBI double by shortstop Alexi Ramirez followed by back-to-back RBI singles by Alex Rios and Adam Dunn tied the game up at three.
“He was so good,” Francona said of his starter. “He just had that one inning where they bunched some hits together on him."
Despite giving up four runs on eight hits, Kluber is now 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA in his last five starts, walking nine and striking out 34.
“Whenever a pitcher is doing that good, he’s probably is keeping them off balance,” Tribe center fielder Michael Bourn said. “Starting pitching is always the number one thing for any good team. It’s going to take you where you need to be and we have a good combination with offense to back it up.”
Staying knotted at three in the ninth, Francona decided to lift Kluber for reliver Cody Allen with two outs and a runner on first. The right-hander left before a standing ovation of over 30,000 strong at Progressive Field.
“When we were down, nobody had their head down,” Santana said. “Everyone was positive.”
Positivity was all the Indians needed in the ninth, as they once again showed the never-die attitude they’ve had all season long.
Michael Brantley led off the bottom half of the inning with a double off White Sox closer Addison Reed. The Chicago flamethrower plunked pinch hitter Jason Giambi on a 1-2 pitch before the speed of right fielder Drew Stubbs came to fruition again.
The speedy Indians outfielder legged out a sacrifice bunt to load the bases for the heart of the Cleveland order. They wouldn’t get another hit, but the team celebrated their ninth walk-off victory of the year just one inning later.
“It’s nice when you do some things and you get rewarded for it,” Francona said. “When you do the little things right, it leads to some big things. Winning should always breed confidence.”
Pitching a scoreless 10th inning, the win went to closer Chris Perez, who notched his fourth victory on the season. All three Cleveland wins in the series have come in its final at-bats.
“We’re not really worried about who the hero is, we’re just worried about winning the game,” Bourn said. "We want to ride this momentum as long as we can, but we’re not just trying to be hot, we’re trying to be consistent..”
The win also gives the Tribe a record of 34-13 at Progressive Field since April 30, which is the second-best home record in all of baseball.
“We’re trying to take it back to the good ‘ol days I guess,” Swisher said. “Man that crowd tonight on a Wednesday night was awesome. To have them on our side it just kind of feels like they get going that’s when things go to our favor.”
Being a part of the New York Yankees 2009 World Series championship team, the Indians first baseman knows what it takes to win over a long 162-game journey.
“We have guys here that have been in the fight, guys that know how to win, and guys that have playoff experience and know how rough it is down the stretch. I more than anything think with the way we’re winning games, we’re gaining a lot of excitement from our fans and that means a lot to us."
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Hopefully that walk off broke the backs of the White Sox and the Tribe will pick up the sweep against Sale. We know it won't be easy, but the way this team is playing I sure wouldn't bet against them.
Before this series started I said we needed to take 5 of 7 games this week so the AL Central would be ours for the taking against the Tigers next week. The Motor City Kitties are showing no signs of giving any games back, but it's August 1 and the Indians have sole possession of the 2nd wildcard. Go Tribe!