May 18, 2013
Chapter 41: A walk-off on a foot-off
For seven and a half innings the Indians had this game under control. Zach McAllister was cruising, the offense had a medium-sized lead, and the bullpen was waiting to close it out. Three home runs later (and two coming with two outs in the ninth inning), this club was staring a gut-punching loss in the face.
Zach McAllister only struck out one batter on the afternoon, but made up for it by getting outs quicker in the at-bats. Mike Aviles, who was starting in left field so that Michael Brantley could get a day off, made seven putouts in seven innings before moving to third base in the eighth inning. Most of those putouts were of the lazy fly variety, although a couple made it necessary for Aviles to cover some ground. When McAllister left the game, he had thrown only 95 pitches, but as he just given up a home run to Brendan Ryan(!), Francona apparently saw that as a sign that he was done for the day. Even with those two late runs allowed, McAllister added another start to what's becoming an impressive streak. If you count today's start, McAllister hasn't given up four or more runs in a start all season. Now some of the starts he's only gone 5-6 innings, leaving the bullpen a lot of game to cover, but of later he's been going deeper into games (7.0, 7.2, 6.0, and now 7.1).
The Indians struck for one run in the first inning, hung onto that lead until the fifth, then score three times between the fifth and sixth innings. Mark Reynolds got the scoring going with a two-out single to right, plating Asdrubal Cabrera. Then in the fifth Reynolds muscled a changeup out of the park, cutting through a wind that was blowing in from left field. In the sixth, Michael Bourn's inifield hit allowed a third run to score, and Jason Kipnis knocked out Seattle starter Joe Saunders by blooping a single over the drawn-in infield.
The Mariners, who hadn't really showed any signs of scoring all day, struck suddenly via the longball. Brendan Ryan knocked McAllister out of the game in the eighth his a two-run shot, his first home run and only second extra-base hit of the season (his first came in last night's game). Then in the ninth, after Chris Perez retired the first two batters of the inning, he left two fastballs over the inner half of the plate to Raul Ibanez and Justin Smoak. And the crowd who up until then had been cheering for another Tribe victory turned to booing Perez, which isn't the most heinous crime a crowd can commit, but still seems strange to me. For Perez, love him or hate him, has been one of baseball's more effective closers since he came to Cleveland.
But thankfully the Indians quickly made that top of the ninth inning irrelevant. Jason Kipnis dumped a single into left-center field against Oliver Perez to start the bottom of the ninth. Then Asdrubal Cabrera, after failing to bunt Kipnis to second, drove him to third when he doubled down into the left field corner. Seattle manager Eric Wedge then ordered Perez to walk Nick Swisher to load the bases, thus creating a force at any base. Wedge brought Yoervis Medina, a right-handed pitcher, to pitch to Mark Reynolds, and it looked like the strategy would pay off, for Reynolds hit a sharp grounder that shortstop Brendan Ryan fielded. Ryan made a strong throw home, and Kipnis would have been out...except that catcher Jesus Montero didn't have his foot on home plate. Keep in mind that Montero didn't have to stretch for the ball, or reach for it in any way. It was an unforced error bordering on a mental error, but it gave the Indians a 5-4 victory.
Roll Call (38 Commenters)
|3||VA tribe fan||33|
|23||new zealand tribe fan||4|