Still A Heartbeat; Indians 7, Mariners 5
By Mike Brandyberry
Yesterday Shin-Soo Choo missed the game to see the birth of his daughter, Abigail, and enjoy the first few breaths and heartbeats with his immediate family. Today, Choo may have given his baseball family a couple more breaths and heartbeats in the American League Central Division race.
Choo’s walkoff, three-run homer, gave the Indians a 7-5 victory over the Seattle Mariners in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.
After taking a 4-3 lead into the ninth inning, and Justin Masterson at 110 pitches, it appeared Manny Acta had out-managed himself again, electing to leave Masterson in the game. After recording a first pitch out, Masterson allowed Miguel Olivo and Kyle Seagar to single putting runners on first and third. Making the move he should have made at the beginning of the inning, Acta summoned closer Chris Perez.
Perez allowed Trayvon Robinson to double down the right field line, scoring both Olivo and Seagar, giving the Mariners a 5-4 lead. With the possibility of falling six games back of first place and falling below .500 for the first time since early April, the Tribe was staring at their last breaths in the divisional race.
Ezequiel Carrera led off the ninth inning with a double off the left centerfield wall and after a failed fielder’s choice on Asdrubal Cabrera’s ground ball to second base the Indians had runners at the corners with no one out for Choo. Choo hit a ball to left field that just barely carried out of the ballpark on the hot summer day and into the first row of bleachers for the walk off victory.
Choo’s walkoff heroics will overshadow the poor decision by Manny Acta in the top of the ninth to send Masterson out. Entering the inning with 110 pitches, he had struggled all day to hold the Mariners after the Indians had taken the lead. Twice he gave up an Indian lead the next inning. Acta, who stood by the decision last evening to use Perez in a tie game, didn’t see it necessary to bring him into the ninth with no one on base to start a clean inning, but turned to him with runners on first and third and only one out.
The Indians were paced by the always streaky Kosuke Fukudome and Carrera with three hits and Lonnie Chisenhall and Choo with two a piece. In a homestand that has every game mattering versus the dregs of the American League, it would be tough to tell the Indians are in a pennant race with the lineup they have put on the field. However, the team has no choice but to continue to play with what they have until reinforcements arrive or players get healthy.
Michael Brantley did not play in the game, as his wrist has flared up again. Acta said after the game that he can not grip a bat and could be shut down on Friday. After the game, Luis Valbuena was optioned to AAA Columbus to activate tonight’s starting pitcher, Zach McAllister. McAllister has made one start on the season, but will be asked to be the newest AAA player to keep the Indians breathing in the pennant race. Regardless of outcome, McAllister will most likely be optioned back to Columbus to make room for a position player.
Currently, the Indians find themselves five games back, but if they can win tonight, the Tigers could easily stumble against Tampa Bay ace, David Price and close the Tribe back to four games in the standings. In the homestand of the season, the Indians have to take care of themselves and take it one breath at a time.
Right now, they are still breathing and have life, if only for another five hours, thanks to Choo.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images