Another Big Ninth Off Johnson Secures Series; Indians 6, A’s 4
Bob Toth | On 03, Apr 2014
After fighting and clawing back throughout the night, the Cleveland Indians punished Oakland Athletics closer Jim Johnson for the second time in the series, scoring three runs in the ninth inning to split Wednesday’s doubleheader and to claim their first series of the year by a 6-4 final.
Johnson (0-2) entered the game in the top of the ninth with a 4-3 lead and was immediately in trouble. Ryan Raburn singled to right to start the inning. Nick Swisher delivered a 3-2 pitch into center field to move Raburn into scoring position. After several failed bunt attempts, Jason Kipnis grounded into a fielder’s choice, moving Raburn to third but forcing Swisher at second. With Carlos Santana at the plate on a 2-1 pitch, Kipnis stole second base, quickly leading to an unintentional walk of Santana two pitches later. At the plate with the bases loaded for the second time on the night, Michael Brantley slashed the first pitch he saw for a single through the right side of the infield. Raburn scored, as did Kipnis, as the strong-armed right fielder Josh Reddick misplayed the ball and gave the Indians a 5-4 lead.
“It was a sinker in,” said Brantley. “I’ve faced him a lot of times. He likes to throw sinker away to a lot of people but he’s been front-dooring me lately. I was just looking for a good pitch over the middle and put a good swing on it.”
“It was nice to see everything that happened, the way the ninth inning unfolded,” said manager Terry Francona. “We had really two good at bats – Raburn and Swish start off the inning. Kip can’t get the bunt down. Instead of giving in, he battles, battles, battles, hits a grounder, runs like his pants are on fire. He steals second. And from there we did some really good situational hitting against a really good pitcher. That was fun to watch.”
“The less we see of him the better, because that means they’re winning and he’s good,” said Francona of the defeated Oakland closer Johnson. “Sometimes when you keep playing, you find the way to win. He’s really good. You’re going to look up and you’re going to see a lot of saves.”
Oakland struck first off of Cleveland’s starter Zach McAllister after a leadoff triple by Sam Fuld over the head of center fielder Nyjer Morgan. After a strikeout by Josh Donaldson, Jed Lowrie dropped a single in front of Morgan to give the A’s an early 1-0 lead. A walk to Brandon Moss put runners on first and second and Yoenis Cespedes doubled to deep right field over Murphy, scoring Lowrie with the game’s second run and putting two in scoring position. But McAllister came back with a pair of strikeouts to escape further damage.
After stranding five runners in the previous two innings against Oakland’s Josh Lindblom, Cleveland did not waste their next opportunity in the top of the fourth. Cabrera singled to right to lead off the inning. Murphy flied out to center for the first out, but Mike Aviles drove an 0-1 pitch deep to left field for the Indians’ first home run of the season. The blast tied the game at two a piece.
The tie did not last long, as McAllister gave the lead back to the Athletics in the bottom half of the frame. With one out, Reddick singled and Nick Punto walked. A flyout by Daric Barton gave the Indians their second out, but Fuld delivered a single to center to score Reddick and move Punto to third. After a steal of second by Fuld, Donaldson grounded out to short to end the inning, with the A’s on top, 3-2.
Lindblom’s night ended three batters later. After retiring the first two batters of the inning on fly balls, Santana doubled to right field past Reddick. Former Tribe top draft pick Drew Pomeranz entered the game in relief, walked Brantley on four pitches, and induced a fly out to right by Cabrera.
Lindblom worked four and two-thirds innings in the nightcap, throwing 84 pitches. He allowed two runs on the Aviles home run, one of five hits surrendered. He walked two and struck out two in his spot start after being recalled from Triple-A Sacramento as the 26th man for the doubleheader.
Like his pitching counterpart, McAllister would not make it through five innings. A leadoff walk in the fifth ended his night. He worked four-plus innings, allowing three earned runs on six hits. He struck out four and walked four.
“Zach lives with his fastball so much and when he’s really good he spots his fastball in and out, up and down. He was having a tough time doing that,” said Francona. “His pitch count was so high. The good part was that he didn’t give in and he didn’t give up a lot of runs. But his pitch count got up there pretty high.”
The Indians struck through again against the A’s bullpen in the seventh. With Luke Gregerson on in relief for his second appearance of the season, he quickly worked a groundout by Swisher to second. Kipnis walked on five pitches and stole second, his first of two on the night, with Santana at the plate before the Tribe’s catcher singled to right. Brantley, after working the count to 2-2 after several foul balls, grounded out slowly to third, scoring Kipnis to retie the game at three.
Bryan Shaw relieved Marc Rzepczynski with an out in the bottom of the seventh. Rzepczynski had worked two and one-third scoreless innings of relief for Cleveland, walking one and striking out a pair. Donaldson reached on a two-base error in left center field, as outfielders Raburn and Brantley miscommunicated on the routine fly. Donaldson advanced to third on a wild pitch that Santana attempted to backhand and scored one batter later on an infield single deep in the hole between first and second that was dropped by Shaw at first base. The play gave the A’s a 4-3 lead at the time.
The Indians utilized the new replay challenge system in the sixth inning. Aviles stole second base but was ruled out by second base umpire Gabe Morales. Aviles immediately hopped up and went to the umpire before notifying Francona that he was never tagged. Replay review clearly indicated that the tag was indeed phantom and the call was reversed.
Brantley’s consecutive errorless game streak ended at 247 on the miscommunication in left center. The routine ball glanced off his glove for the error. He made up for it at the plate with three of the Indians’ six RBI on the night.
“It was a tough day, it was a long day,” said Brantley. “But to pull out a victory – happy flight. It’s going to be fun to go to our home fans. Can’t wait for our home opener.”
The Indians have Thursday off before that home opener in Cleveland on Friday afternoon at 3:05 PM. Danny Salazar will get his second consecutive start in front of a sellout crowd at Progressive Field. Minnesota will send Mike Pelfrey to the mound. The right-hander is 1-0 in three starts against Cleveland with a 2.16 ERA.
Catch the game live on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio or WKYC Channel 3 in Cleveland. Radio broadcast of the game will be available on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.
Photo: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu