Naquin Wins It Again on Improbable Walk-off Inside-the-Parker; Indians 3, Blue Jays 2
Bob Toth | On 19, Aug 2016
Do you believe in miracles?
That old walk-off magic was still lingering in Progressive Field on Friday, just one night after a walk-off sacrifice fly from Tyler Naquin gave the Cleveland Indians a comeback win over the Chicago White Sox. It was Naquin again on Friday, who hit the improbable walk-off inside-the-park homer as part of back-to-back jacks to shock the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-2.
In an incredibly pitched game for both clubs by starters Trevor Bauer and Francisco Liriano, the Indians fell behind in the first inning, 2-0, and entered the ninth trailing 2-1 with Toronto closer Roberto Osuna coming to the mound to save the game. After working the count back to even at 2-2, Carlos Santana popped up in foul territory to Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin for the first out.
Jose Ramirez fell behind quickly 0-2, watching two strikes cross the plate, before lining the Osuna offering into the seats in right to tie the game at two. Naquin, the hero who entered the game on Friday in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter for Brandon Guyer, drove his 1-2 pitch to deep right. Michael Saunders leapt at the wall but could not reel in the shot. The ball bounced back in toward center field, where Melvin Upton Jr. eventually got to the ball and slipped. Naquin, who broke from the box in a bit of a slow trot, picked up steam shortly after rounding first base after seeing the ball missed. He slowed again as he approached third, but third base coach Mike Sarbaugh waved him on home as Upton slipped to the turf. With a head first dive into the plate, Naquin beat the relay throw in time, threw a fist into the air, and the rest of the team, which was already out of the dugout and on the way to the plate as Naquin sprinted down the third base line, began the mob scene in celebration as the Indians secured the unbelievable walk-off inside-the-parker for the victory.
Jeff Manship (2-1, 3.13 ERA), who pitched a perfect top of the ninth inning with a pair of strikeouts, earned the win, while Osuna (2-2, 2.17) suffered both the blown save (3) and the loss.
The Indians (70-50) hit the 70-win plateau at the season’s three-quarter pole. It improved their record against the AL East’s top team Toronto to 3-2 on the season. Their record against the East improved to 13-17 in 2016 and they are now 38-22 at home with 21 home dates remaining on the schedule. Their AL Central lead climbed to seven games, coupled with Detroit’s 10-2 loss at home to Boston. The Blue Jays (69-53) saw their lead in the East shrink to just a half-game with the Red Sox win.
The Jays got on board in the first inning in their only threat against Bauer. He walked Saunders with one out before getting Edwin Encarnacion to pop to first. The next pitch exited stage left as Martin drove one to the bleachers for the early 2-0 lead.
Bauer would allow just five more base runners over the next seven innings. Ryan Goins started the third with a single but was erased on a double play. An Upton walk and single to right by Ezequiel Carrera in the fourth were wasted on a strikeout by Justin Smoak. Martin’s two-out single in the sixth met the same fate on a strikeout to end the inning by Upton. Bauer struck out the side in the seventh and got the first and final outs of the eighth the same way, leaving Saunders, after his two-out single, stranded at first.
The Indians struggled to put anything together against a long lost familiar face in Liriano, who had spent the early portion of his career in the AL Central with the Minnesota Twins and briefly with the Chicago White Sox. They had two on with one out in the fifth after a walk and a hit batter, but a strikeout and force out wasted the opportunity.
In the sixth, they would not make the same mistake. Jason Kipnis singled to right, moved to second on a passed ball, and advanced to third on a fielding error at second base on Martin’s throw attempting to cut down the Tribe’s second baseman. After Francisco Lindor struck out for the second out of the inning, Mike Napoli ripped a single to left to make it a 2-1 game.
The Blue Jays veteran relievers held the Indians in check until the second-year man Osuna in the ninth. Joaquin Benoit retired the side in order and former Indians minor leaguer Jason Grilli walked Kipnis with one out, but otherwise avoided difficulty.
BAUER BRILLIANT, SETS NEW CAREER HIGH
Trevor Bauer (9-5, 3.88 ERA) may have been dealt a no-decision on the night, but it was his gutsy eight innings of work that even kept the Indians in the game after the briefly shaky first inning gave the Blue Jays a two-run advantage on the Martin two-run homer. He bounced back with seven and one-thirds innings of scoreless baseball.
Just as impressive was the way he sliced and diced through the Toronto lineup on the night. Making his first start of the season against the Blue Jays, he lasted eight innings, allowing two runs on five hits with a pair of walks and a career-high 13 strikeouts.
“I don’t even know what to say about that,” said Bauer about the game’s unbelievable conclusion. “That was one of the crazier finishes I’ve ever been a part of.”
LIRIANO LOOKED LIKE LIRIANO OF OLD
Liriano brought back memories of old on the mound in his third start with Toronto since being acquired at the trade deadline from Pittsburgh. He worked six innings, limiting the Indians to just four hits and a pair of walks while striking out seven. The only run he allowed was unearned on the error at second on Devon Travis that allowed Kipnis to move into scoring position in the sixth.
BRINGER OF RAIN DELAYED AND NO TULO TIME
It had been more than 100 years since the Indians won in walk-off fashion on an inside-the-park home run. The last was Braggo Roth on August 13, 1916, against the St. Louis Browns.
Roth’s name has been in the news lately after the Indians stole eight bases in one game to match a record set in 1917. In that previous record-setting game, Roth stole four of the eight bases, including home plate on a triple steal. (*)
The inside-the-parker by Naquin was the ninth such homer in the 23-year history of the Progressive Field ball park. Seven of those nine home runs have been hit by an Indians player. The last to do so in Cleveland was Jhonny Peralta on July 18, 2010.
The back-to-back shots from Ramirez and Naquin marked the first time in the modern era that a game had been decided on back-to-back home runs, with the latter of the two being of the walk-off inside-the-park variety. (stats courtesy of Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio, unless indicated by asterisk)
HAPPY BDAY HAMMY
Indians beloved announcer Tom Hamilton celebrated his 60th birthday and was rewarded with a memorable victory, to say the least.
NEW VICE CHAIRMAN
Cleveland announced on Friday that a minority investor had been added to the organization, as John Sherman joins the Indians as vice chairman and minority ownership partner.
“It’s an exciting time to be joining the Indians organization and ownership group,” shared Sherman via statement. “It’s a strong, storied franchise with a great deal of promise this year and beyond. I look forward to working closely with Paul and helping him further the organization and team in any way that I can.”
Paul Dolan has elected not to offer further comment on the move, preferring the focus remain on the Indians and their first place play.
THE KING IN THE HOUSE
Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James took in the game from the suites.
Josh Tomlin (11-6, 4.14) will return from the Family Medical Emergency List on Saturday to make his start against Toronto. Aaron Sanchez (12-2, 2.84) will go for the Blue Jays. This will be the third career game and second start for Sanchez against the Indians.
Game time on Saturday is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET from downtown Cleveland.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer