Late Inning Rallies Spur Tribe To Fourth Straight Victory; Indians 6, Mariners 5
By Craig Gifford
The Cleveland Indians simply were not going to accept losing the finale of their brief two-game series with the Seattle Mariners on Thursday afternoon.
Twice, things looked bleak for the home team. However, the Tribe put together come-from-behind rallies in the eighth and eleventh innings to avoid losing. Cleveland completed the sweep of Seattle, with a 6-5 win in 11 frames at Progressive Field.
With Detroit losing to Minnesota in an afternoon tilt, the Indians, standing at 22-16, are now four games up in the AL Central Division. It is the team’s largest division lead since they led by as many games on June 3, last season.
Cleveland scored three runs in the eighth inning, to tie a game they seemed destined to lose. Walks and errors helped lead to a 4-1 deficit heading into the bottom of the eighth. With two out and the Indians quickly running out of chances, third baseman Jose Lopez drilled 2-0 pitch to left field for a three-run, game-tying homer.
Seattle took the lead in the top of the 11th inning. Again the Indians rallied behind key hits from two of their most important offensive players. Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana each hit RBI singles. Santana’s was a walk-off, plating the game-winning run and sending an announced crowd of 12,894 fans home happy.
“It was a nice comeback win,” said Tribe manager Manny Acta. “Lopez had that huge at bat with the home run. We put up better at bats later in the game than in the first five innings.”
Seattle second-year starter Hector Noesi kept Cleveland off kilter for 6.1 innings. He allowed just one run on five hits, striking out five and walking three.
“We battled against Noesi,” Acta said. “He did a very good job keeping our left handers off balance.”
Meanwhile, Cleveland rookie starter Zach McAllister labored through five and two-third stanzas. McAllister never allowed a big inning, but was hurt by walks, wildness and bad fielding. He walked five batters, two of whom scored. In a two-run fifth inning, Seattle plated a pair. The Mariners were helped in the inning by a Jose Lopez error and Carlos Santana passed ball. Still McAllister got out of innings when he had to and did not allow Seattle to pull too far ahead.
“He did make good pitches when he had to,” Acta said of his young starter. “He did good damage control.”
Once McAllister’s day was done, after 100 pitches (only 55 for strikes), the bullpen entered the fray and mostly shut the door as only the Bullpen Mafia knows how. Six relievers combined to throw five and one-third innings of one-run ball.
“The bullpen did a nice job on a day McAllister had to fight hard with his control,” Acta said. “The bullpen held them at bay and gave us the opportunity to win the game.”
Joe Smith gave up the only run among relievers, yet got the win to improve to 4-1. Smith allowed Seattle’s go-ahead tally in the visitor’s half of the 11th before the heroics of Cabrera and Santana in the bottom of the frame.
Cleveland’s game-winning inning was set up by the walk. Lopez, Jason Kipnis and Aaron Cunningham all walked. Lopez scored on Cabrera’s hit and Cunningham scored the day’s final mark on Santana’s bases loaded knock.
Cunningham did not start the game. However, he was inserted for the 11th inning at bat because Travis Hafner was hit by a pitch on the hand in the ninth. Acta did not seem too concerned, however, about the future health of the Tribe designated hitter.
“His hand was too swollen to grip the bat (in the 11th),” the Cleveland skipper said. “He won’t even be taken for x-rays. The doctors say he should be ok.”
For the day, the Tribe offense was better than ok. The team collected 10 hits, led by two each from Cabrera, Santana and a suddenly hot Casey Kotchman. Cabrera had a pair of RBI (17 on the year) to with Lopez’s trio (6) and Santana’s 22nd plated runner.
The Indians have now swept back-to-back two-game series, having done so in Minnesota to start the week. The four-game winning streak and six games over .500 record both match season highs for the Tribe.
Cleveland will look to stay hot when they welcome the Miami Marlins to town for a weekend interleague series starting Friday night. Cleveland will send ace Justin Masterson to the mound to open the three-game tilt against Victor Zambrano. Game time is 7:05.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images