It took ten innings, but Cleveland walked off a winner on Friday night thanks to a one-out double off of the wall in left field by Drew Stubbs, as the Indians defeated the Minnesota Twins, 7-6.
Mike Aviles led off the bottom of the tenth with a single to right field. Ezequiel Carrera, just added to the club, dropped down a sacrifice bunt pinch-hitting for pitcher Chris Perez. Stubbs took the second pitch he saw from Twins reliever Casey Fien (1-2) and lined it high off the wall in left to score Aviles with the winning run.
“It helped seeing him throw to the guys the inning before,” said Stubbs. “He gave me one to hit and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
It was the fourth hit of the night for Stubbs. He had a career-high three doubles in the game. It was his third career walkoff hit. With four hits on the night, he now has three straight multi-hit performances and has nine hits in his last 13 at bats (.692).
“This is a guy we got because we loved his athleticism, his ability to play the outfield, and run the bases,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “When [Bourn] goes down, he goes to center field and plays a Gold Glove caliber center field.”
Perez (1-0) worked a scoreless tenth inning for his first win of the season.
The Indians (13-13) have now won five straight games and climb back to the .500 mark. They move into third place and trail the Tigers by three games in the American League Central. Their five-game winning streak is the longest active streak in baseball.
It was the Indians’ second walkoff win of the season at Progressive Field.
Minnesota struck for a run in each of the first two innings off of Indians starter Justin Masterson.
Brian Dozier scored on a sacrifice fly by Justin Morneau for the game’s first run. Dozier had led off the game with a single to center and was moved to third on a single by Joe Mauer, who had been marred in a 3-for-34 slump. Masterson induced an inning-ending double play to escape any more damage.
Third baseman Trevor Plouffe pushed the score to 2-0 when he sent a one-out fastball the opposite way over the right field wall. The homer by Plouffe was his third of the season and just the 17th by the Twins on the year, the lowest total in the AL and second-worst in baseball.
The Indians climbed back into the ball game in the bottom half of the third against Minnesota starter Pedro Hernandez. Yan Gomes and Stubbs led off the inning with back-to-back singles. After a flyout to center by Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis sent a drive to deep center that bounced off the wall for a triple and scored both base runners. He would remain stranded at third, a common theme for the Indians on the night.
Mark Reynolds stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fifth and turned the tides back in the favor of the Indians. With Brantley on third after a single, balk, and advancing to third on a groundout by Kipnis, Reynolds smacked a two-out, two-run moonshot half way up the bleachers in left field to give Cleveland a 4-2 lead.
The home run was the ninth of the season for Reynolds, tying him at the top of the AL leaderboard for home runs on the season.
“Mark is just a fun guy to watch,” said Stubbs. “He’s got as much raw power as anyone I’ve ever played with. At any given moment he can hit a ball out of the ball park like he did.”
The Twins scraped a run closer in the top of the sixth off of Masterson. Chris Parmelee was hit by a pitch with one out and advanced to second on a groundout to first. Oswaldo Arcia lifted a single to left field with two outs, scoring Parmelee, who was running on contact, making the score 4-3 Cleveland.
The Indians struck for more in the sixth, chasing Hernandez. Gomes drew a one-out walk and moved to third on a double off of the wall in left by Stubbs. Reliever Brian Duensing replaced Hernandez and struck out Brantley looking. With two outs, Kipnis dropped down a beautiful bunt on the left side of the infield. Plouffe was playing far too deep to reach the ball in time and Duensing could only field and hold onto the ball as Gomes scored and Kipnis reached safely at first, giving the Indians a 5-3 lead.
Hernandez allowed five earned runs on eight hits in five and one-third innings. He walked four and struck out a pair in the longest major league game of his career.
Ryan Doumit ended Masterson’s night in the seventh with a two-out single through the hole at shortstop created by the shift, scoring Morneau, who had singled and moved to second on a passed ball. The run made it a 5-4 Cleveland lead.
The Twins reclaimed the lead off of Cody Allen, who came on in relief of Masterson. Parmelee, the first batter he faced, drove a two-out, two-run home run over the fence in right to give the Twins a 6-5 lead.
Masterson allowed five earned in six and two-thirds innings on the night. He had trouble at times spotting his four-seam fastball, which cost him early on in the ball game.
“Early on, he limited the damage in the first inning,” said Francona. “When we got late in the game, he’s one pitch away from being out of that, as opposed to having to go get him. And then things happened to change the line score. I think on a night when maybe he didn’t have his best stuff, I thought it was good, and I also think he knows how to pitch.”
The Indians used some late inning magic in the eighth to knot the score up at six. Aviles singled to left. After a deep flyout to the warning track by pinch hitter Jason Giambi, Stubbs dropped in a bloop double down the right field line. Brantley was intentionally walked to load the bases for Kipnis, who sent a potential double play grounder to Dozier at second. The Twins second baseman mishandled the ball and was only able to retire Kipnis, allowing Aviles to score the tying run from third.
Asdrubal Cabrera saw his ten game hitting streak come to an end with an 0-for-4 performance at the plate. In each of his final four plate appearances, he stranded a runner at third base (in the third, fifth, sixth, and eighth innings).
The ground-rule double by Aviles in the fourth inning was his 500th career hit.
The Twins (12-13) fall to 5-7 on the road this season and were leapfrogged by the Indians in the standings. Now in fourth place, they have a one-game lead over the Chicago White Sox.
Kevin Correia (3-1, 2.23) will take the mound for Minnesota tomorrow afternoon. He is coming off of a solid win against Texas in his last start. He held the Rangers scoreless over eight innings.
Scott Kazmir (0-1, 8.64) will make his third start of the season since coming off of the disabled list. He allowed two earned runs over five innings against the Kansas City Royals and appeared to be more sharp than his first outing against the Houston Astros.
The first 10,000 in attendance at Progressive Field for Saturday’s game will receive a 1974-77 red alternate jersey T-shirt, presented by The Plain Dealer.
The 1:05 PM first pitch can be seen on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and heard on the Cleveland Indians radio network.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images