Tribe Slides Into Late Inning Win; Indians 2, Nationals 1

Pitching ruled the day for both clubs as the two teams mustered a combined two runs on five hits and 18 strikeouts through the first seven innings. Some timely hitting mixed in with late inning heroics gave the Tribe a hard fought win and Joe Smith picked up his second victory on the season as the Tribe rises to the occasion to defeat the Washington Nationals 2-1.

The Indians come back to Progressive Field on the heels of winning two straight games against the Texas Rangers. They face off against the Nationals who currently sit in second place in the National League East. The Tribe came into tonight’s game with an 18-12 record at home on the season. They have won 16 of their last 22 home game and the Indians lead all American League teams with 42 home runs at home. Indians ace Justin Masterson (8-5, 3.52) took the hill for Cleveland and the Nationals countered with left hander Gio Gonzalez (3-3, 3.40).

In the top of the first Masterson quickly got the first two outs of the inning. Nationals three hole hitter and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman but stayed back nicely on a high sinker and lined it into right field for a two out base hit. Masterson didn’t let that single hurt him as he struck out Adam LaRoche on a nasty slider that broke down and in to the left hander.

The Indians mounted their own threat in the bottom half of the first. With one out Jason Kipnis roped a high fastball into left center field that went all the way to the wall. He did a great job of not trying to pull the ball and was rewarded with his 14th double of the season. Swisher then lofted a high fly ball into center field; the speedy Kipnis tagged up on the catch and raced to third with two outs. The threat ended there however as Ryan Raburn struck out to end the inning.

Masterson pitched an incredibly strong second, striking out the side to give him four straight strikeouts. He blew his fastball by the Nationals hitters Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, and Chad Tracy and threw first pitch strikes to the first six hitters of the ball game.

In the top of the third Masterson seemed to lose his control. He walked Kurt Suzuki to lead off the inning, then after falling behind Steve Lombardozzi with two straight balls, Lombardozzi grounded a single up the middle to put two guys on with no outs. Nats leadoff hitter Denard Span then sacrificed to move the runners over with one out. Masterson then walked Roger Bernadina to load the bases with still one out. On a 1-1 pitch to Zimmerman, Masterson threw a sinker in the dirt that got away from Indians catcher Carlos Santana and Suzuki raced home from third to score the first run of the game; Nationals 1, Indians 0. Zimmerman would eventually strikeout looking, and LaRoche grounded out to Nick Swisher at first to end the inning with minimal damage.

The Indians answered in the bottom of the fourth inning. Gonzalez had been cruising through the game allowing only one hit in 3.2 innings giving him 25.2 consecutive scoreless innings against the Indians. Raburn stepped to the plate with two outs and broke that streak with his eighth home run of the season. Gonzalez tried to get a fastball by him up and away but Raburn stayed on it and drove it into the seats in right field.

Gonzalez dominated the Indians hitters through 5.2 innings, allowing only one run on three hits while striking out eight. Control issued started to get the better of him in the sixth after he easily recorded two outs. He walked Swisher, then walked Raburn to put two men on and followed that up by walking Santana to load the bases. He got out of the inning without giving up a run however as Mark Reynolds popped up to second base to end the inning. The Indians put men on against Gonzalez but failed to break the tie with the Nats.

Masterson went seven strong giving up one run on two hits and 10 strikeouts. He was outstanding on the day running his fastball up to 95mph and mixing up sinkers and sliders that dazzled Washington hitters all night. Cody Allan (1-0, 2.25) came on to start the eighth inning and led off the inning by striking out Denard Span. He followed that with a strikeout of Bernadina and Zimmerman ended the inning with a fly out to Indians center fielder Michael Bourn.

Gonzalez would finish seven innings before giving way to Nationals right hander Tyler Clippard (5-1, 2.67). Kipnis led off the inning with a line drive single to right field on a full count fastball from Clippard. That hit marked the first time in the game the Indians managed to get their leadoff hitter on base. Swisher came up and worked the count to two balls and one strike. Clippard threw a fastball inside that jammed Swisher, the veteran fought it off well and blooped it into right field for a base hit giving the Tribe two base runners with no outs. Raburn struck out for the first out of the innings and that would bring up Santana. Clippard got ahead of him quickly running the count to 0-2, but Santana battled back and drew a nine pitch walk to load the bases with one out. Reynolds left ducks on the pond, swinging and missing at three straight fastballs for the second out of the innings. Michael Brantley then came up and hit a line shot into center field, but Span made the running catch to end the inning and the Indians again failed to capitalize one a scoring opportunity.

After Joe Smith (2-0, 1.16) retired the side in order in the top of the ninth, the Indians would face Nationals reliever Fernando Abad (0-0, 0.00) in the bottom half of the inning. Drew Stubbs led off the inning with a line drive single into right field, then, in a bit of strategy, the Francona called a hit and run. Stubbs took off on the pitch and Bourn executed perfectly with a ground ball that got through the right side for a single. Stubbs went first to third to put himself 90 feet away from winning the game with no outs. Kipnis then stepped up and worked a full count. On the sixth pitch of the at bat Kipnis hit a hard ground ball down the first base line. LaRoche made a nice diving play as Stubbs raced home. LaRoche threw from his knees to Suzuki and the throw just beat Stubbs to the plate by a millisecond, but the savvy base runner slid in before the tag to give the Indians their sixth walk-off win of the season.

The Tribe has now won three in a row and got the home stand off on a good foot with a hard fought victory against the Nationals. Saturday’s game will be a late 7:15 start as Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmerman (9-3, 2.00) faces off against the Indians Scott Kazmir (3-4, 5.33) in game two of the three game set.

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