In a pivotal game that ended up catapulting the Indians up a spot in the Wild Card standings, the Tribe used a new feathered friend to stay loose and to bring them some luck as they defeated the Baltimore Orioles by a score of 6-4.
During the Indians pregame batting practice, pitcher Justin Masterson brought a live chicken out onto the field and gave it as a gift to reliever Cody Allen, whose nickname amongst his teammates is ‘Chicken Al’. The chicken, now named Cody, hung around on the centerfield warning track during BP and brought the team enough good fortune to have them leapfrog the O’s and push the Tribe 0.5 games ahead of the Birds in the Wild Card standings. The Indians now trail only the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees for the American League’s lowest spot in the playoffs.
The Indians threw Zach McAllister to start the ballgame, who worked 4.2 innings and received a no-decision. The Birds countered McAllister with a Zach of their own, as O’s starter Zach Britton also received an ND, but struggled from the get-go. After McAllister shut down the O’s in order in the top of the first, the Tribe bats got going right away in the bottom half.
Leadoff man Michael Bourn got the inning going immediately by beating out an infield single to first baseman Chris Davis. Davis was able to dive and make a nice play on the smashed grounder, but Bourn was able to beat the throw, which was dropped by Britton anyhow. After that, Nick Swisher was able to continue the rally with a walk and then Jason Kipnis loaded the bags with a perfectly placed bunt single.
Carlos Santana got the first RBI opportunity for the Indians, but struck out for the first out of the frame. The following batter, Yan Gomes, came through, however, as he stroked a single into right field to score Bourn and give the Tribe their first run. A groundball and force out at the plate followed off of Asdrubal Cabrera’s bat, but the Tribe then got a big two-run double from Ryan Raburn, who had missed the previous two weeks with a calf injury. A single by Mike Aviles then scored Cabrera to make the score 4-0, but Raburn was thrown out at the plate on the play by left fielder Nate McLouth.
McAllister worked out of trouble in the second inning when a runner got to third with one out and then did it again in the third when a one out double was stranded as well. Britton, however, got into trouble once again in the third and was not long for the ballgame because of it.
Kipnis led off the inning by working a walk and Gomes followed a Santana strikeout by knocking his second hit of the night through the left side of the infield. The base hit prompted Manager Buck Showalter to pull his starter after just 2.1 innings of work. The Orioles turned the ball over to reliever Kevin Gausman, who struck out Cabrera and Raburn to end the threat.
The Orioles then got on the board in the top of the fourth, as Adam Jones clubbed his 29th homerun of the year with one out and nobody on base. The homerun made the score 4-1 and also served as a little bit of payback off of McAllister, who hit Jones in the forearm in his previous at bat. The Birds then came all of the way back against the suddenly struggling McAllister in the top of the fifth.
After McLouth grounded out to start the inning, JJ Hardy doubled to right to start the rally. Ryan Flaherty struck out swinging, but Brian Roberts followed with a walk. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third and then Manny Machado launched a three run homerun over the centerfield wall to tie the contest at 4-4. A single by Davis followed and ran McAllister from the ballgame after just 4.2 innings pitched. Bryan Shaw came in in relief and was able to strike out Jones to keep the game tied. The Indians offense then answered right back in the bottom of the fifth.
Kipnis got the team kick-started again as he jumped on a 3-1 pitch and lined it right back up the middle for his second single. Gausman then walked Santana on four pitches, bringing up the red-hot Gomes. Gomes hammered Gausman’s 0-1 pitch down the left field line for a double, scoring Kipnis and moving Santana to third. An intentional walk to Cabrera loaded the bases, and a wild pitch advanced all of the runners to give the Indians a 6-4 advantage. Gausman then retired both Raburn and Aviles to end the inning and the rally.
Both bullpens shut down the opposition from then on, as Shaw, Chicken Al, Joe Smith and Chris Perez all worked scoreless outings for the Indians to seal the win. Shaw was rewarded as the winning pitcher and Perez worked a 1-2-3 ninth to nail down his 22nd save.
The Indians (74-65) will take Thursday off and then host the New York Mets (63-75) this weekend. Game one of the three game set will be Friday night at Progressive Field as the Indians will send former Mets prospect Scott Kazmir (7-7, 4.36) to the mound to face 23 year old rookie Zack Wheeler (7-3, 3.36). The game on Friday will start at 7:05 and can be seen on Fox Sports/SportsTime Ohio and can be heard on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network. All fans in attendance on Friday will be treated to “Rise of FM Radio” fireworks as well as dollar hot dogs. There has been no mention of whether Cody the chicken will be in attendance or not.
Photo: Associated Press