Early Offense Keeps Tribe on Pace in Wild Card Race; Indians 9, Mets 4

The Cleveland Indians continued to fight and claw their way into the AL wild card race Saturday night, defeating the New York Mets, 9-4.

The Tribe currently is just a game and a half back of the Tampa Bay Rays, who are currently playing in Seattle. They remain tied with the Baltimore Orioles who beat the Chicago White Sox today, 4-3. Cleveland used a big five-run first inning to give the Indians a lead they would never relinquish despite a shaky sixth inning in relief of Corey Kluber. Kluber started and won his first game since a finger injury on Aug. 5 against the Detroit Tigers.

Cleveland scored early and often in the bottom of the first inning. Michael Bourn started the game with a single to center field and stole second base before Nick Swisher doubled to deep left field and give the Indians a quick 1-0 lead.

Jason Kipnis sacrificed Swisher to third base, but a throwing error by Mets’ starting pitcher Jon Niese pulled Lucas Duda off the bag. Replays later showed Duda held the bag on the throw, but the missed call put runners on the corners with no one out. Carlos Santana singled to center field, bringing home Swisher and advancing Kipnis to second base.

Now leading 2-0, Yan Gomes singled to right field to load the bases. After Asdrubal Cabrera popped out to right field, Ryan Raburn doubled to the right center field gap to clear off the bases and give the Indians a 5-0 lead after just one inning.

New York answered back with a run of their own in the top of the second inning. With an out Jacob Turner singled to center field and advanced to second base Juan Lagares grounded out to the pitcher. Matt den Dekker singled to center field off Kluber to bring Turner around and cut the lead to 5-1. It would be the only run Kluber would allow while physically on the mound.

The Tribe answered right back, however, in the second inning. Swisher homered to left field for his second home run in as many days. His 17th homer of the season gave the Indians a 6-1 lead.

Kluber then settled in, allowing just two hits over the next three innings. He struck out the side in the fourth inning and appeared to have control of his pitches, despite a month layoff. In the top of the sixth inning he walked Eric Young Jr. to start the inning and was relieved by left-hander Rich Hill. Kluber was guarded on his return start, throwing just 64 pitches, but 45 strikes.

With a runner on, Hill struck out Daniel Murphy. Young stole second while Zach Lutz struck out swinging. After Duda walked, Hill was relieved by Vinnie Pestano.

Pestano, making his first appearance since his July 31 demotion to Triple-A, gave up a double to Turner to plate both Young and Duda and cut the lead to just 6-3. A hitter later, Lagares singled to right field and Turner scored to make it a 6-4 game. Pestano was excused from the game without recording an out. Nick Hagadone came on and struck out den Dekker to end the inning.

Kluber (8-5) pitched five innings, allowing two runs on five hits and a walk while striking out five. His economical 64 pitches were enough to get him the win, but keep his arm safe after a month layoff. Niese (6-7) settled down after the rocky first inning, but allowed six runs on nine hits and two walks in six innings of work He struck out five hitters on 108 pitches.

Scott Atchison came on in relief of Niese in the seventh inning and the Indians were able to take advantage and blow open the game again. Swisher walked to start the inning and was erased on a fielder’s choice by Kipnis. After Santana flew out to center field, Kipnis stole second base and then third. Gomes walked to put runners on the corners before Cabrera wrapped a home run around the right field foul pole. His 10th home run of the season gave the Indians a 9-4 lead and all the insurance they would need.

Bryan Shaw recorded the first two outs in the seventh inning for the Indians and Marc Rzepczynski nailed down the final out. Rzepczynski recorded the first two outs in the eighth inning and Carlos Carrasco logged the last out in the eighth inning and all three in the ninth to give the Indians the win. With expanded rosters, the Indians used six relief pitchers for the final 12 outs. Carrasco’s inning and one-third was the most by any Indians’ reliever.

The win gets Cleveland, and Baltimore, to just a game and a half back of the final wild card spot. Tampa Bay—holder of the final spot—currently trails 2-0 in Seattle. A Rays loss would leave the Indians and Orioles just a game back of the wild card spot.

The average win total over the last decade of the fifth best American League team has been 90 wins. In order for the Indians to win 91 games, they’ll have to go 15-6 in their final 21 games. The Tribe currently stands at 76-65, six games back of the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central Division.

Tomorrow the Indians will go for the sweep of the New York Mets when former Columbus Clippers teammates matchup. Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-3, 10.95) will take the mound for the Mets. He was released by the Indians just two weeks ago while pitching at Triple-A Columbus. He’ll be opposed by rookie Danny Salazar (1-2, 3.00) who is coming off a stellar start against the Tigers. The two starters were both at Triple-A with the Indians most of the season.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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