Walk-off magic and winning ways had been lacking for the Indians at their home in downtown Cleveland throughout the 2015 season. As the club entered play on August 11th against the New York Yankees, they had just one such hit on the season, a game-winning sacrifice fly by now former Indians outfielder David Murphy on June 21st.
That total would change in a game that some might have thought would never end. And when it looked like it was over and done with, continued on to give fans bonus baseball into the wee hours of the night.
It was just another day at the office for Carlos Carrasco, who took the mound against a slumping Yankees team and left them puzzled. Two mistakes, both of which left the yard, were the lone blemishes in eight innings of work on the mound for Cookie, who struck out eight batters, allowed four hits, and walked none on the way to his third consecutive no-decision.
He was opposed by 21-year-old right-handed rookie Luis Severino, who was making just his second career start. He allowed two runs on two hits and struck out seven in five innings in a tough-luck loss to the Boston Red Sox in his Major League debut five days earlier. He was not quite as sharp on this day, but he left after six innings after allowing just two more runs on seven hits, with a walk and two strikeouts to his credit.
The Indians struck first in the first to give Carrasco a little breathing room. A one-out single from Francisco Lindor and a bean ball to Michael Brantley gave the Indians two on with just one out. Carlos Santana singled to right to knock in Lindor with the game’s first run. With runners on the corners, Yan Gomes struck out swinging and Abraham Almonte grounded out to end the threat with minimal damage done.
The Tribe made it a two-run advantage in the bottom of the next frame. New Indians utility guy Chris Johnson singled to center and moved to second on a single from Lonnie Chisenhall. Giovanny Urshela grounded into a double play, allowing Johnson to reach third safely. With the pressure on, Jose Ramirez singled to left-center, scoring one of the newest members of the club with the second run on the night.
Entering the sixth, Carrasco had allowed just a leadoff double to Didi Gregorius in the top of the third. The leadoff man would strike again, as Stephen Drew homered to right to start the sixth to cut the Indians lead in half. Alex Rodriguez led off the seventh with a single to left, but was erased on a double play ball. In an unfortunate case of déjà vu, Carlos Beltran led off the eighth inning against Carrasco the same as Drew had, homering to right to tie the game at two.
After the early Indians offense, the Yankees kept the Tribe at bay. Brantley reached with a double to lead off the third and Almonte walked with two outs, but both men were stranded. Severino then retired nine straight before a two-out single by Johnson, who was left on base on an inning-ending groundout. Gomes singled in the eighth with two outs off of All-Star reliever Dellin Betances, but the former Yankee Almonte struck out to end the inning.
With the score still tied in the bottom of the ninth, the Indians got the winning run to second base with one out, but the pinch runner Zach Walters would move no further, sending the game to extras.
Bryan Shaw came on in relief of closer Cody Allen, who faced the minimum in the ninth. After a groundout by Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann walked and Beltran singled to center. A single from Gregorius loaded the bases, but a grounder to first by Drew led to a force out at the plate. Chase Headley, pinch-hitting for Brendan Ryan, tried to play the hero and succeeded at the time, singling to right to score both Beltran and Gregorius to give the Yankees their first lead of the game. Kyle Crockett would relieve Shaw and strike out Jacoby Ellsbury looking.
New York and their manager, Joe Girardi, brought in closer Andrew Miller to shut down the Indians in the bottom of the tenth. That, however, was not in the cards on this night as Lindor reached on an infield single and Brantley doubled him to third. A sacrifice fly from Santana brought the score to 4-3 and a single from Gomes scored Brantley from second to knot the game at four all. With the winning run standing on first, Miller buckled down and K’d Almonte and Walters looking to force an eleventh inning.
“It stinks. I put us in a terrible situation,” said Miller after the game after blowing his first save in 25 chances on the year. “I had a chance to close out the game, didn’t do it. I’m frustrated. I feel bad I let us down with the game won. I screwed it up.”
Zach McAllister walked Rodriguez in the eleventh, but no damage was done. Adam Warren set the Tribe down in order. Gregorius singled with one-out in the 12th, but Jeff Manship escaped unharmed. Bryan Mitchell struck out a pair and retired all three in order in his half of the inning for New York. Ryan Webb sat the Bronx Bombers down quietly in his half of the 13th. Almonte singled with one out and stole second, but Jerry Sands struck out against Mitchell to extend the game to 14.
Webb struck out two in the top half before getting a fly out to bring the Indians to the plate for a third inning against Mitchell. Ramirez singled to center with one out and stole second. Lindor struck out and Brantley was intentionally walked. Santana worked a walk to load the bases, but Gomes grounded out and it was on to the 15th.
Webb was the Indians relief hero of the night, working a third straight three-up, three-down inning. Branden Pinder, in relief of Mitchell, did the same for the Yankees. With the trend set, Austin Adams came on for the 16th, retiring the side in order, including Ellsbury leading off to extend his horrible day to an 0-for-7 stat line.
Urshela flied out to center to start the bottom of the 16th against Pinder, but Ramirez singled and Lindor moved him to second with a single of his own to set the stage for the Doctor. Brantley wasted little time, lining the second pitch he saw into right field, scoring the charging Ramirez from second and ending a five hour and four minute marathon that carried into the witching hour of Wednesday morning.
Adams earned the win, his second of the year. The Indians outhit the Yankees, 17 to eight, but had just one more run to show for the far better production. In the end, it was the final run that mattered the most and extended the fifth place Indians winning streak to three straight.
The top of the Tribe order, as usual, provided most of the punch, as Lindor, Ramirez, and Brantley combined to go 9-for-22 with two RBI and four of the five runs scored. They each had three hits, as did Johnson, who was 3-for-4 with the other run scored before he left for a pinch-runner.
By comparison, the top four hitters in the New York lineup – Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Rodriguez, and Teixeira, were a combined 1-for-25 with nine strikeouts. The Yankees as a team struck out 16 times on the night.
The new look Indians, meanwhile, improved to 3-1 in the post-Bourn/Swisher era.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer