That old familiar magic was lacking at Progressive Field this past season. On Thursday, September 10th, it came back with the Doctor in the house as the Cleveland Indians took on the Detroit Tigers.
The Indians had salvaged their season some with better play over the previous four weeks. With the struggling Tigers in town for the first of four, the Indians had a chance to get closer to the .500 mark and maybe inch back into the American League Wild Card race.
Danny Salazar and Alfredo Simon matched up for the evening start, with Simon’s Tigers striking for first blood in the second. Salazar walked James McCann with one out and gave up a single to Andrew Romine. Anthony Gose singled to right to knock in the runner from second, but Gose was thrown out at second and Romine then was gunned down in a rundown at the plate for the unconventional 9-3-6-4-9-2 double play, confirmed by replay review, to get out of harm’s way.
After stranding runners on the corners in the first and with a pair in scoring position with just one out in the third, the Indians took the easier way to the scoreboard in the fourth to tie the game up. After a strikeout from Lonnie Chisenhall, Abraham Almonte continued his impressive stretch with the club with a homer to right. Cleveland would put two more on base, but again could not score the go-ahead runs.
That is, until the sixth.
Almonte reached on a bunt single and with one out, stole second base. Jose Ramirez walked, bringing rookie Giovanny Urshela to the plate. The youngster delivered, clearing both runners with a double to left center to make it a 3-1 game.
The lead would not last for long.
With one out, McCann singled to left off of Salazar in the top of the seventh. Romine reached on an infield single to short and Gose walked to load the bases and bring Bryan Shaw in from the bullpen. The new reliever quickly put a run in as Cleveland’s setup man uncorked a wild pitch. A pop up from Rajai Davis put a second out on the board, but Ian Kinsler singled to right to score Romine and tie the game at three. Gose was thrown out at the plate trying to score on the play, confirmed again by replay.
Enter the hero, Dr. Smooth.
On pitch number two of his at bat against Simon in the bottom of the inning, Michael Brantley homered in center to give the Indians the lead back. Yan Gomes added to that advantage with a two-out single to left, scoring Chisenhall, who had reached on a single.
Once again, the lead was short lived for the Tribe.
Shaw remained on the mound and induced a groundout from Miguel Cabrera to start the eighth inning, but gave up back-to-back singles to J.D. Martinez and Victor Martinez. With momentum swinging Motown’s way, Nick Castellanos plated the lead Martinez on his double to deep center, which ended Shaw’s evening. Cody Allen came on in relief and after a strikeout, gave up a single to left by Romine that scored the second Martinez of the inning and fans in Cleveland were now witness to a 5-5 tie.
After the first out of the bottom of the inning, Blaine Hardy took over on the mound for Alex Wilson and needed just two pitches to notch the second out of the inning. Francisco Lindor kept the inning alive, working the count full before walking. Brantley stepped in and again, Brantley got to play the hero on his own 3-2 pitch, sending a game-changing two-run homer to right to give the Indians a 7-5 advantage.
“The one pitch I hadn’t thrown him yet,” Hardy said of the changeup he threw to Brantley that left the yard. “I figured I could try and sneak it by him. He thought otherwise.”
Allen worked a quick ninth, striking out Cabrera looking to end the game and earn his second win of the year.
Response runs and overturned calls at the plate were also key stories on a night that Brantley carried his team on two separate occasions. Twice the Indians were aided by overturned calls at home plate, with Chisenhall earning both assists on a double play rundown to end the second and getting another assist in the seventh on another run overturned by review at home plate. He was the first Indians outfielder with a three-assist game since Rick Manning in 1981.
“He has turned himself into probably one of the better right fielders in the game,” manager Terry Francona said.
Cleveland starter Salazar pitched effectively with a quality start effort and left in position to earn a win with the Indians up 3-1 at the time. He worked six and one-third innings, allowing three runs (all earned) on seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts on 94 pitches.
The Indians improved to 69-70 on the year with the win and brought their home record to 30-34. The victory gave Cleveland their fourth win in their last five games and a key one on a day that the second American League Wild Card team, the Texas Rangers, had already lost to Seattle. It pulled the club within four games of the Rangers in their playoff pursuit.
The long chase for .500, dating all the way back to the Indians’ loss in the fifth game of the season, would end the next game, but not before a pair of rainouts on the 11th and 12th slowed down the Indians and cut short the four-game series between the two teams and leading to the Indians and Tigers final records being one game short of a full 162-game schedule for the year.
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