The magic was back again at Progressive Field as Francisco Lindor’s bases loaded walk-off single with one out in the bottom of the ninth capped a three-run comeback as the Cleveland Indians stunned the Washington Nationals, 7-6, on Tuesday night.
After a shaky start from All-Star Danny Salazar and with the Indians’ offense once again contained by Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez, Cleveland entered the ninth trailing 6-4 with Washington closer Jonathan Papelbon coming on for the save. It would prove to be anything but routine for the veteran right-hander, who wasted no time getting into trouble.
Jose Ramirez worked a walk to start the inning, bringing pinch-hitter Tyler Naquin to the plate for Juan Uribe. After quickly falling behind in the count, Naquin laced a gapper to left-center, scoring Ramirez from first to make it a one-run game. Chris Gimenez dropped down a bunt, but Ryan Zimmerman, fresh off of the disabled list, threw wide of first, allowing Naquin to score to tie the game at six. Lonnie Chisenhall was intentionally walked to set up double play possibilities, but Rajai Davis popped up a bunt safely in the infield to load the bases.
Washington manager Dusty Baker went to his bullpen, bringing on lefty specialist Oliver Perez to face the left-handed hitting Jason Kipnis. The Tribe second baseman lofted a fly to left, not deep enough to score Gimenez. Lindor stepped in and lined a pitch up and in through the pulled in right side of the infield, scoring Gimenez and beginning the on field celebrations for Cleveland.
Bryan Shaw, who worked two-thirds of an inning in the ninth and allowed the sixth Nationals run to score on an error, earned his second win of the season. Papelbon dropped to 2-4 on the season with his third blown save.
“That’s an ugly way to lose one,” Washington skipper Baker said. “I’m at a loss for words.”
The win ended a three-game losing streak for Cleveland (57-41), who has yet to lose more than three consecutive games this season. They kept pace in the American League Central, maintaining a five and a half game lead over second place Detroit, who won in Boston. Washington (58-42) has now dropped two straight and saw their lead in the National League East slip to four games with Miami’s win on Tuesday.
Things did not start out the way the Indians had hoped in the first, as starter Salazar coughed up a pair of runs as his defense behind him cost him. Trea Turner led off the game with a walk, stole second, and moved to third on a fly out to center from Bryce Harper. Daniel Murphy grounded to Uribe at third, but his misplay allowed Turner to score to make it a 1-0 game. After Salazar struck out All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos for the second out, Jayson Werth doubled to center, driving in Murphy with the second run of the inning. Anthony Rendon struck out swinging to end the top half.
Cleveland got Salazar off of the hook in the bottom half against Gonzalez, whose lifetime numbers against the Indians included a sub-1.00 ERA. Davis walked on four pitches and moved to third on a ground-rule double from Kipnis. Davis would score on a passed ball by Ramos before Lindor popped out to second. Another four-pitch walk, this time by Mike Napoli, put runners on the corners for Carlos Santana, whose sacrifice fly to left scored Kipnis to tie the game up. Ramirez lined out to end the inning.
After the Indians missed on a two-out rally attempt in the bottom of the third, the Nationals made them pay quickly in the fourth. Ramos led off the inning with a double to right-center, the second hit of the night for Washington. Werth struck out, but Rendon cleared the wall in left-center with a costly two-run homer to give the Nats a two-run lead.
Salazar got the hook after one batter in the fifth, but reliever Kyle Crockett got out of the inning after a grounder and a line out to Napoli at first for a double play. Jeff Manship took over in the sixth and did not have the same luck, as Ramos homered to lead off the inning to give Washington a three-run cushion.
Gonzalez had retired ten straight batters when Abraham Almonte doubled to left with one out in the bottom of the seventh, bringing Baker out for his bullpen. Blake Treinen relieved, but pinch-hitter Chisenhall jumped on the first pitch and singled to left-center, scoring Almonte to make it a 5-3 game. Davis grounded into a double play to defuse the rally, as once again the twin killer bit the Tribe.
Cleveland chipped into the deficit again in the eighth, this time off of reliever Felipe Rivero. Kipnis doubled to lead off the inning and moved to third on a single from Lindor. Napoli grounded into a double play, but Kipnis scored to make it a 5-4 game.
Shaw took over for Austin Adams in the ninth after Rendon reached on the second error of the night by Uribe and a fly out from Zimmerman. The Indians setup man plunked Danny Espinosa with his first pitch and Ben Revere reached on an infield single to load the bases. Turner grounded sharply to Napoli, who could not field the ball cleanly, allowing Rendon to score with an important insurance run to give Washington a 6-4 lead. Shaw then got two big outs, getting Harper to ground into a force at home before Murphy grounded to Kipnis.
SALAZAR’S SHORT OUTING
Salazar needed more than 30 pitches to escape the first inning mess, compounded by the error. He left in the fifth after Turner reached safely with the fourth Washington hit on the night off of the right-hander. He allowed four runs (three earned) in four-plus innings, striking out five and walking a pair. He threw 85 pitches in the game, 54 for strikes.
GONZALEZ GREAT AGAINST CLEVELAND AGAIN
Gonzalez left in line for what would have been his sixth win against the Indians in eight career starts until the Washington bullpen blew the game. He worked six and one-third innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
In his career, he is now 5-0 against Cleveland with a 1.07 ERA.
The last time the Indians had lost three in a row was June 13-15, when they were swept in Kansas City by the Royals. They ended that skid just as they did on Tuesday – with a walk-off hit. Santana supplied the game-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth in that game against the Chicago White Sox to give Cleveland a 3-2 win.
The Indians’ previous three-game losing streak ended the same. After a loss on May 29 to Baltimore and two defeats on May 30 and 31 against Texas, Cleveland got a 5-4 win in eleven innings on a Yan Gomes walk-off single on June 1.
LINDOR’S BIG DAY
In addition to supplying the game-winning hit, Lindor was 3-for-5 on the night with the big RBI. He had three singles in the game and the run batted in was the 50th of his season.
“It’s huge,” said Lindor about being back in Cleveland and getting the win. “We’ve been on the road for a while. It’s nice to be home with our families, get that little off day and be in this clubhouse. It changes everything a little bit.”
PUT ME IN, SKIP
Cleveland pinch-hitters supplied some big hits in the game, as Naquin was 1-for-1 with a double, an RBI, and one run scored. Chisenhall was 1-for-1 with an RBI and was later intentionally walked.
MURPHY’S HIT STREAK ENDS ON ERROR
Murphy entered action on Tuesday with an eleven-game hitting streak, He went 0-for-5 on the night with a run scored and a run batted in. He had a chance for a hit in the first inning, but the play was ruled an error on the third baseman (and his former teammate in New York) Uribe. The hitless game dropped the batting average of the NL’s leading hitter five points to .350.
HEART AND HUSTLE
Prior to the game, Napoli was presented with his Heart and Hustle award in a brief on-field ceremony.
FAN LEAVES ON STRETCHER
A 75-year-old woman was taken from the stands on a stretcher in the first inning after being struck by a foul ball off of the bat of Murphy. She was bandaged up and taken by stretcher from the playing area before being transported to MetroHealth Hospital. She suffered a cut to her face and her glasses were broken as a result of the hit.
The Nationals announced prior to the game that pitcher Sammy Solis and first baseman Zimmerman had been activated from the 15-day disabled list. No corresponding moves were needed as Washington had already optioned pitcher Lucas Giolito and outfielder Michael Taylor on Monday.
There is little time for rest for either club as the Indians will host the Nationals in the series finale at 12:10 PM ET from Progressive Field on Wednesday.
Cleveland will send right-hander Carlos Carrasco (7-3, 2.31 ERA) to the mound against Washington’s Stephen Strasburg (13-1, 2.83). Carrasco has never faced Washington and has not made an Interleague start this season. Strasburg will be making his first start since earning his first defeat of the year. It will be the third career start for him against the Indians and his first since 2013.
Photo: AP Photo/Ron Schwane