Five late runs, including four in the bottom of the seventh inning, and a packed Progressive Field gave the Cleveland Indians a little taste of the old magic at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario in a 5-3 victory over the Oakland A’s on Friday night.
Trailing 3-1 in the seventh against A’s starter Kendall Graveman, Rajai Davis reached with one out on an error by shortstop Marcus Semien. Tyler Naquin singled to left center, bringing pinch-hitter Abraham Almonte to the plate for catcher Chris Gimenez. He jumped on the first pitch, singling to center to make it a one-run game and ending the night for Graveman, who had pitched well all game long until the seventh.
Former Indian Marc Rzepczynski relieved and walked Carlos Santana, who had homered the previous inning. Jason Kipnis, facing a familiar face, shattered his bat with a bloop single to shallow left to score Naquin and tie the game at three. Ryan Dull took over for Rzepczynski, but he uncorked a wild pitch with Francisco Lindor at the plate to give the Indians a 4-3 lead. That lead grew another run a pitch later as Lindor lifted a sacrifice fly to right to give the Indians a 5-3 advantage.
“It evens itself out, it really does. With the Washington guy and this guy, these lefties have some good turbo sinkers on them and the last thing I want to do is roll it over into a double play,” said Kipnis. “So I made sure I got a pitch that was up and made sure I stayed inside the ball. I stayed inside it so much that I just hit it on the handle so the bat exploded. It got the job done, it was a big hit, and Frankie followed it up with a big sac fly after me.”
Bryan Shaw set the A’s down in order in the eighth and the offense stranded a pair in the bottom half. Cody Allen relieved in the ninth and made it a little dicey as Ryon Healy and Coco Crisp each singled with one out to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in Jed Lowrie. He struck out swinging and Josh Reddick, who had already homered earlier in the ball game, lifted a deep drive to the track in center that was reeled in by Naquin for the win and Allen’s 20th save of the season.
The Indians (58-42) kept their lead at four and a half in the AL Central as Detroit whooped Houston, 14-6. Cleveland improved to 2-1 on its homestand, with two more to play with the A’s and four next week against Minnesota. The Athletics (47-56) fell to 23-27 on the road and saw their mini two-game winning streak come to an end. They entered winners of five of their last six.
Both starting pitchers were sharp in the early going, but it was an error that allowed the A’s to strike first in the fourth against Indians starter Trevor Bauer.
The Indians right-hander had retired five straight when Reddick reached on an error at first on Mike Napoli, who fielded but threw wide of Bauer covering the bag at first. Khris Davis moved the runner to second on a groundout and Stephen Vogt popped up, but a solid single to right by Billy Butler scored Reddick with the game’s first run.
Reddick and Davis came up big to lead off the sixth, as on back-to-back pitches, the duo cleared the wall with solo homers to expand the A’s lead to 3-0.
Santana homered off of Graveman to start the Cleveland scoring in the bottom of the sixth. Cody Anderson earned the win with an inning of scoreless relief.
“It took us some time tonight. The guy pitched well, it took us a little bit to make our adjustment,” said Kipnis. “We say it to the pitching staff, they’re always doing their job, just give us our time to do ours. It might take a little longer than theirs, but give us a chance. We’ve done it two of the last three games.”
BAUER WITH ANOTHER NO-DECISION
Bauer pitched with some traffic and had his pitch count run up early as he left with one out in the sixth inning down three runs. He faced the minimum just once on the night, but he kept the game close and avoided trouble made possible by several errors in the field behind him.
“I thought Trevor was throwing the ball good,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “He had the unearned run early, and then he had the back-to-back home runs. I was trying to stay with him, but after that, they had a walk, hit, and he’s up over 100 [pitches].”
He allowed three runs, two earned, on five hits, walking two and striking out four on the night. He has failed to earn a win in each of his last four starts. The Indians had dropped his last three starts until Friday’s comeback victory.
GRAVEMAN GOOD INTO THE SEVENTH
Graveman (7-7, 4.15 ERA) took a tough loss after pitching extremely well over the first six innings. He allowed just one run over the first six, but was charged with four (three earned) in six and one-third innings after the Indians’ big rally late. He gave up six hits, walked a pair, and struck out one on 94 pitches.
“He’s throwing strikes, sinking it, just kinda pounding the zone with it,” said Francona. “We hit some balls hard but when you’re sinking it and throwing strikes and keeping it down, those things are going to happen. It’s hard to elevate.
“He’s good. It’s been a long time since he’s lost a game.”
ALMONTE’S FIRST SINGLE
Almonte’s big pinch-hit single in the seventh was his first non-extra base hit of the season. Each of his first five hits since returning from his 80-game PED suspension had been doubles.
“Abe, obviously, with a huge hit,” said Francona. “You start getting some traffic out there, it can change the game a little bit.”
The Indians announced prior to the game that right-handed reliever Jeff Manship had been placed retroactively on the 15-day disabled list with right wrist tendonitis.
In a corresponding move, the club activated righty Zach McAllister from the disabled list, where he had been out since early July with right hip discomfort.
An announced crowd of 33,134 packed Progressive Field on Friday night in the series opener against Oakland. Another large, potentially sold-out crowd is expected on Saturday night for fireworks and the Hall of Fame inductions of Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Frank Robinson, and Charlie Jamieson.
Indians Hall of Famer Kenny Lofton, in town for the team’s induction ceremony, threw out the first pitch.
It will be a big night on Saturday as the Indians host the A’s in the middle game of their three-game set. Josh Tomlin (10-3, 3.48) will make the start for the Tribe, while rookie southpaw Dillon Overton (1-1, 8.40) will make his fourth career start for the A’s.
First pitch on Saturday is tentatively scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: AP Photo/Phil Long