You just don’t see games like that every night.
Down 9-2 after three and a half innings, the Cleveland Indians rattled off 13 unanswered runs to complete an improbable come-from-behind victory over the Texas Rangers and their beleaguered bullpen on Monday in a 15-9 win.
Carlos Carrasco was tagged early and often by the Rangers bats, because of course, everything is bigger in Texas. But their bullpen implosions are also apparently bigger than most as Cole Hamels could not protect his giant lead in his first start off of the disabled list and the Indians chipped away with runs in five of their final six innings to get a desperately needed win that also kept alive the club’s nearly two-year long stretch without a losing streak longer than three games. The last such streak occurred from July 23-28, 2015.
The Indians’ 30-year-old right-hander Carrasco got into trouble quickly in the first as Cleveland stared down a big early deficit. Shin-Soo Choo doubled to center on the first pitch of the night. Carrasco walked Elvis Andrus and Nomar Mazara made him pay for the free base runner with a double to right-center, driving in Choo with the night’s first run. The dangerous veteran Adrian Beltre stepped in next and after the count went even at 2-2, he sent a high drive to left for a three-run homer, putting the Rangers up four before a single out had been recorded. Carrasco got a grounder and a pair of strikeouts to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Hamels struggled with his command right out of the gate in his first start off of the disabled list. After throwing a first pitch strike to Francisco Lindor, he threw eight straight balls to walk Lindor and Jason Kipnis. After a ninth straight pitch out of the zone, Jose Ramirez worked the count to even at 2-2 and dropped in a single to left to load the bases. With a chance to even up the score with one swing, Edwin Encarnacion struck out looking on a full count offering. Carlos Santana grounded the next ball to third base, where Beltre got the force for the second out on the fielder’s choice, but Lindor scored to make it 4-1. Brandon Guyer grounded out in his first at bat off of the disabled list to leave a pair stranded.
The Rangers got back to work in the second against Carrasco as the Indians starter lost the strike zone. After striking out Mike Napoli in his return to Cleveland, Carrasco walked both Joey Gallo and Choo. Andrus, who has made a career out of killing Cleveland pitching, crushed a 2-1 pitch into the bleachers for a three-run shot, giving Texas a six-run lead at 7-1.
The Indians threatened in the second with two singles, but could not score. Carrasco settled in with a pair of strikeouts in the third, bringing the Tribe back to the plate. They quickly worked themselves into a scoring situation as Ramirez singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Encarnacion grounded to short for the first out and Santana grounded to second, moving Ramirez to third with the second out. Guyer stepped in and delivered in the clutch against the southpaw Hamels, singling to center to push across Ramirez to make it a 7-2 contest.
Texas tagged two more balls over the walls of Progressive Field in the fourth as the game looked to be out of reach. Carrasco struck out Napoli but Gallo delivered a monster shot to center for the third homer of the night. Dan Otero came on for the scuffling Tribe starter, but after striking out Choo, he joined in on the home run derby as Andrus homered for the second time in three innings, making it a 9-2 ball game.
It would have been fair to write off the game as a lost one, but the Tribe bats did no such thing. After the team combined to go 1-for-23 with runners in scoring position in its series with the Minnesota Twins over the weekend, Roberto Perez doubled to left to start the fourth, moved to third on a grounder by Bradley Zimmer, and scored on a groundout by Lindor to make it 9-3.
The fifth was even more productive as the Indians suddenly made it a ball game again. Ramirez singled and Encarnacion walked to start the inning. The latter was forced at second on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Santana for the first out. Guyer worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases before Chisenhall sent a grounder between first and second. Gallo, ranging too far to his right, fielded the ball, but the Indians right fielder just beat the throw to Hamels at first, making it a 9-4 ball game. Dario Alvarez came on in a difficult spot with bases loaded and just one out and made his situation worse by walking Perez to force home Santana. Zimmer grounded to short, where Perez was forced at second, but there was no getting the speedy rookie at first base, keeping the inning alive while the sixth run of the game and third of the inning crossed home plate. A single by Lindor made it a four-run inning and a two-run game as he drove in Chisenhall and moved Zimmer to third before Kipnis lined to center to end the inning.
While the Indians pulled closer, the bullpen did its job. After Otero gave up a single to Napoli, Boone Logan entered and struck out a pair. Bryan Shaw took over with the tough task of retiring Andrus and he did just that, striking him out swinging.
Tanner Scheppers came on for the home half of the sixth, but a new pitcher did not change the Indians’ results at the plate. Ramirez walked and Encarnacion singled before Santana singled to right, driving in Ramirez to make it a 9-8 game. Alex Claudio quickly took over for the Rangers, but Guyer singled to left to load the bases and Chisenhall unloaded them with a two-run single into center field to complete the improbable comeback as the Indians took their first lead of the game at 10-9. Perez walked to load the bases before the Rangers finally retired an out, seven batters in on a pop up by Zimmer. Lindor would leg out an infield single to knock in Guyer while keeping the bases loaded and Kipnis supplied a sacrifice fly before the tenth man to bat, Ramirez, grounded into a force at third. Five runs on five hits put the Indians up, 12-9.
Shaw completed his strong effort out of the bullpen with a 1-2-3 seventh, setting the stage for another big inning from the Tribe bats as Preston Claiborne became the next batting practice pitcher for the Rangers. Encarnacion and Santana each doubled to start the inning, increasing the lead to 13-9. After strikeouts by Guyer and Chisenhall, Perez doubled to center to score Santana and Zimmer hit the fourth two-bagger of the inning to plate Perez, making it a 15-9 game.
Cody Allen struck out the side in the eighth and Nick Goody added two Ks in the ninth around a walk and a single as the Indians closed out their impressive victory.
The win moved the Indians (40-35) back into first place in the American League Central by a half game as the Minnesota Twins fell in Boston, 4-1. Cleveland is now 14-3 against the AL West this season. The Rangers (38-38) dropped to 16-21 on the road this year.
What looked to be a strong starting pitching matchup on paper was anything but. Hamels, on a pitch count of sorts in his first start in two months, lasted just four and one-third innings, allowing seven runs on eight hits with four walks and just one strikeout while needing 92 pitches to get through 13 outs. Carrasco was little better in a rare bad performance from the right-hander as he lasted three and one-third innings and allowed eight runs on six hits with three walks, three homers allowed, and seven strikeouts.
While the Rangers had nine hits and five walks on the night, they did not have many opportunities with runners in scoring position. The club was successful when they did as they were 3-for-5 with four men left on base. The Indians, who scuffled all weekend with runners on second or third, seemed to have never-ending chances with runners near home. The Indians went 11-for-28 in the ball game with runners in scoring position, with Lindor, Guyer, and Santana each delivering two hits each. Cleveland left ten men, even after scoring 15 on the night. Every hitter in the Tribe lineup had at least one hit, and only one of the nine – Kipnis – failed to record at least two hits. Lindor, Santana, and Chisenhall each drove in three runs, while Ramirez and Santana each scored three times. The team also combined for just three strikeouts against Rangers pitching.
The two clubs will get together on Tuesday for the second of four games this week. Tyson Ross (1-1, 9.35 ERA) will make his third start of the season for the Rangers after missing the first two and a half months of the year on the disabled list. He allowed seven runs on seven hits in three innings in his last start on Wednesday against Toronto. The Indians will tab right-hander Mike Clevinger (3-3, 3.86) for his ninth start and tenth appearance overall. He is coming off of a win in his last outing after giving up two runs on six hits, despite hitting two batters and walking four.
First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images