For 26 outs, the Cleveland Indians had just four hits to show against the Colorado Rockies and looked to be in severe jeopardy of wasting nine fantastic innings of one-run baseball by Corey Kluber. That 27th and final out would never come, as the Indians rallied for four runs, including a game-tying two-out bloop single by Austin Jackson and the game-winning three-run home run from Yan Gomes as Cleveland stunned Colorado and All-Star closer Greg Holland with the improbable comeback and a walk-off victory.
Trailing all night after a first inning, second pitch home run from center fielder Charlie Blackmon off of Kluber to start the game, the Indians headed to the ninth in an offensive funk after missing on the handful of opportunities that they had over the course of the evening. The odds looked stacked against them as the flat offense had to face Holland, who entered with a tiny 1.96 ERA on the season and plenty of previous experience against the Indians to call upon from his days as a Kansas City Royal.
Jose Ramirez popped out to short for the first out in the ninth, but Edwin Encarnacion earned a walk on a hard-fought nine-pitch battle with Holland. He was lifted for pinch-runner Brandon Guyer, but the next man up, Carlos Santana, was made to look foolish, cutting on missing on back-to-back offspeed pitches for the second out. Bradley Zimmer, who had made a costly base running mistake several innings earlier, drew a four-pitch walk to keep the game alive for Jackson. After swinging and missing badly at a pair of sliders, the Tribe outfielder sent the eighth pitch of his battle with Holland into shallow center. Blackmon made it a close play and just missed making a game-ending diving catch, but instead, Guyer scored from third to tie the game at one. With runners on the corners, Gomes sent the next offering into the bleachers in left-center for the walk-off blast as Tribe players ran all over the diamond, with Jason Kipnis greeting Gomes near second base and Francisco Lindor burning a path back and forth between third base and home in excitement and anticipation.
In the “mob scene” at home plate, Gomes’ jersey disappeared and both he and Jackson would get a post-game Gatorade bath on the field.
Until the bottom of the ninth, the story of the night had been pitching. There was plenty of it on both sides of the diamond throughout the game.
Kluber allowed the second pitch homer to fellow All-Star Blackmon and a single to DJ LeMahieu before setting down the next 15 in a row. That streak ended with his third and final hit allowed on the night, when Raimel Tapia singled to start the sixth. He would steal second, but would be stranded there. Kluber retired the final 12 that he faced, striking out the side in the top of the ninth in his final trip to the mound.
German Marquez, a 22-year-old righty, set down the first ten men that he faced, striking out three, before Lindor doubled to right-center with one down in the bottom of the fourth. He would get to third on a groundout by Michael Brantley, but would be stranded as Ramirez would ground to second to end the frame. The Indians would get another one-out hit in their next at bats, as Santana singled to center, but a liner to second and a fly to right ended that inning.
The Indians had their first big chance in Marquez’s final full inning of work. Kipnis and Lindor each walked with one out in the inning, but Abraham Almonte lined out to first on a nice play by former Indian Mark Reynolds. Ramirez would ground between the mound and first base and Reynolds made another big play, diving to the bag to tag the Indians third baseman, who came up just short in his head first slide into first base.
Marquez started the seventh, but after a long at bat with Encarnacion ended in a walk, Chris Rusin came on in relief. Santana grounded into a force for the first out and Zimmer lifted a high pop up by the pitcher’s mound. Rusin appeared to go for the catch before pulling back, letting the ball drop. Third baseman Nolan Arenado scooped it up and fired to second to force Santana, who had to hold at first expecting the ball to be caught. Zimmer, however, did not get down the line on what appeared to be a routine pop up and was thrown out on the back end of the play for a costly twin-killing that also got him a talking-to in the dugout from manager Terry Francona.
Cleveland threatened again in the eighth, but could not come through. Jackson lined to center off of reliever Pat Neshek before a single to center by Gomes sent Colorado manager Bud Black back to the mound for Mike Dunn. Kipnis singled through the right side to put runners on the corners, but Lindor got jammed and popped up weakly to second and Almonte grounded into a force at second to end the inning.
Marquez, the second-year right-hander out of Venezuela, got the start for the Rockies and he was fantastic while aiming for a fifth straight win. He did his part with little exception, firing six scoreless innings while giving up two hits and three walks and striking out three. Holland saw his ERA balloon to 2.79 after giving up four runs on two hits with two walks and a strikeout in two-thirds of an inning for his third loss and third blown save of the season. He saved his first 23 games of the season before his first blown opportunity, but after converting eleven more in a row, he has blown back-to-back appearances from the Rockies bullpen.
Kluber ended the night with the complete game win, his second consecutive nine-inning gem. He allowed just the one first inning run and three hits in total, he did not walk a batter, and he struck out eleven. He was first-pitch strike to 18 of the 29 batters that he faced and he got 26 swings and misses from his 78 strikes thrown on the night. He threw 116 pitches in total for the ball game in earning his tenth win of the season while dropping his ERA to 2.65.
The Indians were 0-for-6 on the night and 0-for-their-last-17 with runners in scoring position before the game-tying and game-winning hits.
The win for the Indians (60-50) was even bigger as it coupled nicely with a Royals loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, extending Cleveland’s lead to four games in the AL Central and five games in the loss column. The Rockies (64-49) dropped a half-game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for the top spot in the NL Wild Card race with the defeat.
The news was not all good for the Indians, who lost their left fielder Brantley to what has been called a right ankle sprain while jogging towards a fly ball caught by Zimmer in the fifth inning. He walked off the field with some assistance, but had difficulty going down the steps into both the dugout and the clubhouse. He was already set to undergo imaging on the ankle after the game and the team believed that an Achilles injury could be ruled out. It looked, however, that he would be headed back to the 10-day disabled list once again.
The two teams will not have to wait long to get back at it, as the Indians and Rockies will meet in the series finale 17 hours after the first game of the series began. Trevor Bauer (10-8, 5.00 ERA) will get the start for the Tribe, looking to complete a rare interleague sweep. He is coming off of consecutive strong starts, giving up just two runs in his last 15 innings of work in a pair of wins. Twenty-two-year-old rookie right-hander Antonio Senzatela (10-4, 4.78) jumps back into the Rockies rotation on Wednesday to make the start for Colorado. After a good start to his season, he has struggled, beginning in his first start after his early June win over Cleveland. He has spent time since in the bullpen and at Triple-A.
First pitch from Progressive Field on getaway day is scheduled for 12:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images