In a game that featured a little bit of everything, Greg Allen delivered the unlikely walk-off home run on the first pitch of the bottom of the 14th inning as the Cleveland Indians rallied back to defeat the Houston Astros, 10-9, on Sunday.
In a matchup hyped all week for its pairing of former UCLA Bruins teammates Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, it would be a tale of two different games from Progressive Field on Sunday afternoon. Both starters pitched well enough to win and lasted deep into the day, but it would be disastrous outcomes from their teammates in relief that turned a well-pitched game in a 14-inning affair.
The Indians lost a 3-2 lead in an ugly eighth inning as six runs crossed the plate to give the Astros a commanding 8-3 lead. The Tribe went down in order in the bottom of the eighth and Josh Tomlin worked around a two-out double by Alex Bregman to leave the deficit at five, which would prove to be extremely significant as the Indians stared down their final three outs with a big hill to climb against Astros closer Ken Giles.
The first batter to face Giles, Jose Ramirez, may have changed the entire afternoon with one at bat. He would foul off 12 pitches during an insane 17-pitch battle with the Houston right-hander, working the count full on pitch nine before seven straight foul balls. He was finally able to put one in play, sending a laser beam high off of the wall in right for a leadoff double. The at bat may have worn down Giles, who gave up back-to-back singles to Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso, with the latter scoring Ramirez to make it an 8-4 game. Bench coach Joe Espada (at the helm for ejected manager AJ Hinch) turned to another member of the best bullpen in the league, calling on Will Harris to wrap up the contest. He struck out Rajai Davis for the first out, but Jason Kipnis pulled a curveball into right field to score Encarnacion, making it an 8-5 game while bringing the tying run to the plate in Roberto Perez. Tribe skipper Terry Francona turned to his bench, bringing on Erik Gonzalez, who has hit well in the clutch throughout the season. He would deliver, sending a single to left field to score Alonso while suddenly making it an 8-6 contest. Espada came back to the mound, calling on hard-throwing right-hander and former Indians pitching prospect Hector Rondon, who got Allen to line to left for the second out. Down to his final strike, Francisco Lindor fouled off a couple of pitches before slapping a single the opposite way to left, scoring Kipnis from second to cut the Astros lead to one. Michael Brantley fell in his own 0-2 hole looking at a pair of called strikes, but then went the opposite way over Bregman at third with a single, scoring the hustling Gonzalez from second to tie the game at 8-8. Ramirez, the tenth man to bat, nearly won it with a 102+ MPH screamer towards first, but a diving catch robbed him of a game-winner.
The Indians bullpen, which started the day rough once again in relief of Bauer, settled in big after allowing six runs in the eighth. Tomlin allowed one hit in a scoreless ninth. Cody Allen pitched a perfect tenth. Zach McAllister retired all six batters that he faced in order in the eleventh and twelfth.
The Astros responded similarly after allowing five runs in the ninth. Former Indians pitcher Joe Smith was six-up, six-down in the tenth and eleventh. Collin McHugh walked Brantley with one out in the twelfth, but got a line out and strikeout from Ramirez and Encarnacion.
Dan Otero came on for the Indians in the 13th, looking to give his club a chance in the home half. After getting Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel to fly to left, Evan Gattis put another one in the air, but this one would not be caught. His second homer of the game gave the Astros a 9-8 lead and once again put the Indians down to their final three outs.
The Tribe would not need it. Alonso stepped in to lead off the frame against McHugh and sent a 2-1 fastball into the seats in right, knotting the game up at nine with his third career homer in extra innings. McHugh would retire the next three in order, but it was a new ball game once against from the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
Otero had another scare in the 14th, as speedy Tony Kemp doubled to deep right-center. He moved to third on a groundout by George Springer, but would move no further as Bregman struck out to end the threat.
Brad Peacock came on for the home half of the 14th, but the only pitch that he would make would be costly. The switch-hitting Allen jumped on that first offering and put a surprise charge in the ball, clearing the right field wall with his second career home run and a dramatic walk-off win for the Tribe.
The Indians moved back above the .500 mark at 26-25, splitting their series with the Astros (34-20). Coupled with a loss by Minnesota, Cleveland holds a three and a half game lead in the division.
The final score did not reflect the first seven innings of the contest, which pitted Bauer and Cole into a fantastic pitchers’ duel. Bauer allowed solo runs in the second (on a two-out homer from Max Stassi) and the sixth (on a one-out double by Jose Altuve to score Springer after his leadoff walk). Cole gave up three in the first two innings, giving up a two-run home run to Ramirez after a leadoff walk by Lindor in the first and a two-out RBI-double in the second to Allen to score a hustling Kipnis all the way from first base. Cole would finish with three straight strikeouts in the seventh and was the pitcher of record when the ugly top of the eighth turned a one-run deficit into a big lead.
Looking to protect that 3-2 lead, Bauer came back to the mound in the top of the eighth with a season-high 13 strikeouts already recorded. He got Kemp to fly to center for the first out, but Springer doubled and Bregman walked, bringing Francona out of the dugout for his bullpen. Instead of turning to options that he has had in the past, like Bryan Shaw or Andrew Miller, Tito had to call the number of Evan Marshall. He quickly turned the lead into a deficit. Altuve singled, extending his new club record to ten straight plate appearances with a hit. It drove in Springer from second to tie the game. Correa singled to center, knocking in Bregman with the go-ahead run. A third straight single from Gurriel scored Altuve, giving the Astros a 5-3 lead. Ben Taylor, who was recalled from Triple-A Columbus with Marshall on Saturday, took the ball as the third pitcher of the inning and fell behind Gattis 2-1 before the White Bear clobbered a three-run blast to the bleachers, breaking the game open at 8-3. Taylor would respond with back-to-back strikeouts, but the Astros had what looked to be at the time an insurmountable 8-3 lead and a crushing win over the Tribe.
Instead, the Indians would rally for five in the ninth. For the first time in franchise history, the team hit a game-tying and then a game-winning home run in the 13th inning or later, with Alonso’s 13th inning shot and Allen’s 14th inning blast providing the first time feat.
BAUER SETS SEASON HIGH
Bauer did not get to factor into the decision, despite walking off of the mound with a 3-2 lead with one out in the eighth after firing 127 pitches. The bullpen blowup that inning would lead to two more runs being charged to Bauer, giving him four on the day on five hits with a pair of walks. His 13 strikeouts were a season-high and fell just one short of matching his previous career best.
The 127 pitches made by Bauer were a career-high.
Cole, unlike his college teammate, did not have his stat line inflated by his bullpen, but they would still be responsible for him not earning a win. He was finished after the Astros rallied for six runs in the top of the eighth and with an 8-3 lead, he remained in the dugout after throwing 112 pitches himself in the game. He allowed three runs on four hits in his seven innings, walking two and striking out eight.
The Astros’ skipper Hinch was ejected in the sixth inning after getting in an argument from the dugout with home plate umpire Tony Randazzo. During an at bat between Altuve and Bauer, Randazzo turned and yelled towards the Astros dugout, where Hinch had apparently been telling him to pay more attention to the strike zone and less attention to what was going on on the Houston bench. It was Hinch’s first ejection of the season and just the second for the Astros as a whole.
BRANTLEY STREAK CONTINUES
Brantley had a pair of hits in the ball game, but it would be his third-inning single that extended his hitting streak to a season-high 16 games.
GET SOME REST
The Indians will get right back to the field on Monday, when they host the Chicago White Sox in the first of three games this week. The Memorial Day holiday first pitch is scheduled for a special 4:00 PM ET start, with right-handers Adam Plutko (2-0, 2.03 ERA) and Dylan Covey (1-1, 3.46) earning the starts for their respective clubs.
The Astros will head to the Big Apple, where they will face off with the New York Yankees in a rematch of last year’s American League Championship Series.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images