A full claim to the Ohio Cup came down to the very last batter on Wednesday night as Brad Hand completed the sweep of the Cincinnati Reds by escaping a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the ninth to secure a 4-3 win for the Cleveland Indians from Great American Ball Park.
In a game of big innings, the Indians took the lead in the sixth with a home run that just barely squeezed over the left field wall. After two strong innings of setup work from Cody Allen, Hand was tasked with the top of the Reds order, but he had to face six batters in a 4-3 game to record his 28th save of the season and his fourth with the Tribe.
Billy Hamilton started the Reds rally attempt when he blooped a single into center field and Jose Peraza sent a fastball over the head of right fielder Brandon Guyer that hopped the wall for a ground rule double. With the dangerous All-Star packed heart of the order looming, Joey Votto grounded to first. Yonder Alonso fielded the ball and alertly fired to the plate, catching Hamilton several feet from scoring to cut down the potential tying run. Eugenio Suarez fouled off three straight pitches in a seven-pitch at bat before striking out swinging, his fifth K of the night, for the second out. Scooter Gennett worked a walk to load the bases, but pinch-hitter Curt Casali lifted a fly to right that Guyer handled to secure the win and a series victory over the Reds for the Tribe.
The Indians improved to 69-51 with their fifth straight win. The sweep over the Reds (52-69) secured the Indians’ sixth straight road series win and gave Cleveland a 4-2 edge in the season series with Cincinnati.
The Tribe missed out in the first, wasting a pair of runners to start the night against young right-hander Robert Stephenson. The Reds did not have the same problem, as they plated three in the home half against Cleveland righty Shane Bieber. Peraza kicked off the night with a double and moved to third on a fly out by Votto. Suarez struck out for the second out, but Gennett singled in a run with a base hit to right, and Preston Tucker homered to right-center to give the Reds a three-run inning. Tucker Barnhart doubled, but was stranded on a groundout by Phillip Ervin.
Cleveland cut into the lead quickly with a little help from Stephenson in the next half inning. Jason Kipnis drew a walk on four straight pitches, moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, and scored on a single to center by Greg Allen. The center fielder worked his way around the bases on a steal of second and he moved to third on a fly out by Roberto Perez for the first out. Bieber worked an unlikely walk to put runners on the corners and Francisco Lindor made it a one-run game with a slow-rolling RBI-groundout to Votto at first. Michael Brantley walked to put two on, ending Stephenson’s night after just five outs. Cody Reed stopped the bleeding by getting Jose Ramirez to fly to right.
A high early pitch count led to a short night for Bieber. He stranded Hamilton at third in the second after a one-out double and a wild pitch was chased by a line out by Votto. In the third, Tucker walked and Barnhart reached on a surprise bunt, with both moving up on a throwing error by Ramirez. The pair were left on a fly out by Ervin. The fourth inning was Bieber’s only three-up, three-down frame.
Bieber came back out to the mound in the fifth, but he would not make it through the frame after a leadoff walk by Votto and a one-out single by Gennett put two on. Oliver Perez took over and got a grounder to first for the second out, and after a walk by Barnhart, Dan Otero entered and needed two pitches to get Ervin to line out to center.
The Indians had a tough time getting anything going against Reed early on. He got a big double play ball in the third to erase a leadoff single by Alonso. He set the side down in order in the fourth and fifth innings.
Reed had retired ten outs and allowed just one hit before things slipped away from him in the sixth. Leading off, Alonso walked on five pitches, and Melky Cabrera pulled a fastball to left that hung up just long enough to get over the wall for the game-changing two-run shot, his third of the season.
Tyler Olson entered the game in the sixth to protect the 4-3 lead. He struck out three around a two-out double by Peraza. Allen pitched the seventh, striking out the side in order, and returned for the eighth, adding a fourth strikeout in a perfect inning.
Otero got the win with his two-pitch night. Bieber worked four and one-third innings, allowing three first inning runs and nothing more, scattering seven hits and two walks while striking out five.
Stephenson lasted just an inning and two-thirds, allowing two runs on two hits with four walks and two strikeouts. Reed was dealt his first loss of the year after working three and two-thirds innings, giving up two runs on three hits with a walk and a K.
WITH THE STICKS
The Cleveland bats drew as many walks as hits on the night, but came through when it counted. Allen led the way with a pair of hits, while Cabrera drove in a pair.
Six of the Reds’ ten hits on the night went for extra bases (Peraza, three doubles; Barnhart, double; Hamilton, double; Tucker, homer), but Cincinnati managed to get just one hit in 13 at bats with runners in scoring position.
Peraza, Gennett, Barnhart, and Hamilton all had multi-hit games for the home team.
Suarez crushed the Cincinnati lineup with an 0-for-5 day out of the three-hole with a career-high five strikeouts, performing the elusive “platinum sombrero”. His previous high strikeout game this season was three, done three times in July, and he had several four-strikeout efforts throughout his career. It marked the ninth game this season during which a player struck out five times in a contest.
Others on the five-strikeout list this season include Miami’s Chad Wallach (3/30 in 17 innings), New York’s Giancarlo Stanton (4/3 & 4/8), Baltimore’s Tim Beckham (4/6 in 14 innings), Houston’s Gerrit Cole (5/4), Washington’s Trea Turner (6/2 in 14 innings), New York’s Aaron Judge (6/4), and Oakland’s Dustin Fowler (7/9).
A WELL DESERVED DAY OF REST
The Indians will take Thursday off before resuming action on Friday in a brief three-game homestand against the Baltimore Orioles. Carlos Carrasco (14-6, 3.50 ERA) will get the starting nod for the Tribe, while the O’s will send out right-hander David Hess (2-6, 6.25).
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