Tribe Takes Pitchers’ Duel on Naquin Pinch-hit Walk-off; Indians 2, M’s 1

Tyler Naquin delivered off of the bench, driving in Leonys Martin with the winning run on an RBI-single in the bottom of the ninth to give the Indians a walk-off 2-1 win over the Seattle Mariners from downtown Cleveland on Friday night.

On a night dominated by strong pitching, it was the pitcher’s cardinal sin that started the Tribe’s rally in the home half of the ninth in a 1-1 tie. Francisco Lindor stepped in for his fifth at bat of the night against former Indians reliever Anthony Swarzak. Lindor saw four straight pitches and drew the leadoff walk. While Lindor was erased on a fielder’s choice, the runner that replaced him at first, Martin, was able to make it the rest of the way around the bases. Jose Ramirez struck out for the second out, but Carlos Santana was walked on four straight off the plate. Naquin pinch-hit for Jordan Luplow, using the bat of catcher Kevin Plawecki, and drove the first pitch that he saw on the night through the right side of the infield to drive home Martin from second ahead of the throw from Jay Bruce in right to give the Indians a celebration in the infield.

The win moved the Indians to 17-13 on the season and 8-4 at home with the team’s second walk-off of the year (Friday, April 5, against Toronto). Cleveland is now 8-3 on the season in series openers. The Mariners dropped their fifth straight game and are now 0-4 against the Indians this season, guaranteeing a season series loss to the Tribe. Seattle is 0-11 on the year against clubs with winning records.

Naquin’s big hit extended his hitting streak to six straight games. The Indians managed just four hits on the night, but were 2-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Two of their four hits were doubles. The Mariners were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded eight men in the one-run final.

Bieber – Frank Janksy/Icon Sportswire (via Getty Images)

Shane Bieber drew the starting nod for Cleveland against Seattle rookie left-hander Yusei Kikuchi. Both pitchers came out of the gate in good command and each hurler lasted a season-high for innings on the night in an impressive pitching matchup.

Bieber struck out a pair in the first and worked around a two-out walk of Daniel Vogelbach. He retired the side in order in the second.

Kikuchi followed a similar path as Bieber. He struck out a batter in each of the first two innings and stranded Luplow in the second after his one-out walk.

Bieber needed a big effort in the third to escape unharmed. Tim Beckham doubled high off of the left field wall on the first pitch of the inning. Ryon Healy struck out swinging before Dee Gordon singled back up the middle. Mariners third base coach Chris Prieto opted not to challenge the arm of center fielder Martin in a move that may have backfired for Seattle. Gordon stole second to put two in scoring position with only one out, but Bieber struck out Mitch Haniger on five pitches before getting Vogelbach to ground to Santana at first base to leave two big runs on the base paths.

The Indians fell behind with one swing of the bat from a former friend in the fourth after Kikuchi struck out a pair to end the third. Bieber got Edwin Encarnacion to foul out and struck out Seattle’s high-RBI man Domingo Santana swinging for the second out. On a 1-1 pitch, Bieber left a curveball where Bruce liked it and the former Indians right fielder parked the ball in The Corner to put the Mariners up, 1-0.

Cleveland responded with a well-manufactured run in the bottom of the inning to tie the game at one. Martin doubled to the gap in left-center and moved to third on a single to left by Ramirez two pitches later. Santana fell behind in the count 0-2 before grounding the fourth pitch of his AB to Gordon at second, where he started a 4-6-3 twin killing. Martin scored easily from third on the non-RBI from Santana. Luplow tried to keep the rally going with a double to left, but Kikuchi left the game tied by getting Carlos Gonzalez to ground to first.

Bieber got a big contribution from his defense in the fifth to prevent a big inning from the Mariners. Beckham sent a drive to straightaway center, where Martin could not make the play against the wall. Backing up his outfield mate, Luplow fired a one-hopper to the cutoff man, who made a perfect throw to Ramirez at third to get Beckham trying for a triple. Two batters later, Gordon singled to left with what should have been the go-ahead hit. Gordon moved to second on a single in the hole between first and second by Haniger, but the pair were left stranded on a pop to short by Vogelbach.

Kikuchi retired the final ten batters that he faced in order, getting a strikeout in the fifth and two punchouts in the sixth before setting down the side on strikes in his final inning of work in the seventh.

Santana – Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire (via Getty Images)

After his tightrope walk in the fifth, Bieber handled things nicely the rest of his night, retiring the side in order in the sixth and seventh before coming back out for the eighth. He got the first two men of the inning before turning the game over to the bullpen, where Oliver Perez and Adam Cimber made things a little interesting before getting out of it. Perez walked the only batter that he faced and Encarnacion singled to left-center off of Cimber before the submariner got Santana on a grounder to Ramirez.

Zac Rosscup pitched a perfect eighth for the Mariners. Brad Hand struck out a pair in his only inning of work in the top of the ninth, giving up a one-out single to right to catcher Omar Narvaez before striking out Beckham and Dylan Moore in what would be the last chance for the M’s on the night.

Hand earned the win as the pitcher of record when the Indians walked off two outs later. The victory is his first of the season. Swarzak drew the loss, his first of the campaign.

Bieber set new career highs for innings pitched (seven and two-thirds) and pitches (114) in yet another strong start from the second-year right-hander. He allowed six hits, walked one, and struck out eight in a no-decision.

“I thought he was terrific,” said manager Terry Francona after the game. “For us to let him go that far speaks volumes of the trust he is earning.

“He deserved to pitch. The way we ended up, had they scored that inning, I’d have felt bad. You’re trying to not let him get into a situation where he could get a loss, because he didn’t deserve it.”

“I thought I got better as the game went on,” said Bieber. “Velocity was a little bit down tonight, but thought my stuff altogether played pretty well. I thought a lot of guys came up huge, obviously, in different situations. Naquin and Luplow and other guys to mention. That throw from Luplow really, I felt like, it kind of changed the game, not just for me, but for all of us.”

Kikuchi may have been even better for the Mariners. He worked a season-high seven innings, allowing a run on just three hits with a walk and ten strikeouts. He threw 60 of his 93 pitches for strikes and had 15 swings and misses from the Indians.

Game two of the three-game set from Progressive Field is scheduled for a 4:10 PM ET first pitch on Saturday afternoon. Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (2-3, 5.86 ERA) will make his second start against Seattle this year in a matchup with fellow veteran righty Mike Leake (2-3, 4.98). Carrasco was on the tough end of a no-decision against Seattle earlier this year, throwing seven three-hit scoreless innings while striking out a dozen Mariners hitters in a 1-0 win. Leake took a loss despite a quality start in a 4-2 defeat against Cleveland in that same series in Seattle in April.

Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon SportsWire (via Getty Images)

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