Oscar Mercado has made the most out of his first opportunity as a Major Leaguer and he added another scene to his growing highlight reel on Tuesday night, driving in the winning run in the bottom of the tenth inning with a bases loaded one-out single to left to give the Cleveland Indians a 2-1 victory over the visiting Cincinnati Reds.
In a game knotted up since the top of the fifth, neither team put up much of a fight until the Tribe’s at bats in extra frames in game one of a quick two-gamer from downtown Cleveland. A well-pitched battle between Trevor Bauer and Luis Castillo was left in the hands of the bullpens, and the Indians were able to strike through with a big inning against Reds closer Raisel Iglesias to earn another walk-off celebration.
Brad Hand worked a scoreless ninth, walking Jose Iglesias with one out before a strikeout and a groundout, but the Tribe offense struck out swinging three times against David Hernandez in the home half to bring the game to the tenth. Hand replicated Hernandez’s effort in his second inning of work, striking out the lethal part of the Reds order – Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, and Derek Dietrich – swinging. R. Iglesias entered for the bottom of the inning for manager David Bell and got Roberto Perez to open the inning with a pop out to short. The next four reached for the Tribe, as Mike Freeman walked, Leonys Martin put the tying run at third on a single to right-center, and Francisco Lindor was intentionally walked to set up double play possibilities or a force at the plate. On a diet of sliders, Mercado fell behind in the count 1-2, but on a fourth straight breaking ball, he pulled the offering into left field to score Freeman and kick off a celebration on the field for the Indians.
The win moved the Indians to 34-32 on the season, while the Reds fell to 29-36.
Both starters had to work around some early runners in scoring position. Bauer gave up a one-out double in the first to Votto, but left him stranded. The Indians got a leadoff single from Lindor in the bottom of the inning, but he moved no further as Mercado and Carlos Santana each flied to left before Tyler Naquin struck out swinging.
Bauer got a double play ball to end the second after a leadoff walk of Jesse Winker and he worked around a one-out single by Tucker Barnhart in the third with a foul out and a strikeout. Still scoreless in the fourth, he allowed two to reach safely, but kept the Reds off of the scoreboard. Suarez worked a five-pitch walk to start the inning, but Bauer responded with a strikeout of local product Dietrich. Winker grounded to second for the second out before Yasiel Puig singled to short. With their second runner in scoring position on the night, Josh VanMeter struck out swinging.
Castillo found a groove on the mound for Cincinnati after the leadoff double by Lindor to start the home defense. He got the next three in the first and retired the side in order in the second and third. He improved to ten straight batters retired when he got Mercado to fly to right to start the bottom of the fourth, but Santana put the Indians on the board with his 13th home run of the year, clobbering a 2-1 changeup to give the Indians the lead. Cleveland had a chance to tack on as Naquin followed with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch, but back-to-back lineouts by Jose Ramirez and Jake Bauers left the game at 1-0.
Bauer got through the fifth on just eight pitches, but the Reds used one of those offerings to tie the game. Iglesias singled to right and moved to second on a first pitch groundout by Barnhart. Two pitches later, Nick Senzel doubled to right-center to score Iglesias to tie the game. Votto lined into a double play to short-circuit the rally.
Castillo retired the side in the fifth, but pitched himself into a mess in the bottom of the sixth. Lindor hit his second double of the game to start the frame before Mercado grounded to third. Santana drew a six-pitch walk and Naquin needed one extra to do the same to load the bases. As was the case with their earlier scoring opportunity, Ramirez and Bauers failed to come through. Ramirez fought hard against Castillo, fouling off six different pitches in a nine-pitch battle before striking out swinging for the second out. Bauers worked the count back to even at 2-2, but struck out looking to leave the bags full of Indians.
Bauer pitched a 1-2-3 sixth and returned for the seventh. Puig doubled to center and was joined on the bases on a one-out walk by Iglesias. The pair moved up on a wild pitch and Barnhart walked to load the bases, but Senzel could not come through a second time as he grounded back to the mound to start the 1-2-3 double play to end the inning.
Michael Lorenzen set the side down in order in the seventh and Hernandez came on for the eighth, striking out two on his way to five strikeouts of six batters faced. Bauer retired the first two that he faced in the top of the inning before walking Dietrich. Oliver Perez entered to face pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, who reached on an infield single to put two on. Nick Wittgren came on to retire Puig and did so on just two pitches, getting him to fly out deep to left.
Bauer threw 118 pitches over seven and two-thirds innings of work. He allowed just one run on six hits, but did struggle with the free pass, walking five. He struck out six and did not have much luck with the swing and miss as the Reds utilized an aggressive approach with him as some teams have opted to do this season.
Hand earned the win to move to 3-2 on the year, working two innings while allowing one walk and striking out four.
Castillo gave the Reds a chance to win with a quality start of his own. He fired 109 pitches and allowed a run on four hits with a pair of walks and six strikeouts. Iglesias allowed two hits and two walks in the tenth to suffer his sixth loss of the season.
Lindor reached safely three times in five trips, going 2-for-4 with two doubles and a walk to push his batting average up to .303. Mercado was 0-for-4 entering his final at bat, but delivered another clutch moment, just days after hitting a go-ahead home run against the New York Yankees over the weekend. He was the only member of the Tribe’s starting nine to avoid striking out on Tuesday.
“That was pretty incredible,” Mercado said after the game. “I’m not going to lie. Just breathing is the biggest thing at that time in those at bats, but it’s hard. The game’s on the line.”
Jason Kipnis was out of the Indians lineup while dealing with a sore right hip, suffered during the team’s loss to the Yankees on Sunday.
The Indians are now 5-2 on their eight-game homestand.
The Indians and Reds will end their short set with a quick turnaround on Wednesday in a getaway day for both clubs. Cleveland will call on rookie right-hander Zach Plesac (1-1, 1.86 ERA), while Cincinnati will send out fellow right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (2-3, 4.70).
First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire (via Getty Images)