Tyler Naquin’s RBI-double in the 12th inning broke a 1-1 tie and Brad Hand benefited from a game-ending base running blunder as the Cleveland Indians won a 2-1 contest against the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday afternoon.
The middle game of three from Busch Stadium provided no clinic in baseball fundamentals as neither team was particularly sharp. From start to finish, there were missed opportunities on both sides. There were mistakes on the base paths and behind the plate. At the dish, the two clubs combined to ground into four double plays and left 19 men on base while contributing a 3-for-29 showing with runners in scoring position. Twelve pitchers combined for 23 strikeouts and eleven walks while needing 369 pitches over 12 long innings of work.
The score was still tied at one each after eleven innings. Alex Reyes, who shut the Tribe down with relative ease in the eleventh, returned to the center of the diamond for Cardinals manager Mike Shildt with pinch-runner Mike Freeman taking over for Franmil Reyes as the inning’s designated runner. With Reyes throwing gas, Naquin was unable to get down a bunt, but on a 2-2 pitch, he got a curveball down in the zone and split the gap in right-center. Freeman scored to put the Indians up, 2-1, on Naquin’s clutch two-base hit. Delino DeShields dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move Naquin to third with one out, but the team’s penchant for missed chances continued as Roberto Perez struck out swinging on a fastball in before Greg Allen popped out.
Yadier Molina took second base to start the bottom of the 12th against Hand, searching for his tenth save. Hand’s first pitch to Dexter Fowler skipped away from Perez, letting the Cardinals backstop move up to third with the potential tying run. Fowler chopped the next ball towards short, where Francisco Lindor was able to track down the ball, look Molina back, and fire over to first to get the first out. Matt Carpenter, responsible for the Cardinals’ only run in the bottom of the seventh, stepped in with a chance to play the hero. He grounded Hand’s first pitch down the first base line to Carlos Santana. Instead of breaking on the contact, Molina froze (possibly thinking that the ball was foul), while Santana juggled the ball and stepped on first base two separate times before sprinting across the diamond towards Molina between third and home. With his hands in the air, Molina stood between the bags before briefly running back towards third. Santana threw to Jose Ramirez, who applied the tag a few feet later with a bizarre final out of the ball game.
Hand’s unusual line score saw him face two batters in one complete inning of work, needing three pitches to get three outs to secure his tenth save, matching him for the American League lead.
“When [Carpenter] hit the ball to first base, it looked like it was fair from the dugout,” Indians acting manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said of the final play of the game. “Automatically we went back to the bag and Molina just stood there. I don’t know if he knew that the ball was fair or foul, but from the dugout it was way fair.”
“He broke and realized he probably couldn’t make it and then stopped and felt like he called it foul and clearly he did not,” said Cardinals manager Shildt of Molina’s mindset.
There were scoring threats, but few runs, throughout the afternoon on another day designated to honor Jackie Robinson as all players sported his number 42. A matchup between Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco and St. Louis’ Jack Flaherty provided a pair of tough no-decisions and solid overall work from the right-handers.
Flaherty had just one real blemish on his stat sheet and it came against the second batter of the game. After a grounder to first by Cesar Hernandez, Jose Ramirez jumped on a fastball and cleared the wall in the right field corner with his seventh homer of the season, giving the Indians an early 1-0 lead. Flaherty struck out the next two.
Flaherty retired the side with three grounders around the infield in the second, but got into trouble in the third. Sandy Leon was hit by a pitch before Allen lined to left. Hernandez worked a six-pitch walk to push a runner into scoring position. Ramirez slapped a 1-2 slider into center for a base hit, but the Indians aggressively sent the slow-moving Leon towards the plate, where he was nailed on a good throw from center by Harrison Bader. With two still standing in scoring position, Lindor grounded to second to leave a pair. Flaherty had a better fourth, getting two fly balls and a strikeout around a one-out walk by Reyes.
Carrasco showed plenty of reason to be encouraged and optimistic as he was locked in early. He worked around a two-out double by Paul Goldschmidt in the bottom of the first, then set down eight straight Cards before Goldschmidt got him again with an infield single to third with one out in the fourth. Brad Miller drew a walk, but Molina’s rough day got started as he grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Flaherty gave up a single to Hernandez with two down in the fifth before getting Ramirez to ground out. Carrasco walked his second batter of the day, putting on Fowler, who stole second as Carpenter struck out for the first out. Carrasco K’d Tyler O’Neill swinging for the second out, then got out of the inning with a grounder to Ramirez, who was able to get Fowler trying to advance to third.
Flaherty, who was pitching with a bit of a pitch count at hand, turned the game over to Genesis Cabrera for the top of the sixth. He walked Lindor, who stole second on a strikeout by Santana and moved to third on a throwing error by Molina. With a big insurance run standing 90 feet away, the Indians faltered as Reyes and Naquin were each cut down swinging.
Carrasco finished his outing with a fury, needing just six pitches to finish the sixth. He got Tommy Edman on a grounder back to the mound before striking out Paul DeJong for the second time. Goldschmidt stepped in with a chance to ruin Carrasco’s outing, but the Tribe hurler finally retired the Cardinals’ slugger on a fly deep to right.
Austin Gomber made things interesting in the seventh after Cabrera had to exit with a split fingernail. Back-to-back walks by Domingo Santana and Leon put the first two runners that he faced on base. Allen lined to left for the first out and pinch-runner DeShields was thrown out trying to steal third. Hernandez grounded into a force at second as the team could not cash in on free base runners.
James Karinchak came on in the bottom of the seventh for Alomar Jr., looking to protect the Tribe’s one-run lead, but atypically ran into problems. Miller walked and Molina singled to put runners on the corners. Fowler was frozen on a curveball for the first out, but Carpenter sent the second pitch he saw into right field for a base hit, scoring Miller with the tying run. With two on and still only one out, Karinchak continued to ride his curveball heavily, using ten straight to strike out O’Neill and Bader swinging.
Gomber got the first batter of the eighth before Lindor singled. Giovanny Gallegos came in and induced the pitcher’s best friend, getting C. Santana to ground into a 3-6-3 double play. Gallegos set down the Tribe in order in the ninth.
Cleveland had multiple chances to figure out how to get one hit in the tenth against John Gant, but failed. With DeShields at second to start the inning, Leon dropped down a bunt but a bad jump by DeShields led to him being gunned down at third for the first out. Yu Chang replaced Leon at first and moved into scoring position on a passed ball before Allen walked. With the top of the order stepping up, they could not get the job done as Hernandez lined to center and Ramirez lined to right.
Perez pitched to the first batter of the bottom of the tenth, giving up a deep fly to right to Carpenter that allowed the designated runner Fowler to move up to third. With the game hanging in the balance, Alomar Jr. called on right-hander Nick Wittgren, who intentionally walked pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. A second pinch-hitter, Dylan Carlson, grounded into a fielder’s choice, with Wong retired as Fowler curiously stayed put at third. Edman was hit by pitch to load the bases, but Wittgren got DeJong to pop weakly to third.
Wittgren pitched a quieter eleventh. Goldschmidt nearly ended it with a deep flyout to center, but DeJong failed to move to third as he danced indecisively between second and third with the ball sailing through the sky. Miller was intentionally walked, but Molina grounded into a double play, the third on the afternoon by the Cardinals.
With the win, the Indians improved to 21-12 on the season and moved into sole possession of first place in the American League Central. They are now 12-5 on the road and have won ten consecutive games away from home. The Cardinals dropped to 11-13 on the year.
Carrasco pitched masterfully in six innings of work for the Tribe. He allowed two hits to Goldschmidt and walked a pair while striking out six to end a rough stretch on the mound. He left with a one-run lead in line for the win after throwing just 85 pitches. Karinchak was charged with a blown save, his first of the year. Wittgren was the pitcher of record for the Tribe when they moved back in front in the 12th to earn his second win of the season, while Hand pitched a three-pitch perfect inning for the save.
Flaherty showed why he is the ace of the Cardinals staff. He left after 83 pitches thrown over five innings of work, charged with a run on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Reyes took the loss to drop to 1-1 on the season.
One night after recording 14 runs on 20 hits, the Indians were limited to two runs on five hits but came away with a big win. Ramirez had a pair of hits and one of the runs batted in. Freeman scored the other run on the hit by Naquin, which extended his hitting streak to nine straight. As a team, the Indians were just 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position and stranded ten.
The Cardinals mustered just four hits themselves. Two came from Goldschmidt, while Molina and Carpenter each added singles. DeJong and Fowler struck out three times each. The Cardinals were 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position and left nine.
Prior to the game, the Cardinals made a slew of roster moves in response to a bullpen taxed for eight and one-third innings in the series opener on Friday night. The team optioned Friday’s starter Daniel Ponce de Leon, reliever Junior Fernandez, and infielder Max Schrock to the team’s alternate training site and placed left-hander Ricardo Sanchez on the 10-day injured list. The team recalled for Indians pitching prospect Rob Kaminsky, pitchers Seth Elledge and Ryan Meisinger, and first baseman John Nogowski from the same site in Springfield.
Game three of the series will pit a pair of right-handers against each other at Busch Stadium. Veteran Adam Wainwright (2-0, 2.88 ERA) will make his first career start against the Indians and just his second overall appearance. Sophomore Aaron Civale (3-3, 3.15 ERA) will go for the Tribe.
First pitch on Sunday afternoon is scheduled for 2:15 PM ET.
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