Cesar Hernandez tied the game in the middle innings and came through once again in the clutch as he delivered the game-winning hit through five infielders to give the Cleveland Indians a walk-off victory against closer Josh Hader and the Milwaukee Brewers, 4-3, on Saturday night.
Hader’s hitless streak of 12 straight games to open the 2020 season came to a close as Cleveland got to him twice in the bottom of the ninth to send the Indians to a big victory over the Brewers in a rare clunker for the Milwaukee closer. It all transpired in the blink of an eye and a five-pitch span as Oscar Mercado laced a hustle double off of the wall in left to start Hader’s night. A wild pitch moved the speedster to third base and with five players standing around the infield looking to cut Mercado down at the plate, Hernandez split the third baseman and shortstop with a screamer through the left side to give the Tribe its first walk-off win of the year.
The Indians (24-15), who were just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position on the night with eight men stranded on base through the first eight innings, dealt Hader his first loss of the season and the first two hits that he has allowed in a historic start to his season. Cleveland sits a half game out of first place with one fewer win than the Chicago White Sox. Milwaukee (18-20) is four games in back of the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central.
A good pitching matchup pitted Cleveland’s Aaron Civale against Milwaukee’s Brandon Woodruff in the middle game of three from Progressive Field in the only series between the two clubs this season. Both pitchers dealt with some traffic around the bases, but each limited the opposition early.
Civale walked the first batter of the game, but got a double play ball off of the bat off Keston Hiura. The Indians stranded a pair in the home half after a leadoff single by Hernandez and a one-out walk by Francisco Lindor, but Woodruff got Carlos Santana to fly to left and Franmil Reyes to fly to right.
Civale pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the second, while Woodruff worked around a leadoff walk of Tyler Naquin in the bottom of the inning. Both pitchers stranded runners in the third, as Civale left Jace Peterson at second after he reached on a fielder’s choice and stole second. The Indians got a bunt single from Jose Ramirez with one down in the bottom of the third, but after he stole second base, he was left there on flyouts by Lindor and Santana.
The Brewers struck through first in the fourth to take the lead. Hiura was hit by a pitch and moved to second after a strikeout by Christian Yelich on a pickoff error by Sandy Leon. Ryan Braun struck out for the second out, but new Brewer Daniel Vogelbach ripped a double near the right field line to score Hiura. Orlando Arcia singled to put runners on the corners before Civale struck out Omar Narvaez with his third strikeout of the inning to leave it a 1-0 game.
Woodruff struck out the side looking in the fourth and Civale retired his three in order in the top of the fifth before the Indians put together three quick scores to take the lead. After Leon was cut down on Woodruff’s fourth straight strikeout, Mercado drew a walk after falling behind 0-2. Hernandez split the gap in left-center with a sharp double, scoring Mercado all the way from first on his second hit of the night. Ramirez fouled off six pitches in a ten-pitch battle with Woodruff before lofting the last offering high to right and into the first row of seats beyond the wall, putting the Indians up by a 3-1 count and sending Woodruff to the locker room. Freddy Peralta came in for manager Craig Counsell and walked a pair, but he struck out a pair to leave the damage at three runs.
The Brewers threatened in the sixth after cutting into the lead. Hiura opened the inning with an opposite field jack to right to make it 3-2. Yelich grounded out to first before Braun tripled to right. Vogelbach walked, but Arcia struck out for the second out. Narvaez walked to load the bases, but Luis Urias grounded into a force at second to waste the big scoring opportunity.
The Indians left a runner at third in the sixth while the Brewers threatened again in the seventh. Cal Quantrill got the first two batters that he faced in relief of Civale before Hiura was hit by a pitch for the second time on the night. He moved to third on a single to right-center by Yelich and Braun reached on catcher’s interference to load the bases. In a key spot in the ball game, Nick Wittgren entered and froze Vogelbach on a 1-2 pitch on the black.
Devin Williams set down the Tribe lineup in order after the stretch before the Brewers came through with another big fly to tie the game. Wittgren, on for his second inning of work after his big strikeout to end the seventh, fell behind Arcia 3-1 before leaving a four-seamer over the heart of the plate. Arcia poked it into the bleachers to tie the game at three. Wittgren retired the next three to keep it a 3-3 contest.
Williams kept the Indians off of the board in the eighth, while Cleveland closer Brad Hand made things interesting in the ninth. Tyrone Taylor, pinch-hitting for Ben Gamel, doubled to right-center. Hiura struck out swinging for the first out before Yelich singled to center, moving the runner to third. Needing two very big outs, Hand got them as he struck out Braun swinging on a slider in, then got pinch-hitter Mark Mathias to pop out to first to leave the go-ahead run 90 feet from the plate, which proved all the most costly as the Indians needed just two batters to win it against Hader.
Civale had to battle at times to get through his outing, but he met the task with a quality effort once again. He allowed a pair of runs on five hits, walking three and striking out six on an even 100 pitches in a no-decision. Woodruff left after four and one-third innings of work and 94 pitches made, giving up three runs on four hits with three walks and seven strikeouts. Both pitchers were tagged for home runs.
Hernandez was the catalyst of the Tribe offense with some help ahead of him by Mercado and behind him by Ramirez. Hernandez had three hits, including the walk-off hit and his 14th double of the year. Ramirez hit his ninth homer as part of a two-hit game and now has 26 RBI. Mercado reached safely three times with two walks and his ninth inning double and he scored half of the team’s runs on the night.
“I wasn’t sure the streak was still going until I looked up at the scoreboard and said, `I guess he’s finally given up a hit,” said Mercado. It was his first hit of the season against a left-hander.
The Brewers went 3-for-12 at the plate with runners in scoring position and left eleven. Yelich had two hits on the night. Arcia had a pair, including his third homer of the season. Hiura reached three times on his eleventh home run of the year and a pair of hit by pitches. He has 25 RBI on the campaign.
The Indians played without Delino DeShields, who is nursing a bruised right shoulder, and catcher Roberto Perez, who is dealing with right arm fatigue. The Brewers held Avisail Garcia out of the lineup again with a strained hamstring.
The rubber match between the Tribe and Brew Crew is scheduled for a 1:10 PM ET first pitch on Sunday. The Indians will send right-hander Shane Bieber (6-0, 1.20 ERA) to the bump in his first start since being named the Pitcher of the Month for the American League in August. The Brewers will call on left-hander Brett Anderson (2-2, 4.18 ERA), who will look to remain undefeated in his career at Progressive Field.
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