Tribe Comes Back Again as Naylor’s Blast in Ninth Seals Win; CLE 5, KCR 4
Bob Toth | On 06, May 2021
The Tribe bats came to the rescue of Shane Bieber in his toughest outing of the season, as the Cleveland offense rallied back from another big deficit, using a pair of home runs in the final two frames to complete the comeback on the way to a 5-4 win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night.
The Indians (16-13) got a gutsy performance from Bieber, who kept the game close despite not having his best stuff. The Royals got some assistance from another poor showing by the Indians defense and a clutch fifth inning hit put Kansas City up by four midway through. Despite the chips stacked against them, the Cleveland bats picked up their ace and rallied back for the third time in as many days to steal away a victory in Missouri and move into a three-way tie for first place in the American League Central with the Royals and the Chicago White Sox.
Bieber had to deal with plenty of high stress innings on Wednesday, something atypical of the reigning Cy Young winner. He had to escape a jam in the first inning with a runner at third and only one out after Whit Merrifield reached on error and advanced to third on a groundout, but Bieber punched out the dangerous Carlos Santana and Salvador Perez. The Royals used a big fly from the scorching Hunter Dozier with one out in the second to take a lead, but the next two men reached to make Bieber work. He froze Nicky Lopez and Merrifield looking to strand a pair.
Kansas City starter Brady Singer came out of the gates dealing. He retired seven straight before back-to-back singles by Andres Gimenez and Austin Hedges put runners on the corners in the third. Cesar Hernandez and Jake Bauers could not get the job done as both were retired to leave a pair.
Kansas City padded its lead with Cleveland’s help in the fourth after Singer benefitted from a big double play ball in the top half of the inning. Ryan O’Hearn sent a one-out double to the wall in right and was joined on the bases by Michael Taylor after a walk. Taylor was thrown out on the back end of a double steal attempt for the second out and Lopez grounded routinely to Gimenez at short, but his throw to first missed the mark, allowing O’Hearn to score to make it a 2-0 game. Merrifield grounded out to end the inning.
It was another stressful inning for Bieber in the fifth after the Indians stranded another runner at third. Benintendi set the stage with a leadoff single. He moved to second on a throwing error on Harold Ramirez after a fly out by Santana. Perez was hit by a pitch to put two on and Soler cleared the pair with a two-run double to left-center to double the KC lead to 4-0. Bieber stopped the bleeding there, striking out the next two men to slam the door on the rally.
After missing multiple chances through their first five innings against Singer, the Indians finally got to work against the young right-hander in the sixth to make it a ball game again. Bauers drew a one-out walk. Jose Ramirez was hit on the hand to put a pair on for Eddie Rosario and he delivered with a big double to the deepest part of the yard, driving in both base runners to make it a 4-2 game. Franmil Reyes walked to put the tying run on at first just as things were about to get testy. Prior to his first pitch to Naylor, Singer turned and fired to second attempting to pick off Rosario, but he was called for a balk, leading to the ejections of both manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred after a heated display directed at home plate umpire Angel Hernandez. After play resumed, Singer got Naylor to ground to first for the second out, but Rosario scored on the play to make it a 4-3 contest. Scott Barlow took over for Singer, who was also ejected after angrily approaching Hernandez on his way back to the clubhouse. The righty reliever got H. Ramirez to ground to short to leave Reyes on the base paths.
Bieber looked like vintage Bieber in the sixth, punching out his eighth and ninth batters of the game before getting Merrifield to fly to center with his final pitch of the night. While his teammates were silenced in the top of the seventh by Barlow, Bryan Shaw retired the side in order in Bieber’s defense after the stretch.
Jakob Junis took over in the eighth for Kansas City, but he again was victimized by the Tribe lineup. His first pitch of the night was grounded by Bauers to first, but he made the costly “Home Run Pitch” to J. Ramirez, who parked a souvenir to right field for his ninth home run of the season, tying the game at four.
Nick Wittgren replaced Shaw on the mound for the eighth, looking to keep the game tied. He had to fight for it, but the end result of his 17 pitches made in the frame were three swinging strikeouts, sending the Tribe lineup to the plate for its last chances in regulation.
Veteran closer Wade Davis entered to prevent damage in the ninth, but he missed on his first three pitches to Naylor. After a pair of fastball strikes, Davis’ payoff pitch to Naylor was a fastball in. Naylor got his hands in and yanked his second homer in as many days out to right, putting Cleveland up for the first time, 5-4. Davis punched out the next three to keep it a one-run game.
James Karinchak had to face the eight, nine, and one hitters with the Royals down to their last hopes in the bottom of the ninth. Taylor pushed the count full, but was cut down on high heat. Lopez swung and missed on a curveball out of the zone for strike three and out number two. Merrifield grounded the next pitch to short, where Gimenez completed the throw to Bauers at first to seal the Tribe’s fourth win in a row.
Bieber was not at his best, but being the pitcher that he is, he kept the game close enough for his teammates to have a chance. He finished with six innings of work on the mound, allowing four runs (three earned) on a season-high nine hits with a walk and nine strikeouts in a no-decision. He has now recorded the third-most strikeouts through seven starts to a season with 77. He has made 19 consecutive starts with at least eight strikeouts, a Major League record.
Singer took a tough no-decision after shutting the Tribe down through his first five innings of work. He left with five and two-thirds innings logged, allowing three runs on four hits with a pair of walks and three strikeouts.
Rosario had a pair of hits and two big RBI in the sixth for the Tribe, back in the lineup after resting his sore knee on Tuesday. He now has 19 RBI on the year. Naylor drove in a pair of runs to give him eight for the season.
Benintendi and O’Hearn each had two hits for the Royals. Soler drove in a pair. Santana and Lopez struck out three times each.
Cleveland announced prior to the game that starting catcher Roberto Perez was heading to the injured list with a fractured right ring finger. He was replaced on the roster by veteran backstop Rene Rivera, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Columbus. Ben Gamel was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Rivera.
The Indians will look to complete a four-game sweep in KC on Thursday afternoon in a 2:10 PM ET start. The Royals will call upon lefty Danny Duffy (4-1, 0.60 ERA) to play the stopper as they seek to end their four-game losing skid. The Indians will send out righty Triston McKenzie (0-1, 6.27 ERA) with broom in hand, looking to bounce back from a tough showing his last time out.
Photo: Ed Zurga/Getty Images