Naylor’s Tater in Eighth Gives Tribe Win in Nail-biter; CLE 6, LAA 5
Bob Toth | On 19, May 2021
The Los Angeles Angels used three home runs to rally back from a five-run first inning deficit, but the Cleveland Indians had the last laugh as Josh Naylor’s solo blast with two outs in the top of the eighth gave the Tribe a 6-5 win on Tuesday night to end a four-game losing skid.
The Indians put up five runs in the first inning against Angels’ starter Andrew Heaney, but were unable to strike through against him after that frame or against Jaime Barria in long relief. In the meantime, the Angels slowly chipped into that first-inning hole, taking Zach Plesac deep three times to get back into the ball game.
Cleveland’s first inning magic included a little bit of everything. Heaney struck out Cesar Hernandez, but gave up a single to center to Amed Rosario. Jose Ramirez put the Tribe on the board with a deep shot to left for home run number 12 on the year, giving Cleveland a 2-0 lead. Franmil Reyes worked a walk and scampered to third on a hustle double by the struggling Eddie Rosario to keep the inning rolling. Harold Ramirez sent a chopper towards Phil Gosselin at second, but the ball ate him up and rolled towards the edge of the outfield grass. Reyes scored easily and an alert and aggressive Rosario caught Gosselin napping as he lackadaisically retrieved the ball and threw to second while the Tribe outfielder broke for the plate and scored safely to make it 4-0. Naylor singled and both he and Ramirez moved up 90 feet on a passed ball before Yu Chang made it 5-0 with a sacrifice fly to right. The ninth man to bat, Austin Hedges, popped to short to end the onslaught.
The Angels wasted no time responding to the Indians’ runs. Shohei Ohtani crushed a 1-0 heater 440 feet to center for his third homer in as many days, making it a 5-1 game.
The Indians had a two-out threat in the second before their bats went silent for much of the rest of the night. A. Rosario singled with one out and moved to second on a single by Reyes, but the pair were stranded on a groundout by E. Rosario.
Plesac retired eight in a row after the Ohtani homer, but got into trouble quickly in the fourth. Ohtani singled to center and Anthony Rendon followed suit to right. Jared Walsh fouled out, but Justin Upton launched a slider over the wall in right-center for a three-run shot, bringing the Halos right back into the game at 5-4. Plesac got the next two to end the inning, but found himself back in deep waters in the fifth after a leadoff double from Jose Rojas. He moved to third on a one-out fly out by Taylor Ward and was joined on base by Ohtani after a walk, but Plesac got Rendon to fly to right on the next pitch to escape danger.
Barria retired nine Tribe batters in a row from the fourth through sixth, but he nearly ran into trouble in the top of the seventh. Hernandez reached safely on a single and J. Ramirez drew a walk after a lineout by A. Rosario. With two on and only one out, Reyes ripped the next pitch to third, where Rendon made a nice snag before going around the horn for the inning-ending double play.
The next batter tied the game. Plesac returned to the mound for the seventh, but his 1-1 offering to Jose Iglesias was a slider left over the heart of the plate. The lighter hitting shortstop slapped the slider over the left field wall to even the score at 5-5. Plesac set down the next three in order, including striking out Ward with his final pitch of the night.
Alex Claudio took over for Barria after four scoreless innings of one-hit baseball out of the bullpen. The left-hander’s funky delivery got E. Rosario and H. Ramirez for the first two outs, but Naylor found a changeup low and in and yanked it off of the auxiliary scoreboard in right for a game-changing solo shot, putting Cleveland back in front, 6-5. Claudio struck out Chang to end the inning.
Bryan Shaw came on in relief of Plesac, who suddenly was back in position to earn a win after slowly losing his five-run lead. Shaw had to face the dangerous part of the Angels lineup, but he diced his way through it. Ohtani was retired for the first time on the night on a grounder to short. Rendon watched a called third strike on a cutter on the black, and Walsh watched three straight strikes to send the game to the ninth.
Aaron Slegers set the Tribe down in order with a pair of strikeouts to send the Angels back to the plate for one last rally attempt. James Karinchak came on to close it out and got Upton to line to second before striking out Juan Lagares. He walked Iglesias on five pitches to put the tying run on base, but Rojas flied to center to give Karinchak his fourth save and the Indians a 6-5 win.
Cleveland improved to 22-18 on the year, while Los Angeles dropped to 18-23.
Plesac’s record moved to 4-3 on the season behind seven innings of work. He allowed five runs, all via home run, on seven hits while walking one and striking out four. Heaney lasted one batter into the fourth in a no-decision, needing 81 pitches to get nine outs. He was charged with five runs (four earned) on six hits with a pair of walks and one strikeout.
Ohtani’s home run extended his Major League lead in the statistic. His 14th has him two ahead of J. Ramirez, whose 12th of the year pushed his RBI total to 25 on the campaign. A. Rosario and Naylor each had two hit games for the Tribe, while the Halos had the same from Ohtani and Rendon.
Prior to the game, the Indians optioned slumping shortstop Andres Gimenez to Triple-A Columbus while recalling right-handed reliever Jean Carlos Mejia due to some extended wear and tear on the bullpen during the road trip.
The rubber match from Angel Stadium will pit Ohtani (1-0, 2.10 ERA) against right-hander Aaron Civale (5-1, 3.40) in an 8:07 PM ET first pitch.
Photo: Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images