I long for the days where the Indians played normal, three hour, 5-2 or 4-1 type of clean games. Seriously, when was the last time that actually occurred? Last night’s 9-7, extra-inning win in Toronto felt like two games in one. This one had all of the classic 2009 Tribe staples – lack of clutch hitting, wasted leads, bad relief pitching – but this time, they actually were on the winning end despite said staples.
With one out in the top of the seventh, the Indians still had yet to get a hit off of former Wahoo great Brian Tallet. He was doing nothing special, yet the Tribe bats refused to sit on the only pitch that was really working for him, the change-up. That all changed with one out in that seventh inning.
The Blue Jays led 2-0 when Ryan Garko ended the no-no with a sharp single up the middle. No sooner than I could say “how about a two-run jack Matty” to my wife, rookie Matt Laporta showed off that power stroke we have heard so much about. His blast to the left-field seats tied the game at two, and was his first major-league hit. Asdrubal Cabrera gave the Tribe a 3-2 lead with a fielder’s choice.
Fausto Carmona, who was cruising since he ran into trouble in the third inning, came out for the seventh since Eric Wedge really has no reliable set-up men at this point. But just like his bullpen has done all season, he gave the runs right back. With two out and runners on second and third, Vernon Wells hit a bullet to left-center, scoring two and putting the Tribe behind again, this time at 4-3. With the way the Tribe attack had been sleeping all game long, why should any of us had thought they could come back a second time?
In the eighth, Mark DeRosa led off with a single. Down one run, one would think the slumping Jhonny Peralta would be bunting. Nope. Naturally he grounded into a 6-4-3 DP, driving himself deeper into despair. Peralta’s skid now sits at 4-49. Tony Sipp pitched a scoreless bottom of the eighth, giving the Indians one more shot. Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan is on the DL, and their fill-in closer Scott Downs was unavailable, so Manager Cito Gaston went with Brandon League for a second inning of relief.
Laporta was scheduled to start the inning. With his power and a one-run deficit, I never thought Wedge would yank him for a pinch hitter. He did. Guess who came to bat in his place – DAVID DELLUCCI! I almost dropped to the floor. But this is why The Grinder is the captain of this ship and not me. DD, 6-12 over the last three games to start his season, hit a sharp single up the middle. The right string was pulled. String number two came in the form of pinch runner Josh Barfield. Benny Francisco laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, moving Barfield to second. After Grady Sizemore flied out for the second out, young stud Asdrubal Cabrera stepped to the plate. Down to his last strike, AC singled to right scoring JB to tie the game. Only the speedy Barfield would have scored on the rocket arm of Alex Rios. He slid just past the tag of Rod Barajas.
That’s right – the Indians actually got a two out hit in a key spot with the game on the line. Not only did they get one, they got three straight! Victor Martinez doubled to deep center just past the out-stretched glove of Wells scoring AC. Shin-Soo Choo singled Vic the Stick home. With Kerry Wood coming on, a 6-4 Tribe lead seemed safe; “seemed” being the key word there.
Wood, who has been the only consistent performer out of the pen, took his turn with the blowtorch. He walked the lead-off man Marco Scutaro and gave up a one out single to Rios. After a Wells K, Wood needed to retire Jose Bautista to get out of the jam. Rios stole second, putting the tying run in scoring position. After just missing on a two strike slider, Wood went back to his hammer a second time. Bautista lined it towards Barfield in left. JB, playing his first ever game in left field, first broke back, which cost him valuable time. The ball bounced in front of him for a two out, two run, game tying single.
On to extras we went. Did anyone at this point, with Sipp and Wood already used, think the Wahoos had any shot of an improbable third come back in the same game? The same game in which they had been no-hit through six and a third? Also at this point, DeRosa is playing first, Luis Valbuena is at second, Barfield is in left, and Peralta is at third. Taking a cue from their manager, they kept on grinding.
Rafael Betancourt, the same man who blew Saturday’s late-inning lead in Detroit, pitched two perfect innings (10th and 11th), striking out three and giving the Indians offense a shot to win it. Gotta give him his props this morning. In the top of the 12th, you had the feeling the Tribe had to score, since the options left were the struggling duo of Rafael Perez, Jensen Lewis, the seemingly unusable Masa Kobayashi, and long-man Vinnie Chulk.
DeRosa lead off the 12th with a double. Here was another shot for Peralta to either bunt, or break out of the slump. He did neither. Not only did he not get a hit, he didn’t even move DeRosa to third after a weak effort groundout to short. Jhon is in desperate need of a day off (now hitting .198).
This is where things took a turn. Sportstime Ohio, or S-T-Ghett-O as I like to call it, lost its video feed. So the lead run is at second base in the 12th inning, and we all can’t see what is going on. I had no choice but to look at picture of Chief Wahoo while listening to a grainy Matt Underwood and Rick Manning tell me what is going on.
Valbuena walked, bringing Barfield to the plate. JB, who singled in his first at-bat in the 10th, singled again to drive in the go ahead run (not that any of us saw it). So in three innings, Josh Barfield had two more hits than the entire lineup did during the first six 1/3 innings. After a Francisco pop-out, Sizemore, in another big spot, finally delivered a knock-out punch. He took a Shawn Camp pitch into the right-field corner, scoring Valbuena and Barfield. With the Indians now on top 9-6, they had to get three more outs some way, some how.
Wedge turned to Perez first. He was greeted loudly by a double from Scott Rolen. Lyle Overbay grounded out, but Barajas singled, pulling the Jays within two runs. Another ex-Indian, John McDonald, singled to left. Wedge had seen enough of Perez and called for Lewis.
Jenny’s propensity to give up the gopher-ball has killed the team over the first month (seven in 12.2 IP). But Wedge had no choice. The man who saved 13 straight to end the season in ’08 was the guy. Scutaro hit a double play ball to Peralta at third, he threw to Valbeuna at second for one, who had Scutaro dead to rights to end the game. But DeRosa, playing first for the first time this season, pulled his foot off the bag when he didn’t have to. Now Lewis had to face the dangerous Aaron Hill, hitting .360 with 22 RBI.
Jensen reached back and K’d Hill on three pitches. Sweet Relief! The Indians won a game that they had essentially lost three different times.
“I can’t say enough about the position players and how they just kept fighting back,” Wedge said. “You’re not going to ever see any more fight in a ballclub than what you saw with our guys tonight.”
Ryan Garko agreed with his skipper: “We’ve been playing really hard and a lot of things haven’t really gone our way in the first couple of months. It’s nice to finally have some balls fall in and get some results.”
The amazing stat of the night: the Tribe ended with 15 hits, none of them coming until the seventh inning.
There will be no rest for the weary – the Tribe and Jays battle again at 12:37 today at the Rogers Centre (love the Canadian spelling). Anthony Reyes goes for the Indians. He will be opposing Left-handed rookie Brett Cecil, the Jays top pitching prospect. WFNY will have an open thread during the game for those who want to break0it0down while its happening.
SIDE NOTE: Did I really say that Tony Graffanino was better for this team at that time than Josh Barfield?