A long night of ill-fated run-scoring opportunities looked like a painful loss as the Indians headed to the bottom of the 10th inning. Tribe starter Josh Tomlin was long gone at this point, despite putting together a solid performance for six and two-thirds innings (one run on six hits). Gone too were the Tribe’s “Big Three” in the bullpen, Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano, and Chris Perez. All had entered the game and had been replaced. Also missing was the air that had come out of Progressive Field after the Reds scored a run in the top of the 10th thanks to two wild pitches with two outs from left-hander Nick Hagadone (the second of which Carlos Santana has to come up with in that spot. Breaking balls in the dirt happen all the time).
Reds flame-throwing close Aroldis Chapman entered the game with a 1.06 ERA. He had 59 strikeouts in 34 innings and lefties were just 4-41 against him. The odds certainly didn’t seem in the Wahoos favor.
However, with one out, Shin-Soo Choo laced a single to right-center (his third hit of the night), and the Indians had some life. Then Cabrera came to the plate.
“In that situation, I’m not thinking to pull the ball,” Cabrera said. “He has a really good fastball. It’s tough to pull that ball. I’m just thinking, ‘Hit the ball the other way.'”
Asdrubal knew that Sunday’s game was on him. His three errors – all with two out – were directly responsible for seven of the Pirates nine runs that day and completely changed the course of that game. Here was his chance to make it all right again. That is just what he did.
The switch-hitting Cabrera got ahead in the count 3-1 and took Chapman’s next pitch deep to right field for a walk-off two-run homer that vaulted his team back into first place. It was a thing of beauty.
“This guy is our best hitter,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He’s proven that. He’s got the discipline at the plate. He gives you a quality at-bat, and he uses the whole field — that’s why he’s so good.”
The Tribe needed a shot in the arm like this badly too. They spent most of the night failing to get a big hit when they had the chances, going 1-12 with runners in scoring position. Three of those chances came for the horrifically ineffective left field duo of Shelley Duncan and Aaron Cunningham. (I must say I cannot understand the fact that Cunningham came into a tie game as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning. You just knew his spot in the lineup would come around in a key situation. It did, and Cunningham K’d looking with the winning run on second with two out in the ninth).
Also needing to be mentioned was the big time stones move from Acta in the seventh. The score was tied 1-1 and Tomlin had just walked Todd Frazier to load the bases with two out. We have seen “The Little Cowboy” (as Acta calls him) enough to know that he does his best work three times through the order. He was clearly tiring at this point and Acta emerged from the dugout to go to his pen. He called for the right-hander. Was it Smith? Nope. Pestano? Try again. Esmil Rogers.
Wait…what? Esmil Rogers? He of the four appearances with this Indians and the 8.06 ERA in Colorado?
Yep. That guy. Acta was looking for a strikeout of rookie catcher Devin Mesoraco. He got it from Rogers. It was an incredibly gutsy call by the Tribe manager, but as I said before, outside of his big three, he’s getting nothing from the others. Why not try a guy with a 96 MPH fastball and hope for the best?
In the meantime, the Cubs beat the White Sox again last night, moving the Indians back into first place at 35-32. They are also now over .500 at home for the first time in seemingly ages at 19-18. The Wahoos now go for the sweep tonight and try to tie things up for the Ohio Cup at 7:05. It will be Justin Masterson (3-6, 4.38 ERA) going for the Indians. The big right-hander is coming off of his best start since opening day, a scoreless seven-innings of work where he struck out nine Friday against Pittsburgh. The Reds will counter with Bronson Arroyo (3-4, 3.84 ERA).