It took two dramatic comebacks and 11 innings of play, but some timely hitting and a never-say-die mentality helped the Indians (22-16) to complete a two-game sweep of the Mariners (16-24) with a walk-off 6-5 victory Thursday at Progressive Field.
Both teams threatened in the early innings but it was Seattle who got on the board first. Cleveland starter Zach McAllister to struck out Mike Carp to start the third inning, but walks to Brendan Ryan and Dustin Ackley and their subsequent double steal put runners on second and third. Michael Saunders‘ RBI groundout played Ryan to give the Mariners a 1-0 lead.
Seattle struck again in the middle innings. With two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth, Carlos Santana let a passed ball go by as John Jaso came home from third. The Mariners’ bats came alive in the sixth inning too as Jaso doubled in Kyle Seager before scoring himself on Ryan’s RBI single. Heading into the bottom of the seventh Seattle was up 4-0.
The Tribe’s bats finally woke up in the seventh. Casey Kotchman led off with a single and moved to second on Jason Kipnis‘ walk before scoring on Asdrubal Cabrera‘s two-out RBI single. The Indians put together another two-out rally in the eighth as Santana walked and Kotchman doubled to set the stage for Jose Lopez‘ game-tying three-run home run.
Neither team scored in the ninth so the game headed for extra innings. Joe Smith got into trouble in the top of the 11th. Ryan led off with a single, and Saunders’ RBI double two batters later gave the lead. Though he got out of the inning without further damage, the Indians headed to the bottom of the 11th down to their last out.
Lopez started off the inning by drawing a walk off Mariners closer Brandon League, then advancing to second on a wild pitch before Choo struck out. Kipnis drew another free pass before Cabrera hit a line drive to right field for a base hit that tied the game and moved the winning run to third. Aaron Cunningham (pinch-hitting for the injured Travis Hafner) drew a walk to load the bases before Santana hit a walk-off RBI single to give Cleveland a 6-5 victory.
The Good: Clutch hitting. Check out those ridiculous peaks in the win probability chart. The Indians had less than 1 in 10 odds of prevailing when Jose Lopez stepped to the plate in the eighth inning; his home run made them 53 percent favorites. Asdrubal Cabrera’s game-tying RBI in the 11th had an even bigger effect, swinging the odds from less than 1 in 3 (33 percent) to almost 5 in 6 (83 percent).
Great job by the bullpen, too. Jairo Asencio, Nick Hagadone, Jeremy Accardo, Tony Sipp, Chris Perez, and Joe Smith combined to hold Seattle to one run on five hits in 5.1 innings, collecting eight strikeouts against just two walks along the way. Sipp and Hagadone each pitched more than a full inning.
The Bad: Zach McAllister wasn’t at his best Thursday. He gave up four runs (three earned) on three hits in 5.2 innings against a fairly unintimidating Mariners lineup, and while his six strikeouts were nice to see, five walks is never a good sign. No huge worries here as he looked great in his first two outings of the year, but this was his first subpar start of the season.
Another negative: Travis Hafner had to exit the game after being hit on the hand by Charlie Furbush in the ninth inning. He could be back by Friday’s game, but it was serious enough that Aaron Cunningham had to bat in his place with the winning run at third in the 11th.
The “Huh?”: That Joe Smith gave up the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th ended up to be irrelevant, but it’s worth wondering why he was pitching in the first place. The only member of the Bullpen Mafia who didn’t take the mound Thursday was Vinnie Pestano, who is (probably) the Tribe’s best reliever—he’s definitely better than Smith—and is the guy Manny Acta usually turns to in close-game situations. Why did he sit out this game when there were so many big innings to be pitched?
Interesting Tidbit: Brandon League must dread pitching against the Indians. After Thursday’s game his career record against the Tribe fell to 2-5 with a 9.18 ERA and a 2.22 WHIP. He’s been even worse in his career at Progressive Field: 1-4 with a miserable 20.25 ERA and a 4.13 WHIP.