Strange game, this one. Fishy, you might even say. But at the end, the Indians outlasted a flip-flopping Marlins team on Sunday to finish a sweep with another breathtaking walk-off win, 6-5, at Progressive Field.
Let’s start with the last inning first. With the game tied 3-3, the normally unsinkable Andrew Miller stayed in after nailing down the last two outs of the eighth. The lead-off batter for Miami, number nine hitter Miguel Rojas, lashed a double to left. Future Hall of Famer, Ichiro Suzuki, then came to the plate looking to bunt. Usually one of the most reliable bunters in the game, Ichiro fouled off two and was staring at an 0-2 count from Miller, who typically is devastating against left-handed hitters. Yet Ichiro managed to lace a double to right, plating the go-ahead run and standing at second with an insurance offering. In came Cody Allen with Miller looking at a very possible loss. A sac bunt and a sac fly later, the Marlins indeed padded their lead to two before Allen got the final out of the inning.
Miami closer Fernando Rodney, he of the crooked ball cap, came in to finish off the Tribe. In past seasons with past teams, Rodney has been a thorn in the Indians’ side. Ah, but this year is different in so many ways, isn’t it?
Rodney threw eight straight balls, none of which were even close to the strike zone, to walk lead-off pinch hitter Brandon Guyer and Carlos Santana. Next up, Jason Kipnis struck out on a checked swing, but the ball got past the catcher, putting Guyer and Santana both in scoring position for the tying runs.
Mike Napoli drew another walk on four pitches to load the bases. Then none other than Jose Ramirez, this year’s Mr. Reliable with men in scoring position, came up with the chance to deliver again. As has frequently been the case, J Ram had two strikes before rolling a seeing-eye single through the left side of the infield. Tie game, with the winning run on second!
Up came Lonnie Chisenhall, who already had one hit in the game and was robbed of another when Marlins’ shortstop Rojas made an outstanding play on a scorched grounder in the seventh. Chisenhall, too, was down in the count with two strikes when he slashed a liner to right, just out of the reach of Ichiro, to plate pinch-runner Michael Martinez with the winning run. Another walk-off win in what’s shaping up to be a magical Indians summer.
The need for late inning heroics was mostly the Tribe’s own fault, though. Starter Danny Salazar pitched well enough to earn a win, going 5.2 innings with 11 strikeouts while scattering 6 hits. Salazar was charged with an earned run, although that run could have been mowed down at the plate if Santana made a good throw from first on a fielder’s choice grounder.
Meanwhile, Marlins’ starter Tom Koehler pitched six strong innings of his own. It’s not often that you see a Marlin use a hook to skewer people, but Koehler had a wicked curve that he threw consistently for both called and swinging strikes. He gave up only three hits while chalking up 6 Ks and allowing no runs.
The Marlins got an unearned run in the seventh when Francisco Lindor made a rare error (only his tenth this season while playing the vast majority of innings) and opened the door for a run generated by singles from Ichiro and Martin Prado. Bryan Shaw gave up Miami’s other run with a lead-off homer to catcher J.T. Realmuto in the eighth.
The Tribe’s other three runs all came in the seventh. Wouldn’t you know it? J Ram got that rally going, too, with a lead-off double. After making his highlight reel play against Chisenhall, shortstop Rojas then misplayed a slow roller from Abraham Almonte, missing a bare-handed grab and allowing Ramirez to score from second. After Chris Gimenez and Carlos Santana both drew walks, Kipnis slapped a single through the infield to plate two.
So, it was indeed a wacky and entertaining game — at least for Tribe fans. All’s well that ends well, though. And another walk-off win was sweet. Especially since the Tigers overcame blowing a 4-1 lead in Kansas City to win another flip-flopping game among our division rivals.