The Indians held onto to their share of first place Saturday on a wild, windy, weird, but, ultimately, walk-off-winning afternoon of baseball.
Chris Perez, apparently wanting to up the drama of a game the Indians had been in complete control of for 8.2 innings and force me to completely re-write my recap, gave up a pair of two-out solo homers in the bottom ninth to tie the game at 4, unfortunately robbing Zach McAllister of a well-earned W. (For the record, I know Perez has his detractors, but unless your name is Mariano Rivera, blown saves happen to even the best closers. Yes, it’s rarely easy with Perez, but that’s only his second blown save all season. He came into the game 6-for-7 on save chances with a 0.64 ERA, and it’s still just 1.80. Perez is the kind of pitcher who probably won’t be appreciated until he’s gone.)
Fortunately for Perez and the Tribe’s now 22-0 record when leading after six innings, the offense came right back in the bottom of the ninth. Jason Kipnis continued his “shut up everyone who said I should be moved down in the order” tour of May with a solid single to start the ninth. (Mea culpa, Jason, mea culpa). Asbrubal Cabrera then made up for an earlier base running blunder by blasting a double to left. After walking Nick Swisher to load the bases, Mark Reynolds then drove in the winning run (his third RBI of the game) by smashing a grounder in the hole that Brendan Ryan grabbed on a dive, but his throw from the seat of his pants pulled Jesus Montero off the plate.
Back-to-back walk-off wins is certainly one way to start getting fans to take notice, and the Indians appeared to have another good crowd Saturday following up on Friday’s 34,000.
Those in attendance Saturday got to see the continued evolution of Zach McAllister. He pitched to contact all day, with only one strikeout in his 7.1 innings of work, but the Mariners could do little with him until the eighth when Ryan tagged him for a two-run homer. McAllister simply pounded the strike zone (95 pitches, 63 for strikes with only one walk), and was ahead of almost every hitter. Until the Ryan bomb, he kept the ball down, hit his spots and made sure Seattle hitters were off balance all day.
He also continued to show off his maturity. In the past, one of the big knocks on McAllister is that things could go off the rails quickly, leading to big innings. On Saturday, he gave up a four-pitch walk to Justin Smoak in the fifth, then got Montero to immediately hit into an inning-ending double play. And when Carlos Santana lost a ball in the sun on what should have been an easy foul out the next inning, McAllister still kept cruising along and set the side down in order.
Z-Mac certainly looks like he’s evolving into a solid No. 2 starter behind Justin Masterson as the rotation as a whole continues to exceed expectations.
* Offensively, credit to Mike Aviles, who had a double, a run scored (and seven put outs in left field), the aforementioned Kipnis, who added an RBI in the sixth to go along with his game winning run, and Reynolds, who had an opposite field RBI single in the first, a solo homer in the fifth and the game winner in the ninth.
* Reynolds home run sure didn’t look like it was headed out though. Right before Reynolds, Swisher hammered a ball to left that seemed destined for the home run porch. But the wind killed the ball and left fielder Raul Ibanez caught it against the wall and doubled up Cabrera, who was halfway to third. Reynolds, who didn’t hit his ball nearly as well as Swisher, somehow cut through the wind and got it over the wall. Mark Reynolds is a strong, strong man.
* There was some atrocious base running by both teams Saturday. I know the wind was playing havoc with balls all day, but why was Cabrera, who started on first, so far past second on Swisher’s fly ball. Did he really think he couldn’t score from there on a ball off the wall with Raul Freakin Ibanez in left?
And while it didn’t ultimately cost the Indians, Aviles had a pretty bad brain cramp himself in the sixth when he failed to advance from second to third on Yan Gomes’ single to left. Like Cabrera, Aviles certainly made up for it when he beat the throw home on Michael Bourn’s infield single later that inning.
And what in the world was the Mariners’ Jesus Montero doing when he got picked off from second base on a failed bunt attempt. I mean, even Manny Ramirez knows that was awful base running. Well, probably.
* The Indians need to keep piling up wins the next two days against Seattle because, as fellow blogger Adam Hintz pointed out today, the Indians upcoming schedule is pretty rough: Detroit, Boston, Cincinnati, Tampa, Yankees, Detroit, Texas and Washington. The Indians have to bank the wins against the struggling teams when they can and hope to hold their own against the contenders.
Unless they’re former Cy Young winners, then we own them to the tune of a 6-1 record (fun with small sample size alert). But the Indians should be fine … King Felix starts Sunday.
Follow Matt on Twitter @mhutton722