Whew.

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

9 Comments

  • Adam Hintz says:

    That schedule is so brutal. It’s gonna be a good test.

    On the other side of the coin, though, if the Indians are at or above .500 going into September, the team should be poised to make a run.

    But that’s looking way too far ahead.

  • Joe Jackson says:

    You call 17,000 a good crowd?? Goodness Cleveland fans , we are in first place in the Central and LAST in MLB in attndenace. I drive up 2 hours form Columbus watch the game and get home at 1:00 am and I do this 9 times a year. I guess it’s little too much to ask all you in Brook Park, Independance, Lakewood and Cleveland Hieghts to drive 20 miles to see the tribe…

  • Seattle Stu says:

    love the last line of this matt…felix…uggh…i was also pleased w/ mcallister, and that our boys didn’t fold after blowing leads in consecutive games.

    have to differ on perez though…i’m not the sabremetric whiz that most on this blog are, but i’d say ERA & saves are somewhat misleading in evaluating perez or any closer….his WHIP is certainly more reflective of the trauma and agita he’s caused in my personal existence….a quick scan of his career stats indicates he is slightly below average at 1.17…save% seems more pertinent than # saves since the better the team the more likely you’re saving games, although even that would seem to cry out for qualification since size of lead isn’t taken into account…nonetheless, at 75% he’s pretty bad this year (limited data) but even career 84% seems pretty middlin….his i’m rich, fans suck tude pushes him over the edge for me….i just think if we ever do go anywhere as a team, this guy will mesa us.

    here’s to the sweep & 1st place tomorrow.

    • Nicole says:

      Mesa is my new favourite/least favourite verb!

      Perez is certainly a nail biter, but he doesn’t give me ulcers like Borowski or Wickman did.

      And he didn’t say 17,000 was a good crowd, he said 34,000 was. As an out-of-stater who only gets a few games in a year, usually away, lack of hometown support has been irritating me too.

      Hoping to see a Tribe W at Fenway this week!

    • Matt Hutton says:

      I guess I’m just not as demanding of easy innings from my closers as a lot of fans are, and that’s OK. Very quickly I took a look and since 2010, Perez has 104 saves, only four other guys have more. In that same time, he has 13 blown saves. So, on the whole, I will take an 88 percent save rate.

      Of the guys with more saves, Heath Bell has 115 saves and 18 blown saves, Papelbon 114 and 15, Valverde 114 and 9, and Axford 105 and 17. And only Papelbon (and I guess Valverde to an extent) are still closing.

      I think my point is, are there better closers out there in baseball, absolutely, at least five and maybe even ten. Are there 20 better closers, no. And I think the Smith, Pestano, Perez combo is too valuable to shake up because Perez isn’t always pretty. He does get the job done most of the time. Now if he goes out and blows four of the next eight chances or something, I’m open to reconsidering.

  • Steve Alex says:

    I don’t think Perez is completely healthy. This is the 3rd time he has struggled pitching back-to-back days. His blown save in Toronto, the missed HR call he escaped on and today were all on the 2nd day of consecutive appearances. Maybe that shoulder is still not getting loose. Sitting for 10 days between save chances can’t be helping either. Give the guy a break.

  • Seattle Stu says:

    hey if he’s not healthy all bets are off….you guys are way closer to that….but the longer-term track record, stats i cited and the eye test support that he’s not lock down & he’s going to make you sweat….i’d agree with matt he’s probably a top half / top third of MLB guy….but his attitude:ability ratio is certainly skewed.

  • medfest says:

    Nice win over a tougher team than people think.When Seattle’s trio of AAA stud pitchers hit the majors,this team will be making some noise……………….they’re still going to be handicapped by Wedgie.

    Lousy crowd on a rare perfect weather day in Cleveland,not even 20,000?

    The giveaway hat makes you look like you’re wearing a jockstrap on your head (“uh the ‘C’ goes in the front big guy”),not a good item imho.My nephew loved it though.

    Mcallister dominated without a lot of srikeouts, until Interstate Ryan took him deep in a shocking development.

    Baserunning errors that were of the little league variety aplenty today.

    Perez looked fine to me,throwing free and easy.Problem was his location.He was a little up and over the middle of the plate.

    Another exciting and fun game to watch,the people who don’t show up, don’t know what they’re missing.

  • DP Roberts says:

    Everybody loves guys like Pestano, Smith, and Allen, and hates on Perez. Sure, tonight was bad, he got lucky on that HR call a few weeks ago, and blew a save early in the year. Even with all of that, his ERA is still only 1.80 (to Pestano’s 2.00, Smith’s 0.80, and Allen’s 1.09).

    Batters are hitting only 2.11 against him (the other guys have similar averages, ranging from .167 to .208). WHIP – Perez 1.13, other guys 0.8-1.11.

    By stats alone, these 4 guys are our best pitchers, and Perez is right there with them. If this is Perez doing “poorly” after a slow start w/ no Spring Training, I can’t wait to see what happens when he gets to “average”!

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