CLEVELAND, Ohio – Nonstop wins are becoming as common as temperature checks for Cleveland Indians in 2020. And right now Indians are hot.
Sleeping for most of Friday’s game, Cleveland’s offense came to life in the ninth inning, after a two-point deficit to defeat Pittsburgh, 4-3, on Cesar Hernandez’s RBI double on the right. It was Cleveland’s third win in its last four games.
The victory extends Cleveland’s winning streak to six and pulls the Indians even with the White Sox for second place in the American League Central Division, 1 1/2 games behind first place Minnesota. The White Sox lost to the Cubs on Friday and Minnesota followed Cincinnati late in their game at Target Field.
Tyler Naquin opened ninth with a lead and scored on an RBI brace by Jordan Luplow who narrowly missed the 19-foot wall break in left center field. Luplow scored the tying point on a mid shot by Pirates right-hander Delino DeShields Jr Chris Stratton. DeShields went on to finish second on wild ground, setting the stage for Hernandez’s second success of the season.
Acting Indian Manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said Hernandez was the right guy to have on the plate at the time.
“When the situation is you need a guy to get a key hit with two outs, he’s been the guy,” Alomar said. “We’re going to have opportunities to lead in the races, but these three leading guys have been very special lately.
Adam Plutko (2-2, 4.88) threw up a scoreless ninth in Cleveland for his second victory.
Pittsburgh right-hander Mitch Keller struggled to find the strike zone early on, but the Indian hitters failed to capitalize on Keller’s eight goals, scoring just once on a Carlos Santana double with the bases loaded in the first inning to catch a 1-0 lead.
It seemed like that was all Carrasco would need to attack as he made it through the first 3 2/3 innings, allowing only one walk for Pittsburgh first hitter, Adam Frazier. At one point, Carrasco struck out 11 straight batters, including the side’s strike in the third inning.
But a two-out single against Josh Bell paved the way for Gregory Polanco to follow with his seventh homerun of the season, a two-point explosion to the seats in right field that reached an exit speed of over 113 mph, according to Statcast, and put Pittsburgh in front, 2-1.
Polanco was sitting on Carrasco’s first change in pitch, a pitch that had helped the right-hander to seven strikeouts at that point in the game. But Polanco, who had jumped to right field on his first at bat, was ready when he saw him again.
Alomar said that after Carrasco relocated.
“He struggled a bit in the sixth and then got a double play and he got away with it,” Alomar said. “We took it out for the shot count and I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen. He took out eight guys and walked three, but he still throws 95. That’s pretty good.
Keller, meanwhile, did not allow an Indian base to strike in five innings on the heels of six innings without a hitting against St. Louis on September 19. According to STATS LLC, he is the No. 1 pitcher in the National League with consecutive no-hitting outings. five or more innings since Johnny Vander Meer failed to strike consecutively in June 1938.
“He was indeed wild,” Alomar said. “A lot of guys have come in saying the ball has some rolling on it like a cutter. He walked three guys, gave up one run, then came out of the (first) run on two throws. So we helped him a bit.
Pittsburgh coach Derek Shelton opted not to fire Keller for the sixth inning after 98 pitches, yielding the floor to Nik Turley, who pulled the Indians out in order.
DeShields broke Pittsburgh’s free-hitting offer in seventh when he pushed a decay to the right of the mound between Pirates reliever Sam Howard and first baseman Colin Moran. Sandy Leon, who had drawn a step out, moved up to second and eventually advanced to third on a ball flying right by Francisco Lindor. But Leon was stranded there when Howard fired back after a three-ball count to take out Hernandez.
DeShields said he was surprised the Pirates weren’t lined up defensively to protect themselves against decay with left-hander Howard on the mound.
“If he throws something over the plate it’s an easy shot for me,” DeShields said. “I didn’t even know I broke the no-hitter until I was on base. I was just trying to do my job, get the guy in goal position and give us a chance to make the game with Frankie right there.
Cleveland left seven runners on base and went 1 for 9 with the runners in goal position. The Indians loaded the bases in the third inning on marches to Lindor, Santana and Franmil Reyes, but Keller escaped damage when Tyler Naquin lined up a ball in Moran’s glove early to complete the inning.
Pittsburgh added a run in the eighth on an RBI single with just one out by rookie third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes. Hayes, who entered the game after hitting it safe in 17 of his first 21 major league games, led Frazier, who had doubled against Indian left Oliver Perez.
Following: The streak continues on Saturday as the Indians send right-hander Aaron Civale (4-5, 3.99 ERA) to the mound against Pittsburgh right-hander Joe Musgraove (0-5, 4.68). The first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. at Progressive Field. The game will air on SportsTime Ohio, WTAM 1100 AM and WMMS 100.7 FM.
New Indian masks for sale: Here’s where you can purchase Cleveland Indian-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($ 14.99) and a 3-pack ($ 24.99). All MLB profits are donated to charity.
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