The Cleveland Indians did it again, one way or another.
Trailing 3-1 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Tribe mounted another rally, scoring three runs in the ninth inning to claim their third victory this week.
It was a match that appeared almost finished before the ninth inning. Until then, the Indians had only managed one hit all night and even that was a single from Delino DeShields in the seventh inning, breaking what had been a no-hit combination for Pittsburgh. The tribe’s only score had come in the first inning after scouring the loaded bases to start the match and scratching a run on a double play. The Pirates had given out nine walks in the first eight innings, but prevented the Indians to capitalize on almost every opportunity.
Then came the tenth step of the tribe game, courtesy of Tyler Naquin in the last frame. Jordan Luplow, already a hero once this week, went home and drilled a brace on the wall in the left center to score Naquin early on, reducing the deficit to 3-2. Mike Freeman, hitting for Sandy Leon, followed with a flyout in the center, but luckily Delino DeShields was able to take it with a liner in the middle to bring Luplow home and tie the game. DeShields stole second place but Francisco Lindor lined up on the right, putting pressure on César Hernández with two strikeouts. And Hernández delivered, sending a sharp jerk into the first baseline and right field to score the winning point.
It was a wild ending to a bizarre night that seemed doomed to be defined by the extraordinary levels of offensive futility experienced by Indians.
Pirates starter Mitch Keller hit the first three hitters he faced, so of course Carlos Santana flipped on the first pitch he saw, blending into a scoring double play. Franmil Reyes made sure no further runs were scored, also swinging on his first pitch and landing on the pitcher. In total, Keller walked eight batters on the night, including seven in the first three innings alone. He pitched five innings and threw 98 shots, 49 of which were balls. He literally threw as many strikes as he did balls. Of course, the Indians couldn’t even need a single blow against Keller. Not a single blow. They even loaded the bases twice, but a point was all they could score.
As if they dared to mark the tribe, the Pirates even put Sam Howard on, sporting a 40.50 ERA in his last two relief appearances, in the seventh inning. No chance.
But as you now know, count this team at your own risk.
On the mound, Carlos Carrasco did what he could to give the Indians a chance. His biggest mistake of the night was a switch down and towards Gregory Polanco, who smoked a 113 mph line shot in the right seats for a two-run homerun to give the Pirates the lead. Carrasco only gave three hits and struck out eight, but he also walked three hitters. He almost came undone in the sixth inning, charging the bases without a strike out with a single and two steps. But Carrasco managed to escape by hitting Josh Bell, then inducing a late-inning double play.
Phil Maton bounced back from a few tough innings to contribute 1.1 innings of scoreless relief, using his cutter and four knives to effectively dodge the Pirates’ bats. Óliver Pérez wasn’t so lucky as the Pirates attacked his lead for two hits and an insurance run in the eighth. Adam Plutko threw a ninth goalless, because why not.
What a week. And as of this writing, the Twins and White Sox are lagging behind in their Friday night games, which means the Indians could start the weekend tied with Chicago for the second and second leg. of Minnesota for the head of the division. Buckle up your belt.