CLEVELAND – For years the Indians have seemed to take heat from their fans for their troubles getting bunts down at critical times.
Tuesday night two huge and perfectly executed bunts in the ninth inning saved the day, with the result being a dramatic come from behind 7-6 win over the stingy Washington Nationals at Progressive Field.
Down 6-5 after Tyler Naquin got the Indians to within one with a clutch double with no outs in the inning, Chris Gimenez laid down a perfect bunt trying to get Naquin over, but Nats first baseman Ryan Zimmerman threw wide of the bag, and the ball sailed down the first base line, allowing Naquin to score to tie the game at six.
Then after an intentional walk to Lonnie Chisenhall, Rajai Davis, also looking to bunt just to move the runner, popped up a bunt that landed perfectly over the drawn in infield, loading the bases with no outs.
Jason Kipnis hit a shallow pop out for the first out, but then Francisco Lindor won the game with a single to right to score Gimenez and send the 23,711 home happy.
“Same thing with the bullpen, bullpen came in huge today, it was a great overall win.”
It was the fifth walk off win of the season for the Tribe, all of which have come since June 1st.
The important thing about the win is it maintains the Indians 5.5 game lead over the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, as Detroit topped the Red Sox on Tuesday.
The Indians lead the White Sox by eight games, and the Royals by nine in the division.
“I know this is going to be a shocking announcement, but that’s not how we drew it up,” Indians manager Terry Francona joked after the win. “Hitting last sure helps.”
The Nationals looked to salt the game away with a run in the 9th after the Indians closed it to 5-4 with a run in the 7th and another in the 8th.
Sloppy defense allowed Washington to get a run in the 9th, as both Juan Uribe and Mike Napoli were credited with errors that directly led to the Nats taking a two-run lead into the bottom of the frame before the Indians heroics.
Cleveland earned just their 2nd win against 14 losses on the season trailing after eight innings.
“Anytime you can come back down two in the ninth off a good closer, it’s huge,” Indians pitcher Dan Otero said. “Every win is important from here on out.”
Otero was part of a good outing by the pen, as Danny Salazar went just four plus innings, allowing three runs on four hits with two walks, five strikeouts, and a homer.
Kyle Crockett, Jeff Manship, Otero, Austin Adams and Bryan Shaw (2-4) all saw action for the Indians, allowing two runs over the final five innings.
The Indians and Nats have a quick turnaround, as the teams get back at it noon on Wednesday. Stephen Strasburg (13-1, 2.83) goes for the Nats against Carlos Carrasco (7-3, 2.31) for the Tribe.
— Matt Loede (@MattLoede) July 27, 2016