The Indians, as tonight’s game headed for the late innings, appeared to be playing another of Those Games.
The top of the seventh inning reminded one of the Wednesday loss to the Angels, with a golden opportunity not taken advantage of, even though the Tribe tied the game at 3-3.
Michael Brantley walked leading off, and went to third on pitcher Jeremy Jeffress’ throwing error. Matt LaPorta singled, and just like that the game was even. That was when things got frustrating.
LaPorta went to second on a wild pitch, but Jack Hannahan lined out to shallow left. But not to worry, as Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera walked, loading the bases for Shin-Soo Choo and bringing Aaron Crow in from the bullpen for Kansas City.
Crow immediately fell behind 2-0 to Choo, and oh it looked like the Tribe was in business. But Crow came all the way back and got Choo on a called third strike for the second out.
And then, to add a drop more of frustration, Crow fell behind Carlos Santana 2-0 — and Santana popped out to left center to end the threat and adding three more to the Tribe’s left-on-base total, which after seven innings had reached seven LOB.
Carlos Carrasco came out for the bottom of the seventh and gave up a single to Wilson Betemit, who was sacrificed to second by Matt Treanor. That was all for Carrasco, and Vinnie Pestano came on for the Indians. Pestano got Alcides Escobar to ground out for the second out of the inning, moving Betemit to third. Pestano then struck out Mike Aviles to end a nervous half-inning, and the game moved to the eighth deadlocked at three — a brilliant job out of the pen by Pestano.
Carrasco thus ended his night with 6 1/3 innings pitched, having allowed three runs and seven hits, walking one and striking out four. Carrasco’s ERA dropped to 4.85, and while that is all well, fine and good, there was still a baseball game to try to win.
In the Indians’ eighth, Travis Hafner led off with a walk. Travis Buck pinch-ran (becoming the designated hitter) but was immediately erased on a force-play at second off the bat or Orlando Cabrera. Michael Brantley lined out to second for the second out, leaving it up to Matt LaPorta.
Orlando Cabrera moved to second on a wild pitch from Crow, yet again putting an Indian in scoring position, and LaPorta walked, putting two on, bringing Jack Hannahan to the plate.
Hannahan, batting .205 before this critical at-bat, struck out, ending the inning, ending the threat, and leaving Aaron Crow with an ERA of 0.00 after an inning-and-two-thirds of work tonight.
Rafael Perez came on to begin the bottom of the eighth, replacing Pestano, who certainly did his job tonight.
Perez fell behind Melky Cabrera, then came back to get Cabrera to pop out. Alex Gordon then reached on a throwing error on Tribe second-baseman Orlando Cabrera, and Perez walked Billy Butler, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position with one down.
A wild play ensued, on which Matt LaPorta threw in the dirt to second, with Gordon going to third and Butler to second, but Butler -- who had been called safe -- thought he had been out, never called time, and was tagged out after wandering off the bag and seemingly heading for the dugout, and became the second out of the inning.
Joe Smith relieved Rafael Perez and immediately loaded the bases with a walk to Jeff Francoeur, but got Wilson Betemit to foul out to third, and this game, which suddenly seemed to have the intensity and missed chances of a playoff game, headed to the ninth tied 3-3, after an inning in which the Tribe walked two, committed two errors — and kept the Royals off the board.
Kansas City closer Joakim Soria came on in the tie game and was greeted by a base hit from Grady Sizemore — Sizemore’s second hit of the ninth and fourth in two games since being activated.
Asdrubal Cabrera grounded into a force play at second, erasing Sizemore, and then Shin-Soo Choo grounded into a double play, and just like that, it was on to the bottom of the ninth.
Yes, truly resembling at this point the loss in Anaheim last Wednesday — which, coincidentally, was tied 3-3 after nine innings.
Joe Smith was still on the mound for the Tribe in the Royals’ ninth and set down K.C. one-two-three, and the game moved to extra innings.