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Indians Vs. Rays Final: Indians 'Walk'-Off To Defeat Rays 5-4; AL Central Lead Now 5 1/2 Games

Maybe the weather gods were confused, or needed their GPS’s calibrated. Or maybe it was the name of the opponent that set up a delicious little irony last night.

In a game delayed by lightning (as the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning ready for their conference finals) for over an hour and a half, the Cleveland Indians saw a night of frustration, with several squandered scoring chances, end happily when Michael Brantley walked with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth to give Cleveland a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, for the Tribe's 14th win in a row at home.

The win snaps the Rays’ eight game road winning streak.

The Indians wasted no time once the game started, as Grady Sizemore homered leading off the bottom of the first — round-tripper number six for Grady. But in a harbinger of what would occur later, after the next two hitters singled, Carlos Santana grounded into a double play, and after a walk, Tampa Bay starter Andy Sonnanstine was able to get out of the inning with just the one run scoring.

It stayed 1-0 until the fourth, when the Rays’ Matt Joyce went deep against Indians’ starter Josh Tomlin to tie the game.

But in the bottom of the fourth Brantley put the Tribe right back on top with a drive to right and it was 2-1 Cleveland.

In the fifth, the Indians got a runner to third with one out after a single, a stolen base, and a ground out, but could not capitalize as Santana grounded out with the runner holding, and Travis Hafner fanned.

Tampa Bay took immediate advantage in the sixth when Joyce collected his second RBI of the night with a double, scoring Ben Zobrist. Tomlin worked out of any further trouble after Joyce made it to third, and once again the game was tied, this time at 2-2.

In the Indians’ sixth, Asdrubal Cabrera beat out an infield hit with the bases loaded, scoring Matt LaPorta and giving Cleveland their third lead of the night. And when Jack Hannahan scored on a passed ball, the Tribe found themselves up 4-2 headed for the seventh.

Sean Rodriquez doubled leading off the Rays’ seventh and that was all for Tomlin, who again pitched well enough to win — and again, didn’t win.

Tony Sipp came on and — with one out — ex-Indian Kelly Shoppach moved Tampa Bay to within a run with a single, making it 4-3.

Sipp stranded Shoppach at second, so Tomlin was still in line for the win.

The Tribe put two aboard with one out in the bottom of the seventh, but a Brantley double-play grounder squelched that rally, and the Rays once again took immediate advantage.

Vinnie Pestano took over for Sipp to start the eighth and Evan Longaria greeted Pestano with a homer to tie the game at 4-4.

Then in the bottom of the eighth, the Indians again got a runner to third base with one out, and again were unable to bring him home, when LaPorta’s leadoff double was wasted on consecutive ground outs by Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Chris Perez came on in the ninth, and stranded Johnny Damon (who had walked) at third, to set up the winning rally for the Tribe.

Shin-Soo Choo walked against Joel Peralta leading off, and this time, Carlos Santana came through, delivering a single to send Choo to third.

The Rays intentionally walked Travis Hafner to load the bases with nobody out, and got what they needed when Orlando Cabrera grounded into a force at home against the drawn-in infield for the first out.

But Brantley got the biggest “hit” of the night without ever having to put the ball in play when he drew the walk off of Kyle Farnsworth, and the Indians had moved to 23-11 and extended their lead to 5 1/2 games over the Royals and the Tigers.

Chris Perez takes the win to move to 2-1, while Peralta drops to 1-2 with the loss.

The Indians seem to have magic at home. In a game wherein you strand 13 runners, usually it comes back to haunt you, and though it almost did, The Good Guys prevailed, and will now do it again on Wednesday night.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.