This one was like a playoff game.
It had it all: missed opportunities, runners thrown out at the plate, clutch pitching, unsung heroes, and maybe an ulcer or two along the way.
The Indians scratched their way to two runs in the top of the 12th inning this afternoon, and Chris Perez made the lead stand up in an adventurous bottom of the frame to give the Tribe a 4-3 win over the Oakland A’s, to win their three-game series, two games to one.
For so long, it reminded me eerily of the seventh game of the 1997 World Series, where the Indians had a chance to put it away, but came up short, only to see the opponent immediately score to tie things and to send the game to extra innings.
But, unlike that horrible last game in 1997, The Good Guys prevailed this time.
I mentioned unsung heroes, and several stand out. First was Jeanmar Gomez, working his way through 5 1/3 tough innings and allowing only one run, giving the Tribe a chance — about all you can ask from a guy who was called up because of injuries.
And then there was (eventual winning pitcher) Chad Durbin, who wended his way through the 10th and the 11th, escaping a second-and-third jam in the tenth to keep the game alive. Durbin (2-1, 6.75 ERA) deserves props for this win that got the Indians to 21-9 and kept their lead at 4 1/2 games over the Royals.
Also there was Tony Sipp, who worked his way through an inning-and-a-third of perfect ball. And Rafael Perez and Joe Smith combined for an inning-and-two-thirds.
Finally there were Lou Marson, who went 3-for-5 and drove in a huge insurance run in the 12th, and Jack Hannahan, who gave Cleveland the lead in that same inning.
Oh and let us not forget Asdrubal Cabrera, who drove in two in the sixth to give the Tribe their first lead of the day -- and was cut down at the plate trying to score on a single from Travis Hafner to end the inning.
The Indians have run through three legs of their opposing-pitching gauntlet with two wins, but for so long today it seemed as if Cleveland was fated to lose their second straight.
Never was that feeling stronger than in the top of the eighth, when Marson was credited with a triple leading off on a long drive dropped on the warning track by David DeJesus — giving Cleveland a perfect chance to add to a one-run lead. But then Michael Brantley grounded out with a drawn-in infield; Asdrubal Cabrera struck out; and Shin-Soo Choo grounded out.
After that blown opportunity, the Athletics scored in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game at 2-2 when Ryan Sweeney (5-for-6 on the day) doubled in Conor Jackson off of Vinnie Pestano.
Oakland had scored their first run of the day on a Daric Barton RBI single in the bottom of the fifth.
In the decisive top of the 12th, Hafner fanned leading off, but then Orlando Cabrera singled to center. Austin Kearns walked, putting runners at first and second. That was when Hannahan delivered the go-ahead single that ticked off of shortstop Cliff Pennington.
Kearns moved to second on the play, but was then thrown out trying to steal third, with Hannahan taking second. Marson then came through with a line-drive hit to left, plating Hannahan with what turned out to be the winning run.
In the bottom of the final frame, Chris Perez got the lead-off hitter, then walked Barton. Jackson moved the runner to second with a single, but Perez got Willingham for the second out. But then Sweeney collected his fifth hit -- an RBI single to center, moving Jackson to third and putting the tying run 90 feet away,
Finally -- mercifully for Tribe fans -- Perez got pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui to pop out to end this May version of a playoff game.
Craig Breslow (0-2, 5.06 ERA) takes the loss for Oakland, after Brett Anderson worked nine innings, allowing just two runs, Anderson was followed by a scoreless inning each from Michael Wuertz and Brian Fuentes.
The shaky save was Chris Perez's ninth of the season.
After this thriller this afternoon, the Indians now head down to Anaheim for a three-game set with the Los Angeles Angels, beginning tomorrow at 10:05 when Justin Masterson goes for win number six against the Angels’ Tyler Chatwood.