The Indians looked dead in the water for eight innings and it looked as if Zach McAllister would lose his Major League debut. But with one swing of Travis Hafner’s bat, the Indians completed a startling five-run rally in the bottom of the ninth to defeat the crushed Toronto Blue Jays at energized Progressive Field, 5-4.
McAllister navigated the first inning, issuing a two-out walk to Jose Bautista, but striking out Adam Lind for his second K to get out of any trouble. It took 25 pitches, but a scoreless first career inning is something to remember.
Michael Brantley led off the Tribe first with a single, and stole second with two outs. Carlos Santana walked to put two on. Toronto starter Carlos Villanueva then walked Grady Sizemore to load the bases, but Orlando Cabrera flied out to end the inning.
The Indians, who left 13 on base in Wednesday’s win over the Yankees, were already sitting on three LOB as the game headed for the second.
In the Toronto second, Aaron Hill walked leading off, and with one out stole second and went to third on a throwing error by Asdrubal Cabrera. Travis Snider then singled to center to score Hill, and the Blue Jays led 1-0. McAllister then struck out J.P. Arencibia for the second out, but Rajai Davis reached on a throwing error on McAllister, with Snider going to third and Davis to second.
But Yunel Escobar flied out, so — although Toronto had broken the ice, it could have been much worse than a 1-0 Indians deficit.
The run charged to McAllister in the frame was unearned.
With two outs in the Tribe second, Lonnie Chisenhall was injured when he was beaned in the helmet by a pitch which seemed to then bounce off his nose. Jack Hannahan came on to run for Chisenhall after Chisenhall had been down for nearly a minute, and Michael Brantley collected his second straight hit, moving Hannahan to third. But Asdrubal Cabrera flied out, and the Indians had stranded two more runners, giving them five for the game already.
In the bottom of the third, Travis Hafner singled leading off. But after working the count to 3-0, Santana struck out. Villanueva uncorked a wild pitch against Sizemore to move Hafner to second, but Sizemore fanned and Orlando Cabrera grounded out, and the game moved to the fourth with the Blue Jays still up by a run.
Toronto added two runs in the fourth on RBI singles from Arencibia and Davis, but McAllister, to his credit, was able to work his way out of a bases loaded and one out jam to keep the count at 3-0, and Cleveland still in the game.
With two outs in the Indians’ half of the fourth, Hannahan tripled to right. But Brantley flied out, and the Tribe’s frustrating offensive night continued.
Rafael Perez came on for Cleveland in the fifth, ending McAllister’s night after 94 pitches. Zach (4.50 ERA) allowed three runs — two earned — on five hits, walking three and striking out four. For a first Major League effort, it could have been better, yes…but it could also have been worse. And not to be cruel, but it was about as good as any start we have seen lately from Fausto Carmona, whom McAllister replaced in the rotation at least for now.
Perez allowed two hits in the fifth, but was helped by a caught stealing to keep Toronto from adding to their lead.
Asdrubal Cabrera struck out to start the Indians’ fifth, then Hafner and Santana both singled to put runners at first and second with one out. But Sizemore took a called third strike. For the third time Orlando Cabrera batted with two outs and men on, and for the third time he was retired, as Villanueva got OCab on a foul out to the catcher, running the Indians’ left on base total to nine.
Perez worked a scoreless sixth, and Villanueva ( 2.99 ERA) worked a one-two-three frame of his own as his pitch count reached 111.
Chad Durbin came on in relief of Perez in the seventh and set the side down in order. Marc Rzepczynski then entered the game for Toronto, ending Villanueva’s night.
Asdrubal Cabrera drew a one-out walk, but Hafner grounded into a double play, and to the eighth we went, with time running out and The Good Guys still down by three.
Frank Herrmann took over for the Indians in the eighth, and allowed two hits while getting two outs. Joe Smith relieved Herrmann and struck out Escobar, as the Tribe’s bullpen kept doggedly giving the offense a chance to get back into the game.
Santana led off the eighth with a walk, but was forced at second by Sizemore. That was all for Rzepczynski, as Jason Frasor came on for the Blue Jays.
And not for the first, nor the second, nor the third, but for the fourth time tonight, Orlando Cabrera ended an inning with at least a man on base, although this time Cabrera did not actually leave anyone on. Translation: Cabrera grounded into a double play, and just like that, Frasor was out of the inning.
Tony Sipp continued the Indians’ bullpen parade when he came on for the ninth. After a strikeout, Bautista went deep to left for his 29th homer this year, to make it 4-0 Toronto. Sipp finished the inning without further damage, but this one, for all intents and purposes, was over.
Or so it seemed.
Frank Francisco — with ten saves — came on for the Blue Jays in the ninth to finish things. But Travis Buck greeted Francisco with a single, and on the next pitch, Matt LaPorta doubled, sending Buck to third.
That Bautista home run really hurt at this point, for otherwise the Tribe would have had the tying run coming to the plate with nobody out.
But wait. Hannahan walked, loading the bases, and the tying run did come to the plate in the person of Brantley, still with nobody down.
So Francisco, brought on to finish, departed, and on came left-hander Luis Perez — with no saves — to face a real mess.
But Brantley struck out swinging after running the count to 3-1.
Then Asdrubal Cabrera came through with a single, finally putting the Tribe on the board and cutting Toronto’s lead to 4-1, with the bases still loaded for Hafner in a lefty-vs.-lefty battle.
And you know what happened.
Hafner hit a grand slam to right, and the Indians, miraculously, had won 5-4.
The winning pitcher was Sipp, who moves to 4-1, while Perez took the loss for the Blue Jays, to fall to 1-2.
The series will continue on Friday when Mitch Talbot goes for the Tribe.