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Indians Indians Archive Game 67 Recap: Wahoo Walk-off Winner!
Written by Adam Burke

Adam Burke

acwalkoffThings I never expected to see on Tuesday night: A Josh Tomlin-Mike Leake pitcher’s duel, Jack Hannahan complete a fielder’s choice with a broken bat caroming through his legs, and Asdrubal Cabrera going walk-off on Reds closer Aroldis Chapman. But, that’s why we love baseball – the unpredictable.

Josh Tomlin and Mike Leake, a week removed from not making it through five innings and allowing a combined nine runs and 17 hits, both kept the opposition off-balance through nearly seven full innings. In the first inning, it looked like it could be one of those days again for Tomlin. Reds shortstop Zack Cosart led off the game with a double, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on a Chris Heisey single. It was a decidedly better first inning for Tomlin, who gave up a three-run homer to Joey Votto last week before recording an out, as Tomlin got Votto to pop out to left and induced a  Brandon Phillips inning-ending double play ball.

The Indians left a runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings before scratching out a run in the fourth. Carlos Santana led off the fourth with a double, went to third on a Michael Brantley ground out, and practically walked home on a bloop single to center by Casey Kotchman. Tomlin and Leake exchanged zeroes in the fifth and sixth before Tomlin ran into trouble in the seventh.

Phillips started the inning with a soft single to center. After Jay Bruce flew out, Tomlin walked Ryan Ludwick to put runners at first and second. Scott Rolen hit what could have been an inning-ending double play ball to Kotchman at first, but he didn’t field it cleanly and had to settle for just the sure out at first. Tomlin walked Todd Frazier and Manny Acta emerged from the third base dugout with hook in hand. Tomlin went 6.2 innings, allowing six hits and just one run.

Being forced to go to Joe Smith early on Monday night and having to use Vinnie Pestano for four outs in that game, Acta needed somebody to step up. That somebody was Esmil Rogers. Rogers gave up a backbreaking three-run home run to Pedro Alvarez on Sunday against the Pirates. Now, he entered the game in a bases loaded situation with Reds rookie Devin Mesoraco at the dish. Rogers got ahead in the count while Mesoraco battled to stay alive. Rogers finally won the battle, throwing a slider with a little less velocity and a little more tilt that Mesoraco swung over the top of.

The Indians went rapidly in the seventh, going 1-2-3 on just eight pitches when Leake began the inning at 106 tosses for the game on a warm, humid night in Cleveland. Acta got his one out from Rogers, so he turned it over to Vinnie Pestano. Pestano, working on back-to-back days for the first time since May 23-24 against the Detroit Tigers, faced a little adversity in the eighth. Zack Cosart lofted a leadoff single to center. Pestano buckled down and got the next two hitters before Jack Hannahan booted a routine ground ball to third off the bat of Brandon Phillips. With lefty Jay Bruce at the plate, Pestano jammed him with a cutter up and in, broke his bat, and Shin-Soo Choo squeezed the final out of the inning.

Left hander Sean Marshall took over for Mike Leake in the eighth. Leake went seven innings and gave up one run on six hits. Marshall gave up a leadoff single to Choo before getting the next three Indians hitters in succession.

Then the fun started. Chris Perez entered a tie game. Fans everywhere began lighting up cigarettes and pouring another glass of scotch. Dogs hid in the basement and wives (or husbands) decided it was a good time to get some fresh air. All of the precautions were for naught as Perez worked a clean 1-2-3 inning, giving the Indians a chance at some bottom of the ninth heroics.

Michael Brantley did what good hitters do – get on base as the winning run. Brantley singled to right center off Marshall, setting up the inning for the Tribe. Pinch hitter Jose Lopez did what amounted to a sacrifice bunt, as he hit a high chopper to short with Brantley running on the pitch. However, second base was as far as Brantley would get as Hannahan struck out and defensive replacement Aaron Cunningham whiffed.

There’s a running joke about the National Basketball Association that you really only have to watch the last five minutes of a game to know what happened. The first half is largely irrelevant and crunch time is all that matters. As far as baseball goes, that’s not really the norm, but, tonight, it kind of was. The Reds and Indians saved all the action for extra innings.

Joe Smith, who manager Manny Acta said in his post-game talk with the media he wanted to avoid, came in for the tenth. Willie Harris is not a fan favorite in Cincinnati, due in large part to the .100 batting average he entered the game with. And, that’s not just 1-for-10, that’s 4-for-40. Naturally, Harris drove a ball deep over the center fielder’s head for a leadoff double. The next hitter, Zack Cosart, was 3-for-4 on the night, yet Reds skipper Dusty Baker called for the bunt anyway. Cosart got down a decent bunt that Smith pounced on and, without hesitation, fired to third. For some reason, Willie Harris tried some sort of hook slide to avoid the tag, but instead wound up holding back his front leg allowing Hannahan to slap the tag on for the first out. To say that the next batter, Chris Heisey, was jammed is like saying that the sun in the desert is somewhat hot. Heisey’s bat splintered into a dangerous, flying shard of wood. That shard of wood bounced on a straight line at third baseman Jack Hannahan, with the ball following close behind. The bat and ball arrived just milliseconds apart, the bat glancing off Hannahan’s shin and then caroming through his legs, and the ball reaching second baseman Jason Kipnis for an all-important second out.

Acta went to the lefty-lefty matchup with Joey Votto up and a runner on first. Hagadone got ahead in the count 1-2 before throwing a pitch that will keep Votto from shaving tomorrow morning. The 98 mph heater missed everyone and everything, going directly to the backstop and allowing Heisey to advance to second. Later in the at bat, Votto hit a chopper over Hagadone’s head, under Kipnis’s glove, and into Cabrera’s glove backing up the play. Votto was safe at first as Cabrera couldn’t get anything on the throw, but Cabrera’s range in preventing the ball from going into center field temporarily saved the Indians a run.

The relief of keeping Heisey at third was short-lived. Hagadone’s second pitch to Phillips was a slider that Phillips swung through, but bounced in front of Santana and rolled about 10 feet behind home plate. Heisey got a tremendous break from third and got his hand on home plate just before Hagadone could apply the tag, after a really good play by Santana. Phillips flew out, but the damage had been done.

Aroldis Chapman throws hard. Really hard. Chapman, a Cuban import, regularly hits triple digits with his fastball and has a wipeout slider. Did I mention that he’s left handed? Many people thought the Indians were done for the evening, especially with two lefties in Chisenhall and Choo leading off the inning and switch hitter Cabrera due up third. Chisenhall offered at the first pitch and flew out to right. Choo worked the count to 3-0, before singling on a 3-1 fastball.

Asdrubal Cabrera has had a tough week. On Sunday, he made three errors, leading to a handful of Pirates runs. He followed that up in the ninth by jogging out of the box on a shot that one-hopped the right field wall and got thrown out by Jose Tabata. Manny Acta insinuated to the media that Cabrera is playing hurt when asked about the lack of hustle. Cabrera, a team leader who called out Carlos Santana last season for laziness in front of everyone in the dugout, needed to give the Indians a lift.

He did. Cabrera worked the count in his favor and sent at least one guy home really happy (bottom right in picture) as he smashed a walk-off two run home run to the opposite field and, thanks to a Cubs win, put the Indians back in first place. The Indians now sit atop the AL Central Division with a 35-32 record, a half-game ahead of the Chicago White Sox who just lost a series to their cross-town rival Cubs.

Nick Hagadone (1-0) got the win, giving further ammunition to the "Pitching Wins Don't Mean Anything" vocal majority of baseball stat-heads, and Aroldis Chapman (4-3) took the loss.

Stat of the Night: Josh Tomlin, who has really struggled for most of this season, threw 19 first-pitch strikes out of his 26 batters. Every pitcher is better when they work ahead in the count and especially Tomlin, who doesn’t have swing and miss stuff and relies on changing speeds and eye level. Pitching from ahead allows him to use more breaking balls and setup pitches that he wants to throw off the plate or out of the strike zone.

Player of the Game: Yeah, Asdrubal’s the easy choice, but I’m going with Josh Tomlin. The Indians desperately needed a good start out of Tomlin and they got it. Had he gotten any run support at all, he would have been a winner tonight. Tomlin needed that effort as much as the Indians did.

Tomorrow’s Game: The Indians will try to return the favor and sweep the Reds out of town. The Reds swept the Indians last week in Cincinnati. Justin Masterson (1.80 ERA in June) takes the bump for the Tribe against Bronson Arroyo (6.00 ERA in last four road starts) and his unique leg-kick.

The only negative about today’s game is that Tom Hamilton wasn’t in the radio booth to call the Asdrubal walk-off.

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