CLEVELAND: No team can win that kind of game. It doesn’t happen, shouldn’t happen, maybe never has happened, not against big-league players.
The starter is yanked after three innings, the three best relievers give up home runs to blow the lead in three consecutive innings, and the guy who hits the walk-off home run was sent to the plate to bunt.
Just another day at the ball yard for the Indians, who swept the four-game series with the Seattle Mariners by earning a 10-8 decision Monday at Progressive Field.
“Earning” might be the wrong word. There was a lot of give and take during the game. The Mariners did the giving and the Tribe did the taking.
Yan Gomes became the hero when he launched Charlie Furbush’s 3-and-2 pitch into the left-field bleachers for a three-run homer with nobody out in the 10th inning. By that time, Gomes’ first homer of the game, a solo blast in the second inning, was almost forgotten, so much bizarre stuff occurred in the intervening innings.
But let’s start with the final inning. Michael Brantley hacked away at a 3-and-2 pitch and slapped a bloop single over the outstretched glove of second baseman Robert Andino.
Drew Stubbs followed with a sacrifice bunt that was fielded by Furbush, who bobbled the ball, then tossed it softly to first in time to nail Stubbs. Except that Justin Smoak dropped the throw.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge said that Furbush wanted to throw to second, but after he mishandled the bunt, his only play was to first.
Gomes tried to bunt the runners to second and third, but Furbush wouldn’t let him make an out, throwing pitches that only a contortionist could bunt. Manager Terry Francona took off the bunt sign, but Gomes apparently didn’t see it.
“I think they took it off two pitches before, and I was still trying to get it down,” Gomes said. “They came over and told me.”
Finally, third-base coach Brad Mills trotted to the plate to tell Gomes to hit away.
Undoubtedly, Francona and Gomes’ teammates would have been pleased with a sacrifice fly to tie the score, but Gomes had other ideas, delivering his fourth home run of the season.
“I think I had a walk-off in college against LSU,” he said. “But this was definitely a little better.”
Asked if he knew the ball was out, Gomes said, “I knew it would get to the fence. If it wasn’t [out], I’m not going to keep working out. Maybe it’s the beet juice. I have to keep drinking that.”
Francona called off the bunt when he saw how fiercely the Mariners’ infielders were charging the plate.
“Bunting probably is not Gomes’ strength anyway,” he said. “And they were really being aggressive.”
With Scott Kazmir struggling from the outset of the game, the Indians’ offense had a tough time staying ahead. Kazmir gave up five runs and seven hits in three innings, and Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma allowed five runs in six innings.
But after the Tribe got its first gift run in the seventh to take a 6-5 lead — reliever Yoervis Medina muffed Asdrubal Cabrera’s dribbler with Michael Bourn on second, allowing him to score — the Indians brought in their bullpen stalwarts.
Vinnie Pestano was the first to crumble, giving up a leadoff homer to Kyle Seager in the eighth to tie the score again. Pinch-hitter Endy Chavez took Chris Perez deep to start the ninth, giving the Mariners a lead.
But an error by Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who dropped a throw covering first base, allowed Jason Kipnis to score the game-tying run in the ninth.
Emotions took a 180 in the 10th when Joe Smith gave up a two-out home run to Smoak, who delivered what should have been the game-winner to the Mariners.
All it did was set the stage for yet another mistake by the visitors and Gomes’ improbable star turn.
“You hate to give a team extra outs,” Pestano said, referring to the Mariners. “But when you do it with guys who have our speed and our ability to get on base, giving away those outs can greatly impact the game.”
The Indians have won five in a row, 18 of their past 22 and lead the Detroit Tigers by 2½ games in the Central Division race. Coincidentally, the Tigers come to town for two games starting tonight.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.