CLEVELAND: When Michael Bourn raced around the bases moments after his two-run home run gave the Indians a 6-4 walk-off victory over the Colorado Rockies on Sunday at Progressive Field, it was obvious it wasn’t something he was used to doing.
Instead of displaying baseball’s typical casual home run trot, Bourn ran around the diamond on his first career walk-off homer as if he were being chased. Even when he reached home plate, he continued to move the pile of bodies made up of his giddy teammates who mobbed him in celebration.
“They said I was flying around the bases,” Bourn said with a wide smile. “I was just happy because we were able to complete the sweep and build momentum. We’ve got the Red Sox coming in next and they’re the defending champions … so to win on a walk-off and complete the sweep, my adrenaline was going. It was a good moment.”
With Sunday’s win, the Indians increased their American League-leading home record to 18-11 and improved to 16-1 at Progressive Field this season when scoring four or more runs.
Just like the Tribe did in its previous home stand by taming the American League Central-division leading Detroit Tigers, the Indians used solid all-round pitching and an emerging offense to corral the Rockies in an interleague series that pitted the AL’s top strikeout pitching staff against the National League’s explosive offense with the least strikeouts.
Once again Sunday, the Indians won that battle — despite facing a Rockies lineup that boasted six batters hitting .300 or better.
It helped that the Indians built a three-run cushion in the first inning when Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin struggled to settle in and find his location. The right-hander walked the first two Tribe batters and didn’t emerge from the inning until he’d issued three free passes — including one that walked home a run. However, Chacin also had to work around his throwing error and a mental error on catcher Jordan Pacheco as the Tribe cashed in on the mistakes by taking a 3-0 lead.
But the Rockies offense helped keep Chacin in the game with some early run support of its own, cutting their deficit to a run in the second inning. A fielding error on Indians third baseman Mike Aviles put leadoff man Justin Morneau on base and Corey Dickerson followed with a 400-foot home run off starter Josh Tomlin that made the score 3-2.
“I thought they made him work for everything, which is not a surprise,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Tomlin, who held the Rockies to two earned runs and struck out a career-high tying eight batters. “When you look up and down their lineup, you see .300, .320, .340 (batting averages), stolen bases, power and they don’t really strike out a lot. But Tomlin threw his fastball in and out and threw some real good breaking balls with two strikes to get a couple of them looking.”
The Rockies pulled even at 3-3 briefly in the top of the third inning on a Morneau RBI ground-out that was aided by a Bourn mental error that allowed Michael Cuddyer to move into position and score easily on the ground ball. But the Indians got the run back and went ahead by a run in the bottom of the inning on a Lonnie Chisenhall sacrifice fly.
After three scoreless innings between the two clubs, the Rockies fought back in the seventh inning against the Indians bullpen just like they did in Saturday’s game. Tribe right-hander Bryan Shaw allowed a leadoff double to Brandon Barnes. A sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly later, Barnes scored to tie the game 4-4.
Indians veteran right-hand reliever Scott Atchison struck out the side in the top of the ninth inning, stranding D.J. LeMahieu at second base after his two-out double to keep the score tied, giving the Indians offense momentum heading into the bottom of the ninth.
“Atch has been so reliable,” Francona said. “And that kind of proves right there, because you can normally go to Cody (Allen) in (the ninth). But it’s the bottom of the order and Atch is especially tough on right-handers. It also allowed us (the option) of where if we didn’t score, we had Cody for the middle of their order.”
The Tribe started the inning with the thought of following Saturday’s small-ball themed victory when Aviles led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on George Kottaras’ sacrifice bunt. But Bourn made the potential run at second a moot point when he blasted a fastball from Rockies reliever Adam Ottavino into the stands for the fourth walk-off win of the season.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.