CLEVELAND: There really hasn’t been much reason for the Indians to play so many innings in their recent seven-game winning streak.
Why not skip to the eighth or later, when the game is likely to be decided.
Wednesday night at Progressive Field, the Tribe had the game won, then gave up the tying runs, then fell behind and tied the score again before winning it in the 10th inning, 6-5 over the Chicago White Sox.
Anyone who has followed the team the past several games probably has detected a pattern. Jason Giambi won Monday night’s game with a walk-off homer in the ninth. On Tuesday night, Ryan Raburn and Yan Gomes each drove in two runs in the eighth to win it.
All three wins came against the Chicago White Sox, losers of nine of their past 10, whose players look like they’re carrying Bob Wickman on their back.
So Wednesday night it was Carlos Santana’s turn to play hero. He lined a 3-and-2 pitch over the wall in right while leading off the 10th inning. The question was would it or wouldn’t it.
“I didn’t know if it would go out,” Santana said. “I thought it would stay in the field, so I ran hard, because you never know.”
Indians manager Terry Francona received immediate notice of the ball’s flight from bench coach and GPS expert Sandy Alomar.
“As soon as Carlos hit it, Sandy started high-fiving me,” he said. “He knows the ballpark better than me.”
It appeared that Santana had drawn a walk on the 3-and-1 pitch, but umpire D.J. Reyburn yelled strike two.
“The umpire called it a strike, so I just hit the next pitch for a home run,” Santana said.
When the Sox took a 5-3 lead with two runs in the ninth, Santana said that nobody in the Tribe dugout flinched.
“When they took the lead, I didn’t see any player with his head down,” he said. “Everyone was positive.”
Francona, who always is upbeat, said, “I had a ball. I was nervous as hell, but I loved it. I thought we were going to win. I just didn’t know how.”
Corey Kluber, who established a career best by pitching 8⅔ innings, deserved to win, but it didn’t work out that way. With two outs in the ninth, Kluber gave up a single to Conor Gillaspie and Francona summoned Cody Allen from the bullpen.
Allen got himself into a heap of trouble, yielding a single to Dayan Viciedo, putting runners on first and third. Then he walked Gordon Beckham to load the bases and faced pinch hitter Jeff Keppinger, who lined a two-run single to center to give the White Sox a 5-3 lead.
Kluber was charged with four runs, one given up by Allen, and allowed eight hits and no walks. It was the fifth time this season that he has worked six or more innings without giving up a walk.
“Viciedo took some good swings against Kluber,” Francona said. “But it turned out to be not a good move on my part.”
Of course, the game wasn’t over.
Michael Brantley led off the ninth with a double and Addison Reed hit pinch hitter Jason Giambi. Drew Stubbs tried to sacrifice the runners ahead but beat out the bunt for a hit that loaded the bases.
Still with nobody out, Michael Bourn delivered a sacrifice fly, with all runners moving up a base. Nick Swisher was walked intentionally to reload the bases, and Jason Kipnis hit a sacrifice fly to the track in right to tie the score again.
“When you do the little things right [the bunt],” Francona said, “they can turn into big things. It’s nice to have everyone contributing.”
Kluber used only 94 pitches in his near-complete game.
Asked if pitching 8⅔ innings was an important milestone, he said, “Not really. I keep going out there until they take the ball from me. It just happened to be longer this time.”
“Kluber just had one inning when they bunched some hits,” Francona said. “They didn’t hit the ball real hard. He was very efficient.”
After facing two batters over the minimum for five innings, Kluber gave up four hits in the sixth, allowing the Sox to score three times to tie the score. Then it was back to dominating the White Sox, as Kluber retired 10 in a row before allowing the ninth-inning single.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.