CLEVELAND: Just in case the Indians needed to be reminded, they’re not always going to win by eight runs, the average margin of victory in their past four games.
So Friday night, the Tribe had to huff and puff a little before vanquishing the Minnesota Twins 7-6 in 10 innings at Progressive Field to stretch its winning streak to five.
Mark Reynolds, for one, didn’t view the game as a struggle.
“It was fun,” said Reynolds, who hit his ninth home run of the season. “That’s the kind of game where the adrenaline starts pumping. Everyone comes up big, and you can run around like kids.”
It didn’t take long to produce the game winner in the 10th off Casey Fien. Mike Aviles began the inning by lining a single to right center, Ezequiel Carrera sacrificed him to second, and Drew Stubbs drove a ball in the left-center gap for his third double of the night to drive in Aviles.
Stubbs had four hits in the game and is 9-for-13 in his past three games, but he can’t account for his hot streak.
“If I could give you an answer, I would stay locked in for 162 games,” he said. “I just want to ride it out as long as I can.”
Said manager Terry Francona: “This is a guy we got because we love his athleticism. He makes plays look so easy, the ground he covers out there. And then to see him swing the bat this way — he’s worked so hard at it.”
The Tribe had to scramble to send the game into extra innings.
Aviles singled to lead off the eighth, and one out later, Stubbs blooped a double to right to put runners on third and second.
Jared Burton was ordered to walk Michael Brantley intentionally to load the bases, and Jason Kipnis accommodated the strategy by slapping a ground ball to second that should have been a double play. Instead, Brian Dozier fumbled the ball and his only play was to first, as Aviles scored the tying run.
Kipnis was the early leader in the clubhouse for hero of the game when he tripled home two runs in the third inning to tie the score 2-2. But the Indians blew an opportunity to send Kipnis to the plate with one out. And in fourth inning, Aviles doubled with one out and never got to third.
In the fifth, the Tribe took a 4-2 lead on Reynolds’ home run with Michael Brantley on base.
“When the pitcher misses his spot,” Reynolds said, “you’re supposed to hit it.”
Francona isn’t surprised when Reynolds goes deep.
“He takes so many good swings, it’s kind of a matter of time,” the manager said. “A guy that takes that many good swings during a game, he’s going to connect at some point.”
The Twins cut one run off the deficit in the sixth on Oswaldo Arcia’s RBI single, but Kipnis came through in the bottom of the inning with a two-out, perfectly executed bunt single to the left side to score Yan Gomes from third.
That gave the Indians another two-run lead that they didn’t keep, which is an appropriate place to introduce Justin Masterson, who was done in as a much by the little things as the big ones. Masterson technically didn’t give up the lead, but he set the stage for Cody Allen, who made one bad pitch that changed the game.
“I was catching a lot of breaks my first couple of starts,” Masterson said. “I just didn’t catch any tonight.”
Masterson gave up a home run to Trevor Plouffe in the second inning, but nobody was on base. Masterson allowed too many hits (8) in 6⅔ innings, including a double that had no effect on the scoring.
But there were smaller gaffes that turned into crucial mistakes.
For example, hitting Chris Parmalee with a pitch with one out in the sixth turned into a run, when Plouffe’s groundout sent Parmalee to second, and Arcia singled him to the plate.
In the seventh, Justin Morneau began a two-out rally with a single and took second on a passed ball by Yan Gomes. The Twins took advantage of the passed ball when Ryan Doumit followed with a single that ended Masterson’s work night.
Maybe the single was an accident, or Doumit was trying to beat a defensive shift that left the shortstop hole unguarded, which is exactly where he slapped a ground ball.
Allen replaced Masterson and five pitches later, the Tribe’s 5-4 lead had turned into a 6-5 deficit, as Parmalee smacked a 2-and-2 pitch over the wall in right for two-run homer.
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.