The Cleveland Indians got their first walk-off win of the year Friday night as the Tribe (10-8) came back from behind to beat Jered Weaver and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (6-14), 3-2.
The Angels got out to an early 1-0 lead in the first as Albert Pujols singled off Cleveland starter Justin Masterson and scored on Torii Hunter‘s two-out RBI single. Hunter struck again in the top of the fourth, depositing Masterson’s 2-0 fastball into the right field stands for a solo shot as Los Angeles took a 2-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Cleveland couldn’t get on the board against Weaver. There were plenty of potential rallies—the Indians loaded the bases in the first and had multiple baserunners against him in both the third and and the sixth—but Tribe hitters couldn’t take advantage of any of them. Luckily, they were able to wear Weaver down so that he had to be removed from the game after six innings, giving the Indians a chance to strike against the Angels’ fatigued bullpen.
And strike they did. The Indians lit up Hisanori Takahashi and Kevin Jepsen for two runs in the seventh. Casey Kotchman started the rally with a leadoff single and moved to second on Aaron Cunningham‘s groundout. Michael Brantley followed with an RBI double to score Kotchman, and Jason Kipnis tied the game four pitches later with an RBI single. Masterson and Vinnie Pestano kept the Halos’ bats quiet in the eighth and ninth—Pestano in particular came up with two huge strikeouts to squelch a ninth-inning rally—to set the state for the last at-bat victory.
Cunningham started the bottom of the ninth with a long leadoff double. After Brantley flied out, Kipnis’ single put runners at the corners with one out for Asdrubal Cabrera, who lined David Carpenter‘s 2-0 fastball into right field to score Cunningham and give the Tribe a walk-off 3-2 victory.
The Good: There was a lot of this to go around. First and foremost has to be Justin Masterson, who went 8.1 very strong innings, holding the Angels to two runs on four hits. It would have been nice to see him get more than five strikeouts, and his allowing five walks is a little concerning as that’s been an unfortunate trend for him this season. Still, his sinker was really working—he induced 16 groundouts—and it’s a credit to him that he kept the Indians in this game.
The offense also gets a gold star for wearing Weaver down—it took him an average of 18 pitches to get through each inning, and at that pace even the best pitcher can’t stay in the game too long—and then getting right to work against the Angels’ relief corps. Short of actually scoring on Weaver, that’s about as good a job as we could have hoped for. The dramatic finish was a nice touch, too.
Major props also go out to Vinnie Pestano for coming in and fanning Vernon Wells and Erick Aybar with two on in the ninth. The Indians still might have won had he not shut the Angels down, but there’s a big difference between a tie game and a one-run deficit heading into the bottom of the ninth.
The Bad: Masterson’s aforementioned command problems aside, the Indians’ biggest problem was once again failing to cash in on opportunities to score. That they managed to reach base 11 times against one of the best pitchers in the game was commendable, but not one of them crossed the plate. The Indians have been plagued by this problem for a week now, and it’s starting to get a little worrisome.
The “Huh?”: Manny Acta called a surprisingly aggressive baserunning game, sending runners to their dooms in strike-‘em-out-throw-‘em-out double plays twice: Michael Brantley was caught in the third and Aaron Cunningham was thrown out in the fifth, with Jason Kipnis striking out both times. The Indians lost at least a run in the third because of the failed hit-and-run as Brantley would have scored on Carlos Santana‘s single, and it’s questionable whether Cunningham is fast enough to make it worth his while to be trying to steal.
Interesting Tidbit: Jered Weaver allowed 11 hits and walks Friday night but did not give up any runs; he had never given up so many baserunners in one outing without ceding any runs before. His previous high was nine (seven hits and two walks in seven innings) against Texas on July 21, 2011.