Josh Tomlin pulled together another strong outing and Asdrubal Cabrera came through with some genuine bat magic as the Indians got a walkoff extra-inning win Tuesday night at Progressive Field, beating the Reds 3-2. The win improves the Tribe’s record to 35-32, which thanks to the White Sox’ 2-1 loss at Wrigley Field puts Cleveland back in first place in the AL Central.
But things didn’t start out so well for the Tribe. Zack Cozart led off the top of the first by lacing Tomlin’s fourth pitch into left field for a double. He then moved to third on Tomlin’s wild pitch before Chris Heisey knocked a ground ball to Cabrera at shortstop. Cozart came home as Heisey hustled down the line to beat the throw and the Reds took a 1-0 lead before they’d even made an out.
The Indians offered their delayed response in the bottom of the fourth. Carlos Santana battled Cincinnati starter Mike Leake for seven pitches before coming through with a leadoff double. Santana advanced to third on Michael Brantley‘s groundout and scored on Casey Kotchman‘s RBI single to even the score at 1-1.
Neither team scored after that for the rest of the regulation nine innings so the game went to the 10th. Willie Harris led off with a double, but a great play by Joe Smith on Cozart’s sacrifice bunt attempt nailed him at third base. Heisey took Cozart’s place on a fielder’s choice to knock Smith out of the game. Nick Hagadone came in to face Joey Votto; two wild pitches and a single later Heisey scored to give Cincinnati a 2-1 lead.
The great Aroldis Chapman took the mound in the bottom of the 10th, but Cleveland proved that he was not invincible. After getting Lonnie Chisenhall to fly out, Chapman surrendered a base hit to Shin-Soo Choo to bring up Cabrera. With the tying run on first and the potential to end the game with a double play, Cabrera launched Chapman’s 3-1 pitch into the right field stands to give the Indians a 3-2 walkoff win.
The Good: Besides the obvious? Asdrubal Cabrera was the game’s MVP for his walkoff two-run bomb in the bottom of the 10th. Shin-Soo Choo also had a big day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double and the walk that set up Cabrera’s walkoff blast. Casey Kotchman also had a multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 before Jose Lopez pinch-hit for him in the ninth inning.
Lost in the excitement of the walkoff was the reason the Indians were still in the game despite their scoring only one run in the first nine innings: Josh Tomlin. Tomlin held the Reds to just one run on six hits in 6.2 strong innings with two walks and two strikeouts. Interestingly he also induced 11 groundouts—unusual considering that Tomlin is normally a fly-ball pitcher.
The Bad: The struggles continue for Nick Hagadone, who hasn’t had a good outing since June 8. He entered the game with a runner at first and two outs, yet it took him 15 pitches to end the inning. The run that scored on his watch was tagged to Joe Smith, but even forgetting about the base hit he allowed to Joey Votto there’s no way Heisey would have scored had Hagadone not thrown two wild pitches in as many at-bats. He ended up getting the win even though it was his fault that the Indians were down in the bottom of the 10th.
The “Huh?”: With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, Manny Acta pulled Josh Tomlin out of the game and called to the bullpen to preserve the tie game. It was the single highest-leverage plate appearance of the game, and Acta turned to…Esmil Rogers. Rogers has looked good for the Indians so far (he has seven strikeouts and a 1.73 ERA through his first four outings) but we’re still talking about a man with a 6.63 career ERA who has mainly served as a long reliever since the Indians acquired him last week. It ended up working out—Rogers struck out Devin Mesoraco to end the inning—but it remains a curious decision.
Interesting Tidbit: At a whopping .793 WPA, Cabrera’s walkoff home run improved the Indians’ chances of winning Tuesday’s game more than any other plate appearance a Tribe hitter has gotten this year has increased the team’s odds of winning.