Zach McAllister threw a gem and the Tribe’s bats came out for a ninth-inning comeback Thursday night as Cleveland won a thrilling 5-4 game against the Rangers to wrap up a three-game series in Texas. The win pushes the Indians to the 60-win threshold; at 60-84, they’re tied with the Twins for last place in the AL Central, 17 games behind the first-place White Sox.
A third-inning Tribe threat notwithstanding (the Indians got two on with nobody out but failed to score), the game was fairly uneventful until the bottom of the fourth inning. With runners at second and third and one out, Michael Young delivered for Texas with an RBI single to score Adrian Beltre and put the Rangers on the board. Nelson Cruz then scored on Brent Lillibridge‘s throwing error on a would-be double play ball as the Rangers opened up a 2-0 lead.
It was then that Cleveland’s bats got to work, though with mixed results. Ezequiel Carrera‘s single and Lillibridge’s walk put two runners on in the top of the fifth, but to no avail. Then, in the sixth, Matt LaPorta took Derek Holland yard for a two-run homer to score Vinny Rottino and tie the game at 2-2. The Indians had another big opportunity when they loaded the bases with one out in the top of the eighth, but Lonnie Chisenhall struck out and Jack Hannahan flew out as Texas reliever Alexi Ogando nipped the rally in the bud.
The Rangers broke the stalemate with a pair of unearned runs in the eighth. Another Lillibridge throwing error put Elvis Andrus on second base to start the inning, and he moved to third on David Murphy‘s flyout. Joe Smith then intentionally walked Adrian Beltre to face Nelson Cruz, who hit a ground ball that Jack Hannahan flubbed as Andrus crossed the plate. Young’s subsequent RBI single gave Texas an insurance run and a 4-2 lead heading into the ninth.
But the Indians weren’t out. Carrera welcomed Texas closer Joe Nathan into the game with a leadoff home run to bring the Tribe within a run of the Rangers. Russ Canzler pinch-hit and reached with a single to set up Jason Kipnis‘ dramatic game-winning two-run homer. The Rangers didn’t go quietly in the bottom of the ninth—Andrus’ two-out triple put the tying run 90 feet away—but Chris Perez was able to close the door as Cleveland held on for a 5-4 win to snap a five-game losing streak.
The Good: Zach McAllister pitched a terrific outing, holding the Rangers to one earned run (plus the unearned one) on eight hits in six innings pitched, striking out six without giving up a walk or a home run. This is the form we saw from him earlier this summer.
Offensively, Matt LaPorta and Carlos Santana both got three hits—LaPorta went 3-for-5 with a homer, while Santana went 3-for-5 with a double. And, of course, we saw those clutch home runs from Ezequiel Carrera and Jason Kipnis.
The Bad: The left side of the infield made three errors, including two costly errant throws from Brent Lillibridge. Lillibridge isn’t the Tribe’s regular shortstop so in the long run his shortcomings don’t really matter, but having a solid glove at short seems like a basic prerequisite for putting a good team on the field.
The “Huh?”: Brent Lillibridge is hitting .187. His OPS is barely over .500, and according to wRC+ his bat has been 61 percent less productive than that of the average MLB hitter this year. I get that the Indians didn’t have their best team on the field, but isn’t there anyone whom Manny Acta would have preferred to let hit in the No. 2 hole?
Interesting Tidbit: Derek Holland now has a 2.31 ERA in six career starts against Cleveland. That’s the second-best mark he’s posted against any team he’s faced more than twice.