You gotta love September baseball. Especially when you’re in contention for the first time in years like the Indians. It’s fun. It’s exciting. And it’s full of players no one has every heard of! But I digress.
Keeping with that theme, the Indians were able to outlast the god awful Houston Astros on Thursday night thanks largely in part to the outstanding pitching of Ubaldo Jimenez and the late game theatrics of Matt Carson. Yes, you read that right. Journeyman Matt Carson provided the Indians with the clutch hit to score the winning run, but more on that in a bit. With the victory, the Indians are now a half game back of both the Rays and Rangers who are tied atop the AL Wild Card heap.
Last night’s starter, Ubaldo Jimenez was superb yet again. Every since the calendar flipped from August to September he had been pitching like a man possessed. It continued last night as Jimenez worked his way through seven innings and allowed only one run on six hits. Most impressive of all, Jimenez struck out nine Astros and walked none while also escaping a no out, bases loaded jam with only that one run scored. Things could have been so much worse, but Jimenez persevered.
Offensively, the Indians were a mess. They out-hit the Astros 12-9, but left 11 runners stranded on base. They had so many opportunities to blow the game wide open, but never could get that big hit when they really needed it. Credit is also due to the Astros’ starting pitcher last night, Dallas Keuchel. Over the course of seven innings Keuchel allowed one run on seven hits and struck out seven. He was pitching like a man possessed.
Houston would strike back in the top half of the third. Three straight singles to lead off he frame put Jimenez in a very tight spot. Against a better team with more of a veteran presence, this could have been doom. Instead, Jimenez calmly worked his way out of the jam allowing only one run when L.J. Hoes hit a sacrifice fly. It was one of the defining moments of the game instilled hope that this would be the Tribe’s night.
The score would remain knotted at 1-1 for the next eight innings. Along the way there were rally killing double plays, spectacular defensiveness plays, particularly from Yan Gomes who threw out an over-anxious runner leading too far off of second, and some high tension thanks to Chris Perez. Perez, brought in by Francona in the ninth inning of a tie game loaded the bases and then proceeded to strike out the side. It was every bit as nerve-racking as you would imagine.
Finally in the bottom of the 11th inning the Indians were able to break through. With the bases loaded and two out, Matt Carson stepped to the plate tasked with the mission of ending the game and sending the Indians home as winners. Mission understood loud and clear. Carson proceeded to hit a sharp one hopper just wide of Jose Altuve at second to score Yan Gomes and give the Indians the 2-1 victory. Carson was mobbed by his new teammates as the Astros sulked their way back to the dugout on the heels of their 102nd loss of the season.
Both teams will be back at it tomorrow night for the second game of a for game series. Zach McAllister will be on the bump for the Indians while the Astros will counter with Brett Oberholtzer. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.