Their knack for pulling out dramatic victories at home has the Cleveland Indians believing they are still serious contenders for the AL Central title.
The Indians look to build on their latest walk-off victory and complete a four-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics, if they can finally get the best of Gio Gonzalez(notes) on Thursday afternoon at Progressive Field.
For the 17th time at home this season, Cleveland (68-65) won in its last at-bat when Jack Hannahan(notes) drove home Cord Phelps(notes), who appeared to be tagged out but was called safe, in the 16th inning for a 4-3 victory Wednesday.
“They are the type of people we want to put together here,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “These guys aren’t giving up. They are relentless, blue collar. Twenty-five dirt bags.”
Despite going without a baserunner from the seventh through 15th innings, Cleveland found a way to win for the fifth time in six games. In doing so, the Indians surpassed the White Sox for second place in the Central, where they trail Detroit by 5 1/2 games.
One of the hottest hitters in the majors of late, Hannahan hit a pair of homers Wednesday, including a game-tying solo shot in the sixth. The former Oakland third baseman has three home runs in two games and is batting .429 (21 for 49) with 13 RBIs in his last 15 contests.
Despite a quick turnaround from Wednesday’s late night, the Indians are eager to get the chance at sweeping an Oakland club that has scored nine runs during a five-game skid.
“We’re going to show up early and try to do it (Thursday),” Hannahan said.
However, it might take more than momentum for the Indians to beat Gonzalez (11-11, 3.35 ERA), who has allowed five runs - three earned - over 30 1-3 innings while going 4-0 in five starts against them. The left-hander has given up two runs and struck out 20 in 19 2-3 innings while going 3-0 at Progressive Field.
After Gonzalez allowed one run in eight innings at Toronto on Aug. 20 to snap a personal five-game skid, he gave up four runs and walked three while laboring through 5 2-3 innings at Boston on Friday, but got credit for Oakland’s 15-5 win.
Hannahan has doubled and walked twice in three plate appearances against Gonzalez.
The right-hander didn’t pitch nearly that well Saturday, surrendering six runs in 6 1-3 innings while not factoring in the decision of an 8-7 victory over Kansas City.
Hideki Matsui(notes), 9 for 14 with a home run versus Carmona, had one of 12 hits Wednesday for the A’s (60-76), who went 1 for 14 with runners in scoring position and believed the game should have extended past the 16th.
Oakland has scored just 13 runs while losing five of six against the Indians in 2011, and now needs a win simply to avoid an embarrassing four-game sweep.
“It isn’t easy, that’s for sure,” Suzuki said. “But we have to do it. That’s our job. We should have scored more runs earlier (Wednesday).”