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Nationals win after mulligan in the ninth

The SportsXchange

CLEVELAND -- The popup that wasn't caught led to the home run that Anthony Rendon will never forget.

Given a reprieve when his routine pop foul wasn't caught, Rendon belted his first major-league home run with two outs in the ninth inning to lift the Washington Nationals to a 7-6 win over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night at Progressive Field.

With the score tied 6-6, two outs and nobody on base, Rendon lifted a pop foul behind first base. Indians first baseman Nick Swisher appeared to be in position to make the catch for the third out, but at the last instant he pulled away, apparently thinking second baseman Jason Kipnis was going to make the catch.

The ball fell into foul territory on what was ruled an error on Swisher.

"I thought (Swisher) was going to catch it. I actually thought it was going to go fair; that's why I kept running," Rendon said.

"It was a little miscommunication. Sometimes you hear things out there," Swisher said. "It shouldn't happen to us, but it did and it cost us the game."

Kipnis offered the same explanation as Swisher: "Miscommunication. I thought he was going to take it, and he thought I was going to take it. It's probably a ball I should take charge of."

It didn't take long for the Nationals to take advantage of getting an extra out. Rendon pounded the next pitch from reliever Vinnie Pestano (1-2) over the right-field wall for his first major-league homer, giving Washington a 7-6 lead.

"I guess it's not a bad one to get on the board with," Rendon said. "I don't even know how to explain it."

Rafael Soriano pitched the bottom of the ninth to pick up his 18th save, preserving the win for fellow reliever Craig Stammen (5-2).

"When you give a team extra opportunities like that, that's a heartbreaker," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

Especially since it ruined a rousing Cleveland comeback. The Indians fell behind 5-0 after the top of the third inning, but mounted a comeback capped by a three-run fifth inning that gave them a 6-5 lead.

After Cleveland starter Scott Kazmir was chased in the third inning, relievers Matt Albers and Brian Shaw held Washington scoreless for four innings, which allowed the Indians to climb back in the game and take the lead.

However, Joe Smith, whose 1.16 ERA is the lowest on the Indians' staff, gave up a game-tying home run in the eighth inning. With two outs and nobody on base, Washington pinch-hitter Chad Tracy belted an 0-2 pitch from Smith into the Cleveland bullpen in center field for his second home run of the season, both of them coming as a pinch-hitter.

Tracy's home run tied it at 6-6.

"Joe just didn't locate that pitch. It was a misfire," Francona said.

The Nationals jumped on Kazmir early and often as three of the first six batters hit home runs. Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth belted back-to-back homers in the first inning and Ian Desmond led off the second with Washington's third solo homer of the game.

Kazmir never made it out of the third, in which he gave up a double and then walked three of the next four batters before being removed. He pitched a season-low 2 2/3 innings.

"He was either off the plate or he got too much of the plate," Francona said. "His velocity was good, but he couldn't command it."

The Indians used the long ball to mount a comeback. Mike Aviles doubled and scored on a single by Kipnis off Nationals starter Jordan Zimmerman in the third. In the fourth, Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds hit back-to-back, two-out home runs to cut Cleveland's deficit to 5-3.

The Indians took a 6-5 lead in the fifth with a two-out, three-run rally that included an RBI single by Swisher and a two-run double by Michael Brantley.

NOTES: The Indians announced the signing of their top draft pick, Georgia high school outfielder Clint Frazier, the fifth overall pick. ... Ubaldo Jimenez, who was scheduled to make his next start on Monday against Kansas City, asked to have his start moved back one day, which the Indians have done. Carlos Carrasco will now start Monday and Jimenez on Tuesday. ... Desmond has played 48 consecutive errorless games, the longest current streak of any shortstop in the majors.
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