Zach "All or Nothing" Walters came through again tonight.
Tribe improves to 67-63
The Tribe entered tonight's game with a chance to get to four games above .500, a mark they hadn't reached all season. They'd gotten to three games over twice before, but lost their next game both times. It's going to take something better than four games over .500 to get a playoff spot, and so it'd be nice to clear that hurdle before the end of August.
Things looked good early, especially considering the Indians were facing a lefty. Michael Bourn led off the game with a ground-rule double. Francona of course bunted him over to third base, because his compulsion to give away outs keeps growing stronger and stronger as the season progresses. Michael Brantley was hit by a pitch, but Carlos Santana made Chicago pay by spaning a double to deep left, putting the Tribe on the board. Two more would score that inning. Chicago scored two in the bottom half of the inning, but the Indians got one of them right back on a ground-rule double by Brantley in the 2nd, making it a 4-2 game.
T.J. House was making his way through the game in fine fifth-starter fashion, giving up a lot of base runners, but also getting help from a pair of double play balls, and giving up just two runs through four innings. He gave up a double and a single in the 5th though, and while he was an out away from escaping the inning with the lead still in hand, he never got that out. Instead, Chicago's Alexei Ramirez hit a 2-run homer, putting the Tribe behind.
That brought the game to the top of the 6th, one of the stupider half innings I've seen in a while. The Indians put the first two men on base, which of course led to the bunt being put on. Tyler Holt couldn't get it down though, and having given himself two strikes with failed attempts, he struck out once the bunt was called off. Roberto Perez lined a single up the middle, which should have tied the game, but instead put the Indians ahead because White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton misplayed the ball horribly. Perez should have made it to third, but he's slow, so he stopped at second. Up next, Bourn singled, which should have put runners on first and third with one out, but Perez is slow, so third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh sent him. (You're right, that sentence doesn't make any sense.) Perez was out at the plate, Jose Ramirez struck out, and that was that. At least they'd gotten the lead back though.
Chicago tied the game back up in the 7th, and it eventually made its way to extra innings. Lonnie Chisenhall pinch hit for Mike Aviles to lead off the 10th, and doubled. Zach Walters is just about the only guy on the team Francona doesn't want bunting, so "All or Nothing" (as Walters is known to his friends) swung away instead, and this time he came up "All," putting one over the wall to give the Indians an 8-6 lead. Bryan Shaw, who'd already gotten the final out f the 8th and pitched a 1-2-3 9th, stayed in the game (Francona must have been torn between his impulse to make as many pitching changes as possible and his desire to use Bryan Shaw as much as possible) and pitched a 1-2-3 10th, giving the Indians a series-opening win.
Kansas City and Detroit won tonight too, so the Indians didn't gain any ground in the AL Central, and as I write this Seattle is ahead by five runs in the 6th, so the Indians likely won't gain any ground in the Wild Card race either. They didn't lose ground either though, and they've now got their best record of the season.
Win Expectancy Chart:
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