Covering the Bases: Game 18

Final:

Indians 3, Angels 2

FIRST: Remember how last year was the year of the walk-off and magic at home for the Indians? Well, after a rough start in Cleveland out of the gates, the Tribe finally had a reason to run on the field and celebrate like a bunch of kids again. In the bottom of the ninth, Asdrubal Cabrera beat a five-man infield shift with a game-winning single to right field, completing a three-run comeback for the Indians.

Cleveland had 12 walk-off wins in 2011, but this was the first for the ballclub this year. That said, the win improved the Tribe’s record in one-run games to 6-0 on the year. The Indians are the only team in baseball yet to have suffered a one-run loss. Say what you want about the team, but that’s impressive nearly a month in.

SECOND: In the eighth inning, with the game caught in a 2-2 tie, the Angels had Albert Pujols at the plate, a runner on second and first base open. After a brief mound visit from manager Manny Acta, Masterson pitched tp Pujols in a key confrontation in the game. Pujols took a two-seamer inside for a ball and then swung at an 81-mph offspeed pitch to pop out into foul ground.

“He’s our No. 1. He’s throwing the ball good,” Acta said. “If there is ever a time where you might pitch to Albert in that situation, it’s right now. He’s scuffling a little bit. … It was a situation where it was, ‘Hey, you’re our No. 1. Go after him.’ He was strong enough to get him out.”

Pujols is hitting .225 and he hasn’t homered in a career-high 109 at-bats, dating back to Sept. 22 last season. Acta also noted that Kendrys Morales — a switch hitter — was on deck and would’ve hit lefty. Masterson’s splits are much better against righties, so it made sense to pitch to Pujols. And it worked.

THIRD: Masterson left the game with runners on first and second base with one out in the ninth inning and the game still tied. Acta could’ve have stayed with the big sinkerballer, but the the manager “needed somebody to strike somebody out.” Enter Vinnie Pestano, who did the trick with back-to-back punchouts of Vernon Wells and Erick Aybar. On the third strike to Aybar, catcher Carlos Santana gave a huge fist pump as the crowd erupted. You can argue all you want about momentum in baseball (and I’m among those who isn’t a big believer in it), but that moment undoubtedly had the Tribe pumped up heading into the bottom of the ninth.

HOME: The Indians won, but the offense still had some struggles. For one, the Tribe squandered a bases-loaded chance in the first inning. With that, Cleveland slipped to 3-for-22 with the bases loaded this year and 0-for-10 with the bases loaded and two outs. The Tribe stranded 11 and ran into a few outs on the bases. In all, Cleveland collected 15 hits and drew four walks, but managed only three runs out of all that traffic. All of that said, the Indians did go 5-for-10 with runner in scoring position and the team did pull out a win.

They also did so without a home run, making it nine games, 84 innings and 303 at-bats since the Tribe’s last blast. Not that anyone is counting.

On deck:

Angels (6-14) at Indians (10-8)
at 1:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at Progressive Field

–JB

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