Covering the Bases: Game 38

Final:

Indians 6, Mariners 5 (11 innings)

FIRST: I am aware that Brandon League saved 37 games last year and made the American League All-Star team along the way. I’ve even heard lots of people rave about the right-handed sinkerballer as one of the top closers in the game. The thing is… I haven’t seen that guy.

When I covered League in Toronto from 2005-09, he was that reliever that the organization always pumped as a future closer, but never trusted him with that role. During the course of his Blue Jays career, he had a 4.09 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP.

Since I’ve moved to the Indians beat, I’ve seen League in the closer role for the Mariners, but I’ve only seen rough outing after rough outing. League has four blown saves in the past two seasons against the Tribe and seven blown saves in nine career chances against Cleveland.

So, again, I keep hearing that he’s good. Haven’t seen it. Hey, Brandon. Maybe it’s not you. It’s me. And, for what it’s worth, the Indians seem to be licking their chops when they have a chance to take him on these days.

“I think it’s probably in his mind, too,” Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “We know that we’ve done it off him before and I think we know we can do it again. Doing it off him before means guys have seen him and guys have had success against him. I think people are pretty confident when they go up to the plate against him.”

League’s 11th inning on Thursday went: walk (Jose Lopez), strikeout (Shin-Soo Choo), walk (Kipnis), RBI single (Asdrubal Cabrera), walk (Aaron Cunningham) and walk-off single (Carlos Santana). That’s how a game can swing from 5-4 Seattle to 6-5 Cleveland in a few minutes.

SECOND: Why was Cunningham included in that sequence? DH Travis Hafner was hit on the right hand by a pitch from Charlie Furbush in the ninth inning and later exited when he had trouble gripping a bat due to swelling. Hafner did not undergo an X-ray and both he and manager Manny Acta were confident that the DH might be recovered enough to play on Friday.

Worth noting: with that hit-by-pitch, Hafner set the Indians franchise record by being hit 80 times over the course of a career. The previous mark of 79 by Nap Lajoie stood for 98 years. Asked what kind of reward he gets for setting that record, Hafner quipped: “A bucket of ice, I think.”

THIRD: Santana’s walk-off single will steal the ledes, headlines and photos, but it was the work of Cabrera and Lopez that really fueled the offense in this one.

Cabrera delivered RBI singles in both the seventh (off reliever Lucas Luetge) and 11th (off League) innings for the Tribe. His seventh-inning single  snapped Cleveland out of the early nap it took against Mariners righty Hector Noesi (6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R)

“That got us going,” Acta said. “I think the energy level kind of rose up there.”

Down 4-1 in the eighth inning, and with two runners on base, Lopez crushed a 2-0 pitch from Steve Delabar to left field, where it barely cleared the 19-foot wall. Lopez was not sure if it was a home run at first, so much so that he missed first base while on the run.

“I knew for sure it was a double,” Lopez said. “I didn’t hit it very good, but I was sure it was a double. I knew we’d get two runs. I didn’t know how far it would go. It was close. I didn’t even touch first base, because I was looking at the ball.”

No harm done.

HOME: Today’s tip o’ the cap goes to right-hander Zch McAllister, who fought his way through 5 2/3 innings for the Indians. E-Z Mac was uncharacteristically off his game — he walked five after entering the day with one walk in 13 innings — but did all he could to limit the damage. The result was four runs (three earned) allowed on three hits. McAllister labored with his control, but still kept the Indians within striking distance.

“Tat makes a big difference for me,” McAllister said, “knowing I can kind of battle through some games where I’m not throwing my best and do my best to keep the team in the game. I was able to do that today and they came back huge and got a big win.”

The passed ball that led to a run in the fifth? Santana called for a curve and McAllister sent him a fastball. No worries. The two got together between innings to go over where their signals got mixed up.

On deck:

Marlins (20-17)* at Indians (22-16)
at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday at Progressive Field

*Doesn’t include Thursday’s result

–JB

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