Aviles gives Cleveland a 4-3 walk-off win over Twins
Great defense and another quality start help Indians win two straight
CLEVELAND—History is known to repeat itself.
For Indians second baseman Mike Aviles, history did just that Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
Knotted up in a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the ninth, Aviles lined a walk-off single to center field off Twins reliever Casey Fien to give the Tribe a 4-3 win over Minnesota. A much needed victory for Cleveland (15-19), having won two straight in the four-game series.
“It definitely feels good,” Aviles said. “Wins haven’t been too often for us early in the season, so definitely feels good to get one and doesn’t really matter how it happens.”
The hit comes exactly three years to the day Aviles helped his former ballclub Kansas City win a game on a walk-off sacrifice fly back on May 7, 2011.
Filling in for the injured Jason Kipnis at second base, Aviles went 3-for-4 on the night to quietly raise his batting average to .302 on the season.
“I wasn’t trying to do too much. Just trying to get a bloop hit, honestly,” Aviles said. “Just trying to get a base-hit because in that situation, all you need is a base-hit. Pretty much just putting the ball in play and trying to do something to help us win. I was fortunate enough I had the outcome I wanted.”
The 33-year-old infielder has been hot at the plate over his last six games, hitting an even .500 (9-for-18) with an RBI.
“I told him he owed me three hits today,” Michael Brantley said. “He got a pair of Jordan’s today so I said, ‘Hey I want three hits today.’ He said okay, so that was the third one and we made it work. It was a great win for the team.”
For the second straight night, it was Brantley that put the first runs on the board for the Tribe in the third inning. After two quick outs by Twins starter Ricky Nolasco, Aviles and Nyjer Morgan hit back-to-back singles before the right-hander walked Nick Swisher to load up the bases for Brantley.
Coming through in the clutch so many times already this year, the left fielder lined a two-run double down the right field line to give the Indians a 2-1 lead. Brantley extends his hitting streak to seven straight games, now leading the team with 26 RBI.
“I really don’t try to change anything. Bases empty or guys on, it don’t matter,” he said. “I just try and put a good swing on the ball. It’s a pressure situation but I don’t let it get to me.”
Brantley also has now hit in 11 straight home games, batting .381 with three homers and 11 RBI.
“Anytime you can get your three-hole guy up there, it’s always good,” Aviles said. “Something that people don’t really realize is, he kind of flies under the radar. Not many people know much about him, but he has such a consistent approach. It’s actually pretty enjoyable to watch on a daily basis.”
Yan Gomes extended the Indians lead to 3-1 in the fifth, leading off the inning with a solo home run off Nolasco. For awhile, it looked as though that would be all the runs Tribe starter Danny Salazar would need, as the right-hander went a strong 6 1/3 innings in his fifth start, allowing one and striking out seven.
Minnesota jumped on Salazar first in the third inning on a RBI double by Brian Dozier that gave the Twins the early one run lead. It could’ve been worse for Salazar, as he was picked up by a stellar defensive gem by Morgan who robbed extra bases from Josmil Pinto leaping at the wall in center field.
“They were really trying to be aggressive on his fastball, but he mixed it up enough and he competed like crazy,” manager Terry Francona said. “We needed that. I thought we did some things tonight defensively. It’s hard to chart it, but I think we took maybe five or six hits away.”
Diving catches by Aviles and Carlos Santana stuck out along with Morgan’s grab, giving Cleveland their best game defensively of the year.
“What we try to talk about so much is to just play the game,” Francona said. “When you’re scuffling somewhere, if you can pick it up somewhere else, it makes you feel better. If you’re just worried about your at-bats, it makes the game harder.”
“It is hard, but when you can go out and do other things, it not only helps you, but it helps the team. It just works.”
Just like the Indians four other starters before him, Salazar put in the work Wednesday, giving the ballclub their fifth consecutive quality start. The 24-year-old was lifted for reliever Bryan Shaw in the seventh inning after giving up back-to-back hits to Pinto and Eduardo Escobar.
Both Twins hitters came around to score on a RBI single by Danny Santana and a sac fly by Dozier that tied the game up at three apiece.
“They came back and tied it, but we didn’t let them take the lead,” Francona said. “When you get to hit last, you always feel like you have a chance.”
A chance is what Escobar gave them, having a ball hit by Asdrubal Cabrera bounce off his glove in left field for a leadoff double. Three batters later, Aviles gave the Indians their first walk-off win of the season.
Tossing a scoreless top of the ninth, John Axford (1-3, 4.50) notches his first victory as a member of the Indians.
Winning three of their last five, starting pitching continues to be the key for the Tribe of late. Starters are 2-0 with a 1.30 ERA over their last five games, surrendering just five earned runs in 34 2/3 innings.
“It definitely makes a big difference,” Aviles said. “They’re going out there and pitching deep into the game and unfortunately we haven’t been able to win all those games. They’ve done a great job of giving us an opportunity to win and hopefully things continue to go that way.”
After scoring three runs or fewer in three of their last 11 games, Cleveland has scored four runs in back-to-back games. Since the start of last season, the club is a remarkable 86-21 when scoring four runs or more in a ballgame.
Up next for Indians: After dropping the series opener, the Tribe looks to take the series with Minnesota Thursday afternoon at 12:05 p.m. Staff ace Justin Masterson (1-1, 4.01 ERA) gets the start against Twins right-hander Kevin Correia (1-3, 6.09 ERA).
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Only problem is that we'll be playing better offensive teams than the Twns.
Need a win today to take the series.
Great game by Brantley with the two-out, two-run double and a perfect throw to nail Colavello on a double into the corner.
For once the defense helped out the pitching instead of torpedoing it, although Gomes uncorked another bad throw to second and allowed yet another strikeout victim to reach first.