Carson sends Tribe home with a much needed walk-off win
Jimenez pitches another gem, as journeyman keeps team in wild card hunt
CLEVELAND—It took 11 innings, but the Carson show was on live at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario Thursday night.
With the bases loaded and the game knotted at one apiece in the eleventh, right fielder Matt Carson knocked in the game-winning run with a walk-off base hit, giving the Tribe the 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros.
“For me, that was kind of pinnacle for me at this point in my career,” Carson said. “To do it for a playoff team like we have and get a win that we needed, it was tops for me.”
With the walk-off win, the Indians (83-70) remain just a half game behind both the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays for the two A.L. wild card spots.
“We’ll take any win anyway we can,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said. “He’s a kid that comes to spring training does a great job and everyone likes him, goes to Triple-A the whole year and has now come up and impacted the major league club. It’s kind of rewarding to see a good kid get rewarded like that and get a hit.”
The Tribe offense didn’t waste any time against the worst team in baseball, jumping out to the early lead on a RBI single by Jason Kipnis in the first off Astros starter Dallas Keuchel (6-9, 4.99 ERA).
Despite giving up 11 earned runs over his last two starts, the Houston southpaw settled in against a quiet Cleveland offense. After allowing a run on two hits in the first, Keuchel surrendered just five more hits through his next six scoreless innings, without letting a runner to reach second base.
Houston came right back in a half inning later in the second off Tribe starter Ubaldo Jimenez (12-9, 3.39 ERA), on a sac fly by right fielder L.J. Hoes to tie the game at one.
Like his counterpart, Jimenez also dialed in to give the Indians yet another dominant performance. Throwing seven innings, the right-hander allowed the one run on six hits walking none and striking out nine.
“We’re leaning on him and I think he’s enjoying it,” Francona said. “He’s answering the bell every five days and he’s been consistent with his stuff, that’s encouraging.”
Over his first 205 career starts, Jimenez had never had an outing with at least nine strikeouts without giving up any walks. Yet he’s accomplished the feat in three of his last five starts.
“The way Ubaldo pitched for us today, it’s kind of a shame you want to give the guy a win for something like that,” first baseman Nick Swisher said. “But for him to go out and do the job that he did, every time he takes the hill we have the upmost confidence in him.”
Jimenez is now 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA over his last four starts, allowing just two earned runs over his last 28 1/3 innings.
It wasn’t until the eighth inning that the Tribe boasted a chance to take the lead late in the ballgame. Singles by Jason Kipnis and Swisher put two on with one out, and Francona decided to lift his switch-hitter for pinch runner Jose Ramirez, despite Swisher collecting his fourth hit of the ballgame.
“We needed to try and win there,” Francona said.”He had gotten all those hits right-handed and they were done with left-handed pitchers. We had enough guys on the bench where in a normal course of the year you probably can’t do that, but with extra guys you feel a little bit better.”
The move ultimately didn’t payoff, as Astros reliever Kevin Chapman struck out both Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes to end the threat.
Houston quickly got their own rally going, getting the bases loaded against Tribe closer Chris Perez with one out in the ninth. Like Chapman, Perez worked his magic to also strikeout the final to Astros hitters to end the inning.
“Once he wavered, he reeled it in and made some really good pitches,” Francona said. “He has a way of doing that. Everybody might be nervous except for him, because when he gets in that position it seems like he makes his best pitches.”
Two innings later in extras, the night quickly belonged to a 32-year old journey man in Carson as he took a fastball from Houston right-hander Rhiner Cruz passed a diving Jose Altuve to win the ballgame.
Carson was mobbed on the infield grass by his teammates after the game.
“It’s the greatest feeling,” he said. “I’ve done it plenty of times going out for other guys, but to be the guy being mobbed this time, it felt good. “As long as I can help the team anyway I can, that’s what I’m here to do.”
Owning a career .211 average (35-for-166) in 72 major league games prior to this season, the journeyman has spent time with the Oakland A’s and Minnesota Twins before signing a minor league deal with the Tribe this past winter.
“I’ve crisscrossed the country quite a few times playing this game, at all different levels,” Carson said. “It’s been a good journey. There have been lots of low points, but its baseball there’s going to be ups and downs.”
The right-handed hitter has been a hitting machine since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus, batting .750 (6-for-8) with one homer, two RBI and three runs scored. He hit .252 with 14 home runs and 49 RBI in 121 games as a member of the Clippers this season.
“It was a long one but we’ll take it,” Swisher said. “Playing teams like this, they have a lot of guys over there playing really hard for next year and things like that. For us, we just need to keep our eye on the prize and keep winning ballgames.”
At the plate, Swisher did just that, tying a career-high going 4-for-4 Thursday night. Ironically, the last time the switch-hitter collected four hits in a game was back on April 20 against the same Houston Astros.
“Every game we play from here on out is huge,” Swisher said. “It’s so tight, that wild card made everything a lot more interesting down the stretch. To be one of those teams actually fighting for that spot, it makes it even more interesting.
Just nine games remain on the regular season schedule as the team looks to clinch its first playoff berth since 2007.
“Not only are we excited, I think the city should be excited and all Cleveland Indians fans,” Swisher said. “We got a scrappy group over here and it’s going to interesting to see what happens at the end.”
Zach McAllister (8-9, 3.96 ERA) will look to keep the momentum alive Friday night against Houston left-hander Brett Oberholzer (4-3, 2.98 ERA). Since returning from the disabled list on July 23, McAllister is 4-4 with a 4.55 ERA over his last 11 starts.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.