Indians squeeze by Oakland 4-3, notch their third straight win
Tribe and Masterson send team to another big victory after controversial call
Just when you thought you’ve see it all in Major League Baseball, you really haven’t.
Coming into the ballgame winners of eight of their last nine, the Indians stayed red hot on Wednesday, as they won their third straight over the Oakland Athletics 4-3. Another team victory was thanks in large part to more great starting pitching and a little luck.
With the Tribe clinging to a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the ninth, manager Terry Francona called on closer Chris Perez to notch his second save in the last two games. Perez got two quick outs before Oakland shortstop Adam Rosales stepped to the plate and delivered.
“I thought it was a homer right off the bat,” Perez said. “It sounded like a home run.”
The umpire crew and head umpire Angel Hernandez thought diifferent initially, as they called Rosales’ hit high off the left field wall a double. Athletics manager Bob Melvin argued and the umpire crew reviewed it using instant replay.
Created in Major League Baseball in 2008, instant replay gives umpires the ability to check video replay to look at home runs and correctly call them. Or so Oakland thought.
As replay on the screens around Progressive Field showed the ball hit the railing over the wall in left field, Hernandez and the umpires saw different, still calling the hit a double.
“When it was hit, I was pulling back so darn hard it had to carry me with it,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said.
Melvin was ejected just seconds after the botched call, and was in shock of what Hernandez told him.
"He said it was inconclusive,” Melvin said. [The umpires] are the only four people in the ballpark who could say that's inconclusive. Everybody else said it was a home run, including their announcers when I came in here later and watched the replay. I don't get it.”
With Rosales at second with a double, Perez walked the bases loaded before getting left fielder Seth Smith to groundout to him to steal the win and pickup his fifth save.
“Obviously coming back in here, I saw different,” Perez admitted. “But luckily the call came in our favor. It’s part of the game and we’ll take it.”
“I don't know what the explanation would be when everybody else in the ballpark knew it was a home run,” Melvin said. When I looked at it later, clearly it hit the railing behind. I'm at a loss. A complete loss.''
Despite the call for the Indians and the 11,125 fans at the ballpark, they saw Cleveland sneak by with the team’s ninth win in their last 10 games.
For the 8 2/3 innings prior to the replay controversy, Wednesday was yet another stellar outing by a Tribe starting pitcher, this time ace Justin Masterson (5-2, 3.67 ERA). The hard-throwing right-hander threw seven solid innings, giving up three runs on just four hits, walking two and striking out seven.
“He came out with a really explosive fastball,” Francona said. “He did fall behind a little bit, but to his credit, he squared up some balls. Once we clawed our way back that’s when he balanced back in.”
Masterson is now tied for second in the American League with five wins on the season. He also improves his record to 2-1 in four starts at Progressive Field.
“They took some good swings off me,” Masterson said. “But the boys did a great job, played some great defense and came back to give us hope.”
After silencing Oakland bats to no hits through the first three innings, the A’s jumped on Masterson in the fourth. Athletics hitters slugged out four hits in the inning, none bigger than right fielder Brandon Moss’s two-run single to put Oakland up 3-0.
Although the Tribe was just 3-12 coming into the ballgame when not scoring the game’s first run, Cleveland battled their way back late.
Oakland starter A.J. Griffin (3-3, 3.83 ERA) held the Indians bats quiet as the right-hander gave up just two hits through the first four innings. It wasn’t until the fifth inning that the Tribe offense heated up.
Carlos Santana and Ryan Raburn led off the inning with walks before third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall singled to load the bases. Much like home run replay, the Indians benefited from missed opportunities, this time by the Athletics.
Cleveland scored two runs on a throwing error by Rosales in what was a fielder’s choice by Michael Brantely. With the offense held in check through the first half of the game, the Indians completed the victory in the category they lead all of baseball in: The home run.
First baseman Nick Swisher launched his fourth homer of the season off Griffin to start the frame, before Santana put the Tribe up for good with a solo shot of his own deep into the night.
“It’s kind of like that never die attitude,” Swisher said of the win. “It kind of seems like whatever obstacle is ahead of us we just take it head on. It’s some of the reasons why I came over here. This team is fun to watch and we have a lot of talent in this room. Just to be part of that has been great.”
The Indians now move to a season-high three games over .500 with a record of 17-14.
“Our record is what it is,” Francona said. “If you play good baseball things will continue to mount.”
For the Tribe first baseman, it was another great team win all around.
“You got to get contributions from everybody one through nine especially when you’re going on streaks like this,” Swisher said. “For me the entire key for everything that has been going on has been our starting pitching. These guys have done such a tremendous job, they deserve all the credit.
“For all that talk everyone was doing in the offseason about our starting pitching, these boys should shut some people up.”
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Perez hasn't been getting much work so far this year. He might get sharper once he starts getting regular appearances.