Indians win three-game series with Orioles, rally for 6-4 win
Tribe victorious with timely hitting, and from lucky farm animal
CLEVELAND—There would be no need to sacrifice a live chicken to give the Tribe a victory Wednesday night.
Before the rubber match against the Orioles, the team got an unexpected September call-up from the farm. Reliever Cody Allen and other members of the bullpen brought in a chicken to try and keep the team loose.
The “rally chicken” seemed to help.
With the game tied at four, the Indians struck for two runs in the home half of the fifth to secure a 6-4 series clinching win over Baltimore. The victory also gives the Wahoo's the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage against the O’s, winning the season series 4-3.
“This was a big game for us,” starter Zach McAllister said. “We needed to get this win and our offense was great tonight and really stepped up for us.
Cleveland (74-65) remains 3.5 games in back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the final A.L. wild card spot despite the win, but move 6.5 games behind Detroit for first place in the Central Division.
Orioles starter Zach Britton (2-3, 4.76 ERA) had nothing working for him early on in the ballgame. Recently called up from Triple-A, Britton loaded up the bases with no outs in the first inning.
The Tribe offense took advantage of it, exploding for a four run first inning as all four runs came courtesy of usual members of the bench, the Goon Squad.
“They’ve been some of our most productive players,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “That’s a big reason why we are where we are, they’ve done more than just fill in the gaps.”
Catcher Yan Gomes got things started with a RBI single before Ryan Raburn added a two-run double down the right field line two batters later to put the team up by three. Third baseman Mike Aviles also got in on the action as well, with an RBI base hit to give him 40 RBI on the season.
The squad accounted for five of the team’s six runs on the night. Scoring six runs on 10 hits, the Indians collect double-digit hits for the first time since August 19.
McAllister (7-8, 3.97 ERA) pitched great early on in his 20th start of the year. Despite serving up a solo homer to Orioles center fielder Adam Jones in the fourth, Z-Mac cruised though the first four frames, allowing just the one run on two hits, striking out six.
Trouble would reach the right-hander in the fifth after a two out walk to Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts. The walk proved costly one batter later when All-Star Manny Machado flew the coop, belting a three-run homer to tie the game at four.
The hit also ended McAllister’s night, finishing the ballgame going only 4 2/3 innings and giving up all four runs on five hits.
“I fell behind some hitters and they made me pay for it,” McAllister said. “Can’t really fall behind a team like that and get the results that you want.”
He is 3-3 with a 4.72 ERA in his last nine starts since returning from the disabled list.
Like they have all season long, Cleveland never found themselves walking on eggshells, as the team clawed their way back a half inning later.
Taking over for Britton in the third, Orioles top prospect Kevin Gausman (2-4, 5.77 ERA) ran into a suddenly surging Indians offense, and an even hotter catcher.
Gomes came through again, this time on a RBI double down the left field line to give Cleveland a one-run lead. Gausman also helped the Tribe add an insurance run on a wild pitch, and the team never looked back.
“It’s exciting that the more he’s played, there hasn’t not been drop-offs,” Francona said of Gomes. “He allows us to DH Carlos and allows us to do different things.”
The catcher has now hit in five straight games, batting .388 (7-for-18) with five RBI over that stretch.
Closer Chris Perez notched his 22nd save with an easy ninth, as Cleveland wraps up their seventh series win since the All-Star break.
With 120 saves as a member of the Indians, Perez is just 19 saves away from breaking the franchise saves record set by Bob Wickman in 2006.
Even after a big series win, the talk of the clubhouse remained on the “rally chicken.”
“I tell you what, if we get on a roll, that’s probably going to be our mascot,” Raburn said. “We’re going to have to keep that sucker. May have to get him his own locker I guess.”
Francona has other ideas.
“That chicken is going to be returned safely,” the Tribe skipper said. “I’m alright with it as long as we win or whatever what it takes, but I don’t know about farm animals.”
No matter the animal, team chemistry continues to go a long way.
“I love it,” Francona said. “We’re trying to have fun and that’s best way to be a good team. It’s a good atmosphere.”
Signing a two-year extension with the Tribe last month, Raburn agrees.
“It’s just a good group of guys we got here, everybody gets along great,” he said. “I’ve had a blast. Signing that contract means that much more to me, it’s nice to be able to come to the ball field and have fun everyday that I come here."
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.