Second Thoughts Game #41: Indians 5, Mariners 4
Tribe gets their second straight walk-off win, after Perez blows the save
Player of the Game: Mark Reynolds (2-for-5 with a HR, 3 RBI and the game’s winning hit)
Less than 24 hours after second baseman Jason Kipnis sent more than 34,000 fans home on a walk-off three-run homer Friday night, the Indians got some more late inning heroics Saturday afternoon courtesy of third baseman Mark Reynolds.
With the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the ninth, Reynolds delivered on a game-winning infield fielder's choice to give the Tribe the 5-4 win and their third straight victory. While Indians starter Zach McAllister came within one out away from notching his fourth win of the season, the right-hander gave Cleveland another great outing going 7 1/3 innings, lowering his ERA to a team best 2.65 ERA.
Cleveland now owns the best record in all of baseball since April 20, as the team is 19-7 in their last 26 games and 16-4 in their last 20.
Late Inning Magic
There is absolutely nothing more magical in baseball than a walk-off hit. No matter what month the calendar it may be, April to October, there’s something special about knocking in the game-winning run and falling victim of a team mob scene shortly thereafter.
Reynolds’ walk-off hit was the Indians' fourth off the season and second in their last two games. Three of the four game winning hits have come on Friday night, where the team is an undefeated 3-0 at Progressive Field.
What has made the Tribe into the first place team they have become is their ability to win in close ballgames. In terms of one-run games, the Indians own the best record in the MLB with an 11-3 record.
Perez blows the save
With the Tribe up 4-2 with two outs in the ninth, closer Chris Perez gave up back-to-back solo homers to Seattle outfielder Raul Ibanez and first baseman Justin Smoak to tie the game. For the two-time All-Star, it was just his second blown save of the year and first since Apr. 3.
Coming into the game having given up just one run in 14 innings, it’s tough to get on Perez for his blown save being close to perfect prior to the two long balls on Saturday. Like any time the right-hander blows a game late, fans were quick to respond to the right-hander on social media.
Even with the team sitting at the top of the American League Central Division, the love-hate relationship between fans and Perez still and for the most part will always remain.
Let’s face it, the closer is a “Firestarter.”
E Z-Mac does it again
For a second, I thought Tribe ace Justin Masterson was on the mound Saturday afternoon.
That’s how good Indians starter Zach McAllister has pitched of late as he continues to impress with yet another stellar pitching performance. The six-foot-six right-hander went 7 1/3 innings giving up just two runs on six hits to Mariners hitters. While he wasn’t able to pick up the win after Perez’s blown save, McAllister has given both fans and the organization optimism in terms of the Tribe’s starting pitching going forward.
There has been almost a friendly competition between McAllister and Justin Masterson for the top spot in the Indians rotation. While Masterson has the title as the ace of the staff, both have essentially been frontline starters so far this season, owning a combined record of 9-5 and an ERA of just 2.90.
I know it’s way too early to talk postseason, but fans could be looking at the potential game two starter should the Tribe make the playoffs in October.
In eight starts this season spanning 51 innings, McAllister has yet to allow more than three earned runs in a ballgame. Over his last four starts, he is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA.
Driving in three of Cleveland’s five runs in the ballgame, including the game’s winning run was none other than Reynolds. His three RBI on the afternoon bring his season total to 37, as he now trails league leader Miguel Cabrera by just five runs batted in. Reynolds continues to be a powerful force in the lineup game after game, something the Indians haven’t had from the right-side of the plate since outfielder Manny Ramirez.
With his solo blast in the fifth inning, the right-handed slugger now leads all of Major League Baseball with 12 home runs and is now on pace to slug 47 dingers by season’s end.
Having signed just a one-year deal this offseason, I have a question for all you Tribe fans. If Reynolds could sign an extension with Cleveland before hitting the free agent market, would you sign him? If so, let’s say he wants a deal for 4 years, $60 million…would you give the soon to be 30-year-old $15 million per season?
My answer: Whatever it takes to do it, sign him.
Top of the lineup heats up
It wasn’t long ago that fans were calling for possible changes at the top of the Cleveland lineup. In all fairness, the top of the lineup was struggling, but over the last nine games all Kipnis and Cabrera have done is hit.
Here are the two infielder’s offensive numbers just nine games ago:
Kipnis (24 games) .220 with three homers and 11 RBI
Cabrera (30 games) .221 with four homers and 15 RBI
In the nine games since, the dynamic double play duo have been sizzling offensively.
Kipnis (last 9 games) .333 with three doubles, four homers, and 13 RBI
Cabrera (last 9 games) .316 with three doubles, a triple, and five RBI
Now hitting a solid .250 on the season, Kipnis has the most RBI in the American League since the start of May with 19 RBI, while his double play partner in Cabrera has bumped his average up to .245.
With the win and a Detroit Tigers loss, the Indians (24-17) move into sole possession of first place in the AL Central Division for the first time since June 22 of last season. One game in front of their division rivals, the team is also a season-high seven games over the .500 mark for the first time since May 25, 2012.
Up next for the Indians: Cleveland will look to win their fifth series in the last three weeks Sunday afternoon in what has the looks to be a pitcher’s duel in the making, as Indians ace Justin Masterson (6-2, 3.14 ERA) takes the hill versus Mariners ace Felix Hernandez (5-2, 1.53 ERA) at 1:05 p.m. Masterson is an undefeated 3-0 with a 3.67 ERA against Seattle in his career, while King Felix has a career record of 6-4 against the Indians sporting a 2.90 ERA.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.