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Oscar Mercado’s walkoff single leads Indians past Reds in extras

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The Tribe rookie delivered the Indians’ first extra-innings win of the season

Cincinnati Reds v Cleveland Indians Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

On a night that saw Carlos Santana homer and Trevor Bauer at least somewhat resemble his old self, it was Oscar Mercado who was the difference in the game. The Tribe’s rookie outfielder singled with the bases loaded in the bottom of the tenth inning to score the game-winning run and lead the Cleveland Indians past the Cincinnati Reds, 2-1, in extras.

Mercado’s late game heroics put a positive final note on what had been an otherwise abysmal night for the Indians’ lineup prior to the tenth inning. But before I get into that, credit where credit is due: It was the bottom of the lineup that sparked the Indians’ rally, with Mike Freeman drawing a walk and Leonys Martín putting runners at the corners with a one-out single. The Reds intentionally walked Francisco Lindor to load the bases and the rest is history.

Now, about that lineup.

No MLB lineup should be completely hopeless after the clean-up spot, but against the Reds the Tribe fielded such a lineup, with a José Ramírez impersonator batting fifth, followed by future Columbus resident Jake Bauers, Thomas Jane’s meta character from Arrested Development playing a character named Mike Freeman, and the flailing bat of Leonys Martín.

Collectively, that bunch was 1-for-21 on the night. I’ll accept the necessary evil of Freeman as the requisite utility infielder who needs to play every couple days to remind him how it feels to hold a bat, but as far as I’m concerned Bauers has more than earned a bus ride to Columbus, especially with Bobby Bradley awaiting a well-deserved call-up. And Martín can take his $3 million paycheck and add to his impressive strikeout collection somewhere else.

The shortcomings of the Indians’ lineup were most apparent in the bottom of the sixth inning. Francisco Lindor lined a double to the gap in right center to lead off the inning. Oscar Mercado grounded out to third, but Carlos Santana and Tyler Naquin both worked walks with two strikes to load the bases. Bases loaded with your No. 5 hitter at the plate and your No. 6 hitter on deck would generally be the ideal scenario for any other team, but not for this particular ballclub. José Ramírez, to his credit, fouled off six pitches before striking out in a nine-pitch at-bat. Bauers, on the other hand, stared at strike three to end the inning.

It was par for the course on a frustrating night that saw the Tribe nearly waste the strongest outing Trevor Bauer has had in quite some time. Free passes continued to be an issue, as Bauer walked five on the night, but his knuckle curve helped limit the Reds to six hits and one earned run. Cincinnati managed to scratch across their lone run against the Indians’ starter in the fifth inning. José Iglesias reached on an infield single that Freeman couldn’t corral, before eventually coming around to score on a Nick Senzel double off the wall in right center.

Implosion appeared imminent at the top of the seventh, when Yasiel Puig doubled to lead off the inning with a 78 mph golf shot to left center that popped out of the glove of a diving Oscar Mercado. After Josh VanMeter lined out to left, Bauer issued a free pass to José Iglesias on four pitches and then walked Tucker Barnhart on a full count to load the bases. With catastrophe all but certain, Nick Senzel grounded into a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning. Bauer responded with the obligatory fist pump as he walked off the field.

Both teams held serve until the tenth inning, when Mercado earned his postgame Gatorade bath. But I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that Brad Hand played a key role in keeping the Reds at bay and the scored tied, striking out four over two scoreless innings of work. I think an All-Star Game selection is in order for the Indians’ closer.