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Clutch bunt propels Indians in extras

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Yes, a clutch bunt. It’s 2020, just go with it.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Chicago White Sox David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Look:

Every so often we get a game that defies expectations such that we can’t quite comprehend what we just saw. Tonight, Carlos Santana motored from first to tie the game and a squeeze bunt from Delino DeShields Jr. drove the Indians past the White Sox in ten innings. Brad Hand tried to close it out in a downpour but with two on and one out the game entered a rain delay. About half an hour later Óliver Pérez recorded the final two outs and the Indians escaped Chicago with a 5-4 win.

I’m still not quite sure what to make of this one, and in that way it offered a little taste of everything 2020 from the Cleveland Indians.

The road to extra innings

The early game lived up to its billing as a duel between Shane Bieber and Lucas Giolito. While Bieber relied on his curveball to miss bats, Giolito started out with his fastball-changeup approach against the Tribe. Bieber really only made two major mistakes on the night, and both were crushed for solo home runs. The first was a curveball against José Abreu that leaked up and over; the second a center-cut fastball to Brian McCann. He surrendered the third run off of a Yasmani Grandal double. Despite these mishaps, Bieber struck out eight in six innings and allowed only four hits and two walks.

Giolito worked a bit differently tonight. While the fastball-changeup combo flummoxed them early, the Indians jumped on this approach in the third to score two. The Tribe had a chance to hang more on the board until Francisco Lindor grounded into a double play. After that inning, Giolito mixed in the rest of his repertoire and shut the Indians out until his removal after the seventh. He walked five batters along the way, but effectively wild is still effective, no?

The Indians tied it up at three in the eighth. Carlos Santana walked with two out. Franmil Reyes finally made the opposition pay for it when he crushed a liner into the gap. Santana scurried around the bases, never considering for a moment that he might not score.

That’s when the game reached ...

The Fateful Tenth Frame

That’s a terrible header and a poorly-executed segue, but I’m sticking with it.

José Ramírez apparated to second base with nobody out and Francisco Lindor at the plate. Lindor flied out, but not deep enough to advance the hamster. Carlos Santana followed and struck a hard grounder to the left side of the infield, away from the shift. Yoan Moncada stretched and gloved the ball, but bobbled it on the transfer, leaving runners at the corners. It scored as a hit, and I have to agree; it would have been a spectacular play had Moncada completed it.

That’s when Delino DeShields came to the plate. After taking the first pitch for a ball, he dropped a gorgeous bunt up the first base line. Ramírez broke for home. Abreu charged, barehanded, and flipped the ball to McCann, who spun and slapped down the tag. Ramirez’s batting helmet tumbled toward to grass around the plate as the umpire signaled, “safe”.

Somewhere, Terry Francona nodded in approval as a single tear slipped down his cheek. Mike Freeman singled home Carlos Santana before Sandy Leon grounded out to end their half of the tenth.

Brad Hand came on for the save, though he never got the opportunity to see it through. What began as a mild drizzle ratcheted up to rain and eventually a full-blown downpour. Hand struggled to grip the ball and keep his footing as the inning progressed, and the umpire paused the game to address this by ... wiping off home plate with a Gatorade towel. Hand allowed a single to McCann, which scored the ghost runner. Once he walked Danny Mendick the game finally entered a well-deserved delay. I’m not sure everyone wanted to go dry off, though:

Perhaps recalling a similar situation from 2016, Sandy Alomar opted to change pitchers after the rain delay. Óliver Pérez induced a popup before striking out a guy half his age to earn the save.

Tribe Time Tiddlywinks

  • Charlie Sheen is a big James Karinchak fan.
  • The right field ballboy booted a ball in the top of the fifth inning. This would have been embarrassing enough on its own; the ball happened to be fair. Cesar Hernandez earned a double as a result. Personally, I’d score it “E10”.
  • Carlos Santana has drawn twelve walks in the last four games. I believe he also owns more walks than the entire outfield has hits (though I guess that depends on how you count Mike Freeman). Someone needs to look up what the longest non-Bonds streak of multi-walk games is.
  • My dog began hiccuping at 11:30 p.m. and is still going strong. Note to self: No more pizza for dog.

The Indians take on the Cubs on Tuesday. It’s a strange week for the Tribe; they get off-days tomorrow, Thursday, and next Monday. I guess the extra time off is a blessing now that the Indians had a 1:00 p.m. start bumped to 7:00 p.m. then lasted until 11:00 p.m..

If they hustle to the plane, though, they might still beat Zach Plesac back to Cleveland.