Entering tonight, Brewers reliever Josh Hader hadn’t allowed a single hit in 11.2 innings. Then he met the bearded doppleganger of Oscar Mercado and Cleveland Indians legend César Hernández.
Mercado doubled to lead off the ninth inning, then made it to third on a wild pitch. Then Hernández somehow got a groundball through a five-man infield to bring him home to give the Indians their first walk-off of the season.
Yes, you read that right. He managed to not only hit a ball hard off the best reliever in baseball, but he got it through this on the ground:
The bottom of the ninth was fun, but how the Indians got there was a mixed bag. Aaron Civale threw 100 pitches, struck out six and walked three in six innings of work. He allowed two runs, but that should be plenty for a major league offense to overcome. And that’s all with a strikezone so bad that even he — the guy who makes Corey Kluber look exuberant — had words for the home plate umpire after a terrible call in the first inning.
Things could have been a whole lot worse when in the seventh inning Cole Quantrill struggled and loaded the bases with a hit, a walk, and Sandy Leon’s third catcher interference of the season. In came Wittgren in shining armor wielding a nasty changeup to strike Daniel Vogelbach out and prevent disaster. He did allow the leadoff batter of the eighth inning to homer, but he got the next three out and I’m willing to consider his night a net positive for his clutch seventh inning save alone.
Along with his game-winning RBI, Hernández provided a team-leading three hits on the night. José Ramírez was the next biggest contributor, including a homer that only Progressive Field could love.
Jose Ramirez’s home run had an xBA of .090— Casey Drottar (@CDrottar19) September 6, 2020
Yeah home runs aren’t a frequent occurrence with batted balls like that pic.twitter.com/y3Tz9whxFA— Casey Drottar (@CDrottar19) September 6, 2020
I hate to end on a downer after a walk-off win, but I didn’t want to lead off with it and it also needs to be said: Sandy Leon needs to be replaced. I don’t know if he’s technically the fourth, third, or second catcher on the roster, but whatever number it is, it’s too high. Tonight he got in the way of his third pitch of the season and he struck out all four of his at-bats. Enough has to be enough eventually.
The Indians go for the series win tomorrow.