Not once. Not twice. But five times the Cleveland Guardians rallied Friday night, refusing to yield to the Houston Astros before crossing the finish line of a 14-inning marathon with a 10-9 victory.
Tyler Freeman sparked the final rally of the night with an RBI double to lead off the 12th inning, scoring the game-tying run. After Andrés Giménez fouled out, the Astros opted against intentionally walking Will Brennan to bring David Fry to the plate. Brennan wasted no time punishing them for that decision, launching an RBI double over the head of Chas McCormick in left field to plate the go-ahead and bring the fans at Progressive Field to their feet.
The Guardians never led until the end.
The Astros were aggressive early in the count against Cleveland starting pitcher Logan Allen, attacking his four-seam fastball. Of the 27 batters he faced, 13 swung at the first pitch. To their credit, their approach bore fruit, especially in the first inning. Mauricio Dubón turned the first pitch of the game into a leadoff double, and he was joined by Alex Bregman on the basepaths after a one-out walk. Then came Allen’s biggest mistake of the night. He fell behind in the count against Jose Abreu and served up a 92 mph fastball over the heart of the plate, which Abreu promptly deposited into the seats in right field to give Houston a 3-0 lead.
Allen gutted it out from there. He managed to last six innings, but dealt with traffic in every inning. A leadoff double by Jeremy Peña off a first-pitch sweeper in the second inning ended up turning into another run for the Astros, making it a 4-0 lead. In the fifth inning, Bregman contributed an RBI double off a first-pitch cutter to restore Houston’s four-run lead to 5-1.
Five runs is the most Allen has allowed in a start this season.
Trailing 3-0 before they had even stepped into the batter’s box, the Guardians had their work cut out for them against Houston starting pitcher Cristian Javier. But they never looked overmatched. They finally broke through in the third inning, plating their first run on RBI groundout by Josh Naylor. That RBI groundout was preceded by heads up baserunning from Amed Rosario and José Ramírez. After Rosario drew a one-out walk, Ramírez lined a single to right field where Kyle Tucker stumbled fielding the ball before trying to throw out Rosario at third. Ramírez took advantage of the ill-advised throw, advancing to second base.
But the fifth inning was Javier’s worst. Three consecutive doubles by Myles Straw, Steven Kwan, and Amed Rosario to start the inning allowed two runs to score, cutting the Astros’ lead to 5-3. A single by Naylor and a Josh Bell walk loaded the bases, setting the stage for an Andrés Giménez sac fly to make it a one-run game. The four runs allowed by Javier tied a season-high, as he allowed plenty of traffic giving up seven hits and three walks on the night.
The cap of this first rally came courtesy of José Ramírez’s seven-pitch at-bat in the seventh inning. He took Houston right-hander Rafael Montero to a full count before launching a changeup into the seats in right-center to tie the game, slugging his fourth homer in two games.
With a new ballgame, thus began a battle of bullpens.
James Karinchak was the first Guardians reliever to blink. With the game tied in the eighth inning, he struck out Jose Abreu, got ahead in the count against McCormick, and then unraveled. He ended up walking McCormick. The next at-bat, Jeremy Peña snuck a double past Ramírez down the third base line to put runners on second and third. Yainer Diaz followed with a sac fly to score McCormick, allowing Houston to retake the lead, 6-5.
With two outs in the bottom the ninth and Ryan Pressly on the mound for Houston, Ramírez drew a walk to bring Naylor to the plate. Down to his last strike, Naylor fouled off a pair of pitches and then crushed an RBI double off the wall in left field, scoring Ramírez to tie the game.
Emmanuel Clase pitched a scoreless 10th, surviving a liner that struck his glove hand. But Cleveland failed to capitalize in the bottom of the inning after Giménez bunted over the runner on second and David Fry grounded into an inning-ending double play, brought to the plate by Houston’s decision to award Brennan a free pass to first base.
Trevor Stephan held serve in the 11th with a 1-2-3 inning. After Straw singled to put runners on first and third with no outs, the top of the order failed to deliver. With two outs, the Astros loaded the bases by intentionally walking Ramírez and escaped by the skin of their teeth when Naylor launched a ball to the wall in center field, where it was caught for the final out.
Kyle Tucker broke the scoreless tie in the 12th with an RBI single off Sam Hentges, who struck out the only other three batters he faced that inning. With one out and a runner on the first in the bottom of the 12th, Houston seemed to have the victory in hand when Brennan grounded a double play ball to Peña at shortstop. But Peña airmailed the throw to first base, allowing Brennan to reach base and the tying run to score. Fry struck out to end the inning.
Steven Kwan was the hero of the 13th.
Hentges came back out for the 13th and was not nearly as sharp as the previous inning. He surrendered an infield single but managed to sandwich a pair of groundouts around that one hit. Hentges looked like he might escape unscathed until Dubón smoked an RBI double off the wall in left field to give Houston the lead. It could have been worse if not for a diving catch in left field by Kwan to end the inning. The umpire initially ruled that he trapped the ball and that two runs had scored, but the call was overturned by the replay crew after Cleveland challenged.
What a catch by Steven Kwan!— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) June 10, 2023
Umpires initially ruled it a trap and the call was overturned pic.twitter.com/Z6XRlOIHrk
The next frame, Kwan singled to left with one out and third base coach Mike Sarbaugh waved home Fry, who was the runner at second to start the inning. There might have been a play at the plate had the throw not been off the mark, allowing Fry to score easily and even the again.
Tucker continued to be a menace in the 14th inning, once again plating the go-ahead run with an RBI single off Xzavion Curry. Thankfully, Freeman and Brennan refused to go quietly.
What a game.