CLEVELAND — The fans finally came out to Progressive Field on Friday night. And the Indians didn’t disappoint.
With 34,282 fans in attendance, Cleveland sent its second-largest crowd of the season home happy, opening a four-game series against Seattle with a dramatic 6-3 victory.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis touched off a raucous celebration at the Indians’ home park that hasn’t been seen since last year, clouting a three-run walk-off home run with two outs in the 10th inning.
It was the ninth win in 12 games for Cleveland, which remained tied atop the Central Division standings with defending champion Detroit.
“That was awesome,” Kipnis said. “I was just as amped up as (the fans) were rounding first base. They were fantastic all night. They really came with it tonight. I thought they were great. They were loud at the times they were supposed to be loud at and they were outstanding. It was definitely a great game to win tonight.
“This was outstanding. This was one of the more fun nights I’ve had on a baseball field.”
The Indians led 3-1 through five innings, but the Eric Wedge-led Mariners fought back to tie it in the sixth on a two-run homer from Raul Ibanez off reliever Rich Hill.
That set the stage for an excitement-laden 10th inning for the Indians, who used their speed and power to strike with two outs against Seattle left-hander Lucas Luetge.
Drew Stubbs walked and was nearly picked off to end the inning, but managed to make it to second base before the throw from Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak. Leadoff man Michael Bourn followed by beating out an infield dribbler and advanced to second on indifference, bringing Kipnis to the plate.
Kipnis won the lefty-on-lefty matchup, sending an 0-1 offering from Luetge into the right-field seats.
Cleveland got another positive performance from right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who was effective for the third straight outing, allowing two runs on seven hits, while striking out a season-high nine batters over five innings.
“I wish we could have gotten Ubaldo another win,” Kipnis said. “I thought he pitched great early on.”
The Indians generated early offense against Seattle starter Brandon Maurer, but the production vanished late.
After Nick Swisher drew a leadoff walk, Carlos Santana followed with a double to start the second inning. Jason Giambi’s sacrifice fly scored the first run of the game and Santana came home on a wild pitch to make it 2-0.
A one-out solo homer from Kendrys Morales off Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez made it 2-1 in the fourth, with Cleveland gaining another two-run cushion on Stubbs’ solo shot with one out in the fifth inning.
A walk-up crowd of 6,700 accounted for the sixth-largest in stadium history.
“You never want to put too much emphasis on different wins, but to come back before a crowd like this when a lot of the city came out to tonight’s game with the fireworks and dollar dogs, we knew we had a big crowd,” manager Terry Francona said.
“To get a win in front of them and to get it like this in front of them, hopefully it brings some of them back, because we had a lot of fun tonight.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.