CLEVELAND — If Indians fans don’t believe in their team now, they may never will.
The majors’ best club since April 20 stayed hot at Progressive Field on Monday afternoon, overcoming a flurry of misfortune to turn back the Mariners 10-8 in 10 innings and complete a four-game sweep of Seattle.
A three-run home run from Yan Gomes won it for the Indians in the 10th, but that was just the final chapter of what could have been considered a nightmare story for Cleveland up to that point.
All three of the Indians’ top relievers — right-handers Vinnie Pestano, Chris Perez and Joe Smith — allowed game-changing homers, yet Cleveland was still able to charge to its fifth straight win (18 in the last 22 games).
The lead changed hands seven times — four times over the final four innings — with the bizarre victory improving the Indians’ major league-best record to 21-7 over the last 28 games.
“It’s a good feeling when as a ballclub you feel like you’re going to win, even when things don’t go as planned,” said manager Terry Francona, whose team won three of the four games against Seattle in walk-off fashion. “You play until they send you home. It’s a good feeling. Once you do it a few times, that breeds confidence. It’s getting contagious and that’s good.”
Fresh off the disabled list, Pestano allowed a game-tying homer to Kyle Seager to lead off the eighth inning. With the game still tied in the ninth, Perez served up a go-ahead solo homer to light-hitting Endy Chavez.
Then, after the Indians fought back to tie it in the ninth, Smith surrendered another go-ahead homer for the Mariners in the 10th, with Justin Smoak putting Seattle in front 8-7.
All that, and the Indians still won.
“The offense bailed us out,” said Perez, who allowed a run in the same game as Pestano for the third time ever. “The (Bullpen) Mafia didn’t show up. I guess they thought they had the day off. (The offense) picked us up. It’s definitely different. We’re not used to that around here.”
Neither starting pitcher figured in the decision, but the Indians met the challenge against right-hander Hishashi Iwakuma, who hadn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his previous nine starts.
Cleveland scored five times over the first three innings, but its starter, Scott Kazmir, struggled as well. The left-hander lasted just three innings, allowing five runs on seven hits.
After Perez allowed the homer to Chavez, things got real whacky.
With Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen, who had not blown a save all year, on in the bottom of the ninth, the Indians put two aboard but had two outs with Carlos Santana at the plate.
Santana’s sharp grounder to first was fielded on a diving stop by Smoak, but Wilhelmsen dropped the flip to first and was charged with an error that allowed Jason Kipnis to score.
After Smith allowed the homer to Smoak, the Indians went right back to work in the bottom of the 10th, putting the first two hitters aboard against left-hander Charlie Furbush.
Gomes unsuccessfully attempted to drop down a sacrifice bunt before blasting a 3-2 pitch onto the home run
porch in left field to touch off another raucous home plate celebration.
“Once they took (the bunt sign) off, I was like, ‘All right, let’s move at least one of the runners over,”’ Gomes said of his thoughts before launching the homer and racing around the bases at close to full-speed. “In moments like that, you just want to get back to your teammates. It was exciting.”
It was a big day for the Indians’ backup catcher, who hit two homers and added a single, while throwing two out attempting to steal. He was asked what he had for breakfast in the clubhouse after the game.
“I actually had beet juice,” Gomes said. “I gotta keep having that, I guess.”
Gomes’ big hit put the caps on a surprising win from a team that refuses to lose right now.
“That was the best game I’ve ever been a part of,” Perez said. “It was the craziest, funnest … obviously it (stunk) giving up a home run, but it was fun.”
“It was just another weird game,” said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. “Cleveland is probably one of the hottest teams in baseball right now. Things are going their way.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.
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