July 24, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Tribe: Walk-off grounder saves closer Perez

CLEVELAND — It wasn’t the drama-filled frenzy they enjoyed a night earlier, but the Indians walked off with another victory Saturday afternoon at Progressive Field.

After a blown save from closer Chris Perez allowed the Mariners to tie the game in the top of the ninth, Cleveland came back to score the winning run in the bottom of the inning for a 5-4 win.

A three-run walk-off home run from Jason Kipnis that produced a raucous celebration in front of the second-largest crowd of the season Friday was replaced by a fielder’s choice grounder from Mark Reynolds that scored Kipnis from third with the winning run in front of 17,574 fans.

It wasn’t nearly as dramatic, but it was just as effective for surging Cleveland, which won its third straight and owns the majors’ best record (16-4) over the last 20 games.
It is also the best 20-game stretch by the Indians since August of 2008.

“It was a very uneventful walk-off,” Reynolds said. “But it’s a ‘W,’ and we’ll take it. It all worked out.”

Rather than lick their wounds after the unfortunate top of the ninth, the Indians went right to work in the bottom.

Kipnis started things with a leadoff single off left-hander Oliver Perez that was followed by a double off the left-field wall from Asdrubal Cabrera. Perez intentionally walked Nick Swisher to load the bases before being replaced by right-hander Yoervis Medina.

Medina’s first batter was Reynolds, who hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Brendan Ryan. After making a nice play on the ball, Ryan’s throw home appeared to arrive at around the same time as Kipnis for the potential force out, but umpire Mike Winters ruled that catcher Jesus Montero did not have his foot on the plate.

Seattle manager Eric Wedge left the dugout to argue but quickly turned around when Winters explained that Montero never touched the plate.

“We made it a little more exciting then we needed to,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “But there’s something to say for being resilient. Rather than act like you got punched in the stomach, you come back and win a game.”

The Mariners showed some mettle by coming back against Perez, who, after retiring the first two hitters he faced, served up consecutive homers to Raul Ibanez and Justin Smoak to tie the game at 4.

Perez, who blew his second save in eight opportunities, endured a shoulder injury this spring and has had limited save chances, but Francona said he believed his closer was sound.

“He just left two fastballs that wandered back over the middle, and they hit them well,” Francona said.

Perez’s implosion cost Indians starter Zach McAllister a much-deserved victory.

The right-hander was in charge for the majority of his outing, shutting out the Mariners until the light-hitting Ryan hit his first homer of the season — a two-run shot that made it 4-2 with one out in the eighth.

McAllister lost the shutout but was still in line for the win until Seattle teed off on Perez in the ninth.

“It happens. It’s part of the game,” McAllister said of Perez’s blown save. “He’s been a great closer his whole career. You don’t expect it to happen, but it does.”

McAllister wound up allowing two runs on six hits over 7⅓ innings. It was the 10th straight start the right-hander has gone at least five innings while allowing three runs or fewer, accounting for the longest such streak by a Cleveland pitcher over the last two seasons.

“He’s been that pitcher for us,” Francona said. “For a young kid, he’s been very reliable, and it’s getting exciting.”

Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.