CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber put the Indians in position for a victory, but needed Mike Aviles and Scott Atchison to finish the job.
Aviles led off the bottom of the 11th inning with a homer onto the left-field porch, giving the Tribe a 2-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.
The walk-off home run was Cleveland’s MLB-high seventh of the season and its second in three days at Progressive Field. It also pulled the Indians within five games of Seattle in the race for the final American League wild-card berth.
“Obviously, every win is big for us right now, no matter how it happens,” said Kluber, who allowed one run in 7⅔ innings. “Again tonight, you saw that never-die attitude that we have. That’s what makes this team special, the way we pick each other up.”
Aviles’ 355-foot blast came off Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz (2-3, 4.10 ERA), who entered to record the final out of the 10th before allowing the Indians’ ninth overall walk-off in 2014.
Journeyman reliever Atchison (6-0, 3.00 ERA) pitched two perfect innings to earn the triumph, continuing his remarkable resurgence. The 38-year-old right-hander now owns the second-most wins on the Tribe, only trailing Kluber’s 13.
“It’s nice to see your name go across the ticker once in a while,” a smiling Atchison said. “Obviously, though, wins aren’t necessarily something that you strive for as a reliever because you could allow a run and have the team bail you out. But I am having a blast right now, no question about it.”
Kluber and Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who have a 25-10 combined record, engaged in a classic pitchers’ duel for most of the evening.
Cleveland ace Kluber scattered five hits while striking out 10, exiting with a 1-0 lead in the eighth after allowing a two-out single to Nelson Cruz.
Bryan Shaw followed and allowed back-to-back hits — the second by J.J. Hardy, scoring Cruz — to cost Kluber a shot at the win.
The Indians’ lone run off Chen occurred in the fifth, when designated hitter Zach Walters homered off the railing atop the wall in left. Two days earlier, Walters hit a walk-off shot to give the Tribe a 3-2 win over Arizona in the first game of a doubleheader.
“I think Zach’s best position is second, but Jason Kipnis is going to play almost every day there,” manager Terry Francona said. “We’re going to find a way to keep him in the lineup as much as possible, though, because he’s got a lot of pop in his bat.”
Aviles also shined earlier in the game, bare-handing a pair of ground balls in throwing runners out at first base.
“This would have been a tough one to lose,” Francona said. “Fortunately, our guys didn’t get discouraged after Baltimore tied it up late. You can’t ever count this team out.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.