Naquin not nappin', walks Tribe off in mid-AB pinch
By Jordan Bastian and Scott Merkin
CLEVELAND -- Tyler Naquin was ready in the dugout with a bat in his hands, but he fully expected Indians catcher Roberto Perez to hit in the ninth inning on Thursday night. After a passed ball moved Abraham Almonte up to third base, Naquin's name was called.
"I've never been a part of that," Naquin said after Cleveland's 5-4 walk-off win over the White Sox at Progressive Field. "I want anybody to walk it off, but I was lucky enough to be able to do it myself."
Indians manager Terry Francona called upon Naquin as a pinch-hitter after Perez worked a 1-0 count, and the rookie outfielder delivered a walk-off sacrifice fly. Almonte, who doubled off Jacob Turner to begin the ninth, tagged and scored from third base, setting off the on-field celebration for the Tribe. It marked the club's sixth walk-off win of the season.
"Tyler Naquin's been sitting over there by the bat rack for a couple of days ready to hit," Francona said. "That's not the easiest thing to do, but we didn't have to go find him. He was ready, and it showed."
The comeback was made possible in part by a strong relief outing by rookie Mike Clevinger, who went four-plus innings. That helped buy time for the offense, which scored one run in each of the last five innings. With the win, the first-place Indians improved to 33-17 against American League Central opponents and remained six games ahead of the Tigers in the standings.
Lefty Carlos Rodon picked up a no-decision for the White Sox with six solid innings, in which he limited the potential damage of eight hits allowed with a series of double plays and five strikeouts. Justin Morneau staked Chicago to an early lead with a three-run double to take advantage of a shaky Danny Salazar, who lasted one inning in his return from the disabled list.
"Just trying to keep it going and put this team in a position to win every time out," Rodon said. "Hopefully go longer for these guys, because pitch count was pretty good going into the sixth, and you look at it and you think you should go seven or eight and give the bullpen a rest. Maybe if I go seven, we have Nate [Jones] go out for the eighth and a different ballgame."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Ramirez with RISP: Two of the runs scored by Cleveland came courtesy of Jose Ramirez, who has excelled with runners in scoring position this season. The Tribe's sparkplug got things rolling with an RBI single in the fifth, scoring Carlos Santana from second.
In the eighth, Ramirez pulled the game into a 4-4 deadlock with a single to right. With those hits, the third baseman improved his showing to .386 (39-for-101) with RISP this year.
Twice as nice: In four of the first five innings, Cleveland put the leadoff hitter on base against Rodon. In each of those four instances, the White Sox turned a double play to avoid any major damage. The first double play came in the first off of Mike Napoli's line drive to third baseman Todd Frazier, who caught Rajai Davis off of third and ended a first-and-third, one-out threat without any runs scoring.
"Yeah, it was working good. A few double plays needed badly," Rodon said. "I don't think I would have gone as long if I didn't get those guys turning those for me. Hats off to my infield."
Fenced in:Jason Kipnis has a knack for sending line drives off the 19-foot wall in left at Progressive Field, but he sent one into the wall on Thursday. With one out in the sixth, Kipnis sent a pitch from Rodon to left, where it wedged between the top of some padding and a videoboard in the wall. It was deemed a ground-rule double, keeping the lead runner at third base.
Anderson, Abreu shut down sixth: Cleveland scored a run and loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth, but shortstop Tim Anderson and first baseman Jose Abreu combined to shut down any further damage. Ramirez hit a grounder deep into the hole that Anderson fielded and threw across his body to first. Abreu adjusted and caught the ball while stretching to the outside of the bag, with Ramirez being ruled out as he slid feet-first into first.
The Indians had Salazar on an unspecified pitch count, but the righty was surely expected to last beyond the 34 pitches (16 strikes) he logged. Salazar labored with his command, issuing three walks and allowing three runs on Morneau's double. After being pulled, Salazar threw more pitches in the bullpen, providing hope that control, and not health, was the problem. The righty was coming back from a bout with right elbow inflammation.
"We sent him out to the bullpen, almost looked like a Spring Training game, which is not really our goal," Francona said. "But we had to find a way to get him lengthened out. So he went out and threw three more [simulated innings], just because we didn't want the start to go to waste. But we're trying to win the game, we're trying to protect him. Fortunately for him, it worked out." More >
"It's awesome. It's great. But I know Napoli is heading it, so it's a little scary." -- Naquin, on the mob of teammates coming at him after the walk-off
"The main thing tonight was just to feel good, and I feel good right now. Clevinger and the other guys in the bullpen, they did a good job." -- Salazar
"We had some opportunities. We fought back in Miami. You end up swinging the bats in Miami, and you come here and don't start off with much, and you sneak one out last night. The way it started off today, you figured at least offensively gonna have something go your way." -- White Sox manager Robin Ventura, on the rough end to a 4-5 road trip
WHAT'S NEXT White Sox:James Shields tries to put a forgettable start to August behind him as he takes the mound for the opener of a nine-game homestand Friday night against the A's, with a first pitch of 7:10 p.m. CT. Shields is 0-2 over his last three starts, allowing a combined 21 runs on 25 hits over 9 1/3 innings.
Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer (9-5, 3.97 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Tribe in a 7:10 p.m. ET tilt against Toronto on Friday at Progressive Field. Bauer picked up a road win against the Blue Jays on July 1, when he spun five shutout innings. He has gone 3-3 with a 4.91 ERA in 13 games (10 starts) at home this season.