Walk-off situations envisioned as drama builds

Walk-off situations envisioned as drama builds

Everybody wants to be the hero.

Whether natural instinct or shrewd scheming, players tend to plot out what sequence will allow for them to contribute with the game on the line. When a walk-off win is within reach, the wheels start spinning.

Jason Kipnis sat in the Indians' dugout, cooking up formulas like a mad scientist. He was slated to bat fifth in the 10th inning, and as soon as he retreated to the dugout for the bottom of the first extra frame, his mind was flush with potential scenarios.

Cleveland's hitters had plenty of opportunities to sketch mental blueprints when they tallied three walk-off wins during a four-game sweep of the Mariners in mid-May.

May 17 -- Mariners 3, Indians 3: Bottom of the 10th inning
10:23 p.m. ET: To start the inning, Mark Reynolds strikes out and, after a pitching change, Michael Brantley grounds out. Kipnis acknowledges the long odds of him trotting to the plate this inning.

"I knew there had to be one or two guys on base to have a chance in that inning," Kipnis said.

10:33 p.m. ET: Drew Stubbs lengthens the inning by drawing a two-out walk and stealing second. As he waits in the on-deck circle, Kipnis ponders the potential situation should Michael Bourn reach base.

"Once you're on deck and about to be up, you're pretty much just nothing but positive talk and confidence [until you] go up to the plate," Kipnis said.

10:42 p.m. ET: After Stubbs steals second, Bourn beats out an infield single, pushing Stubbs to third. Kipnis couldn't have envisioned the inning unfolding this way, but nonetheless, he strolls to the batter's box and promptly deposits an 0-1 pitch into the right-field seats for a walk-off three-run homer.

"There were no words coming out when I was rounding and screaming. It was just kind of sounds," Kipnis said. "Just gibberish. Just screams. I was amped up."

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The Rays have recorded four walk-off wins this season, and left fielder Kelly Johnson has received an at-bat in three of those decisive rallies.

"You're thinking ahead, and you should be doing that all the time, but absolutely at the end of the game, it's heightened," Johnson said. "It's something that you're trying to play out. What are the situations? You start trying to make a game plan."

Kipnis tries to channel his inner clairvoyant.

"You almost already know the situation, what it's going to be like, or at least have one or two guesses at what it's going to be like when you get up there," Kipnis said.

May 18 -- Mariners 4, Indians 4: Bottom of the ninth inning
3:47 p.m. ET: Kipnis singles to open the frame and Asdrubal Cabrera follows with a double. Nick Swisher walks to load the bases. Reynolds approaches the plate knowing he can bring home the winning run in a myriad of ways.

"You're just watching the game, and if it comes down to you, you just try to do the best you can and relax and not put too much pressure on yourself," Reynolds said.

4:00 p.m. ET: After the Mariners swap pitchers, Reynolds grounds to short, but Seattle catcher Jesus Montero's foot comes off home plate as he stretches to corral Brendan Ryan's throw. As a result, an anticlimactic winning run scores as a stoic Reynolds gets chased down by teammates.

"It was like, 'Oh, we won. Cool.' It wasn't even dramatic," Reynolds said. "Everybody was like, 'Oh, we won. Let's go home.'"

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On May 9, Johnson led off the 10th inning with the Rays and Blue Jays tied at 4, but he grounded out. Luke Scott drew a bases-loaded walk later in the inning to end the affair. On May 11, two batters before Evan Longoria socked a walk-off homer against the Padres, Johnson flied out to deep right-center with one out in the ninth. On May 28, Johnson commenced the ninth with a single and eventually scored the winning run when Desmond Jennings singled to right.

The situations didn't develop as Johnson had predicted, but that doesn't stop him from stirring up scenarios as he waited his turn.

"At the end of a close game," Johnson said, "everybody that plays in the big leagues takes a lot of pride in being prepared, and that's all part of it."

May 20 -- Mariners 8, Indians 7: Bottom of the 10th inning
3:40 p.m. ET: Yan Gomes knows that unless Branley reaches and Stubbs homers, he will receive an at-bat in the inning.

"I was the third batter, so I knew I was going to have to do something since we were down one," Gomes said.

3:42 p.m. ET: Brantley singles to right and Stubbs reaches on a defensive miscue after he tries to lay down a bunt. Gomes gets the sign to attempt a sacrifice bunt as well.

"As soon as both of those guys got on," Gomes said, "I knew I was going to have to put a bunt down. I knew if I got the bunt down, someone else was going to be the hero. I came in ready to bunt; it just didn't happen."

3:53 p.m. ET: Gomes can't get a bunt down, so he instead clubs a 3-2 pitch over the 19-feet-high wall in left for Cleveland's second walk-off three-run homer of the series.

"I ended up missing [the bunt] and got a good pitch to hit and drove it," Gomes said.

"That's the stuff that you dream about when you're a little kid, just hitting that walk-off home run. It was definitely exciting."

Zack Meisel is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @zackmeisel. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.