Tribe puts squeeze on White Sox in extras

August 10th, 2020

The Indians went home frustrated after their first experience with the automatic runner in extra innings earlier this season against the Royals, but their second chance left a much better taste in their mouths.

José Ramírez was sent to second base to start the top of the 10th and moved to third on an infield single. then stepped to the plate and executed a perfect safety squeeze bunt and followed with an RBI single to lift the Tribe to a 5-4 victory over the White Sox on Sunday night at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“Well, you gotta have a speedy runner on third base,” temporary manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said of the squeeze. “It was just like, not like a call from the dugout, but it was planned prior to that. We discussed it. It takes a guy that can bunt, a good runner on third base and hopefully the defense is not crashing that fast. Delino did the right thing, he picked the right spot.”

Alomar and DeShields discussed the possibility of laying down a bunt in the 10th on the bench before the Indians came up to bat. By looking ahead in the batting order, they knew that there’d be a possibility of DeShields coming up to the plate with runners on the corners. If that was the case, they agreed that he’d attempt to bunt toward first baseman Yasmani Grandal, who’s usually behind the dish, since it’s not his typical position.

“It’s been a part of my game since I started playing professional baseball,” DeShields said. “It’s something I’m very comfortable doing. Situations like that, sometimes that’s what it takes to get a rally going or get a run in. Usually everybody in the ballpark knows I’m gonna bunt. I don’t hide it. I don’t shy away from it.

“I know they’re aware of it, but with José on third base, it just seemed like the perfect play. It worked out. Worst-case scenario, I’m out, I’m not on base and there’s a guy in scoring position and we get the run in. That’s kind of what was going through my head, and I just wanted to get the job done, get the run in.”

Though Cleveland had a comfortable two-run lead entering the bottom half of the 10th with closer Brad Hand on the mound, weather made it a challenging win to secure. Center fielder Bradley Zimmer struggled to track a shallow fly ball through the rain, allowing the automatic runner to score when a bloop single dropped in. The rain only intensified, and Hand struggled to command his pitches, permitting a four-pitch walk before the game officially entered a delay that lasted 46 minutes.

“Yeah I talked to the umpire after that and said, 'That was kind of ridiculous,'” Alomar said. “He said the forecast said it was going to rain hard for 5-10 minutes and then it was going to go away, but it [rained] continually. Brad had a hard time. He said the mound was good, but the balls were wet so he couldn't pitch with a dry ball. So that's when I went out there and said, 'Hey, you can't compete like that and somebody can get hurt,' and stopped it even though we're going to lose our closer at that point.”

took the rubber after the delay to record the final two outs for his fifth career save. At 38 years and 360 days old, he became the third-oldest player to record a save for the Indians (since saves became official in 1969) behind Doug Jones (41 years, 68 days) and Steve Carlton (42 years, 108 days).

“It was a part of the lineup that presented a better matchup for him, turning guys around to the right side,” Alomar said. “Oliver throws strikes. We were talking about it, and [pitching coach] Carl [Willis] said, 'He's a perfect match,' so we went with him.”

Entering the eighth inning, it appeared as if the team would spoil yet another quality outing from one of its starters after Shane Bieber allowed three runs on four hits through six innings with eight strikeouts. But Franmil Reyes turned the momentum back in the Indians’ favor with a two-out RBI double to center field to tie the game.

Reyes is now 8-for-23 (.348) with two homers and seven RBIs in his last six games. He had gone 6-35 (.171) with no homers and two RBIs in his first 10 games.

“Yeah, he's putting in better at-bats, he's not collapsing that much,” Alomar said. “When he tries to do too much, he collapses the back leg and he gets tied up with the front side. He's been working very hard.”