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'High emotions' for Mercado after walk-off hit

Rookie wins it in 10th two days after falling short in similar spot
@MandyBell02
June 12, 2019

CLEVELAND -- The beauty of a long baseball season is that if, on one night, you fall short in a big situation, you’ll likely have another opportunity to succeed later in the year. For Oscar Mercado, his second chance came one game later. With the score tied at 1 in

CLEVELAND -- The beauty of a long baseball season is that if, on one night, you fall short in a big situation, you’ll likely have another opportunity to succeed later in the year. For Oscar Mercado, his second chance came one game later.

With the score tied at 1 in the bottom of the 10th, Mercado knew from the on-deck circle that he was about to face a bases-loaded situation, as Francisco Lindor was intentionally walked to get to the 24-year-old rookie. In his previous game on Sunday, Mercado came up in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth with runners on second and third and two outs, but he struck out to end the inning, and his team went on to lose in 10 frames.

Not this time.

Box score

Mercado secured his first walk-off, delivering the winning RBI single on Tuesday night that lifted the Tribe to a 2-1 victory in the series opener against the Reds at Progressive Field. It was Cleveland’s fourth walk-off victory of the season.

“That was pretty incredible, I’m not gonna lie,” Mercado said. “I’ve never actually felt such high emotions before. I think getting called up was right up there, but at the end I felt like you want to say the biggest thing is just breathing during those at-bats, but it’s tough. You know, game’s on the line. And coming from the last game where I had the chance to do the same thing, came up a little bit short, I think it made it that much better.”

Mercado attempted to check his swing on the first pitch against Reds righty Raisel Iglesias, but first-base umpire Lance Barrett ruled that he swung. While Mercado was waiting for the appeal, he locked eyes with Lindor at first.

“He immediately looked at me, and he started walking me through some things to do like breathe, calm down, slow everything down,” Mercado said. “You know, I like to lock it in, but I felt like it could help me. It could also distract me from being in the moment and thinking too much. I’m glad I did it. It was pretty cool.”

Whatever Lindor did, it clearly worked, as Mercado served the fourth straight slider he saw from Iglesias into left field, easily pushing the winning run across the plate. As he rounded first, his teammates chased after him, mobbing him in the middle of the infield.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Mercado said. “I was like, ‘What’s gonna happen here? Am I gonna get soaked with water?’ [Mike] Freeman came up to me and was like, ‘Dude, how tight do you tie your belt?’ because they were trying to like, rip my jersey. They couldn’t get it. I was like, you know, it always comes untucked from diving, so I always made sure it was tight. But I thought that was funny.”

After hitting in the bottom half of the lineup in his first few games, Mercado earned manager Terry Francona’s trust to pencil him consistently in the two slot. His 23 hits through his first 22 career games are the most by an Indian since Jason Kipnis had 23 in 2011.

“I know we're going to need to be patient, because we've had [Kipnis] there for the most part for the last seven years because he can play the game,” Francona said. “And to expect Oscar to be able to do that right off the bat is not fair. But he'll grow into it. He might grow into hitting third. But just try not to put too much on his plate, because I'm sure the game is going pretty fast as it is. But he's holding his own pretty [darn] good.”

The victory backed a strong performance by Tribe starter Trevor Bauer. No, he may not have factored into the decision in the Ohio Cup opener, but Bauer fell back into his early-season form, allowing one run on six hits with six strikeouts through 7 2/3 innings and snapping his four-start losing streak.

“I thought he competed like crazy,” Francona said. “You know, I thought he shook [catcher Roberto Perez] off less than he has in the past, which I think is a good thing. … He followed the glove a lot better than he has.”

Bauer has not won a start since April 30 in Miami. In his next seven prior to Tuesday’s outing, he had gone 0-5 with a 5.52 ERA. It was the first time since April 25 that he gave up one or fewer runs (although his two runs allowed in Oakland on May 11 were both unearned).

“I mean, the results are good, obviously,” Bauer said. “I don't think I was nearly as sharp tonight as I was my last outing. But I've been pitching well in my last four -- got like a 3.1 [ERA] over my last four starts. Happy the team got a win tonight.”

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.