CLEVELAND -- As fireworks lit up the night sky and the Cleveland faithful erupted in cheers, the Indians celebrated their third walk-off win of the season by mobbing Edwin Encarnacion at home plate. Encarnacion played the role of the hero, as his walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 11th lifted the Indians over the Angels, 11-7, in Tuesday night's series opener at Progressive Field.
Encarnacion's walk-off blast -- his 21st homer of the season -- came on a first-pitch slider from Angels reliever Bud Norris and gave the Indians their fifth straight win to maintain their 1 1/2 game lead over the Royals in the American League Central division. It is Encarnacion's sixth career walk-off homer and his 10th career walk-off hit.
With Encarnacion's grand slam, the Indians became the first team in Major League history to hit two grand slams in one game with the second being a walk-off.
"I bet it does [feel good]. I bet it does," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Encarnacion's first walk-off hit with the Indians. "I know it felt good to me. Any time you get mobbed by your teammates, that's a good feeling."
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
Encarnacion's slam in the 11th was the first walk-off grand slam for the Indians since Nick Swisher did so on June 19, 2014, also against the Angels.
"It's a wonderful feeling," Encarnacion said through team translator Anna Bolton. "Yes, this is my first walk-off with the Indians and it's an amazing feeling and it felt amazing to connect with the ball and to hit it out like I did."
The Angels, who fell to 49-52 and now sit four games back of the second American League Wild Card spot, crawled their way back into the game thanks to a three-run homer from Kole Calhoun and a two-run shot from Luis Valbuena. Valbuena also added an RBI single, and Yunel Escobar drove in the tying run with an RBI double.
"There's some positive to it," Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. "We're down early by quite a bit of runs, but it shows what this team has been about all year. We didn't throw in the towel. We battled, we chipped away. We had two good innings and ended up tying the game. We had a couple chances, and they made some good plays or we ran into some outs, but we showed fight today."
Both starters had a tough time on the mound. Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger went 4 1/3 innings and allowed six runs (five earned) on nine hits and two walks while striking out five. Angels starter Jesse Chavez did not fare any better, allowing seven runs, five hits and four walks with three strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings.
"It looked like [Clevinger] was trying not to give up any runs as opposed to just limiting the damage," Francona said. "I think maybe that comes with maturity. After we score the seven first, he ran [a] full count to the first hitter. You'd like to see him really attack after that. Make them earn every single bit of what they get."
The Indians scored seven in the second inning thanks to Bradley Zimmer's first career grand slam and Michael Brantley's solo homer. Jose Ramirez added an RBI double, and Giovanny Urshela picked up an RBI on a bases-loaded walk.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Zimmer's first slam: After the Indians were set down in order by Chavez in the first, they broke through in a big way in the second. Chavez gave up back-to-back doubles and later issued three straight walks to plate the Tribe's first two runs. With the bases loaded, Zimmer stepped up to the plate. Chavez fell behind 2-0 before getting a fastball over, breaking a streak of 11 straight balls. With the count 3-1, Zimmer belted a fastball over the heart of the plate a projected 435 feet to the bullpen in center for his first career grand slam to give the Indians the 6-0 lead. More >
"It was awesome," Zimmer said. "I mean, he was struggling to throw strikes there. I just stayed with my approach and didn't give in. He left the ball out over the plate, and I put a pretty good swing on it."
"Today was a case of the walks," Chavez said. "Walks killed me today. … I didn't get ahead, and by not getting ahead, you kind of pigeonhole yourself to come over the plate. To a hitter like [Zimmer] who's hot, you don't want to elevate a little too much when you come over the dish, and that sinker just kind of stayed flat." More >
• Brantley makes 5-star catch in left field
Angels draw even: The Angels fought their way back from a 7-0 deficit and eventually tied the ballgame, 7-7, in the top of the sixth. After Kaleb Cowart led off the inning with a single to right off Indians reliever Nicholas Goody, Escobar dug in. He connected on a 1-0 fastball and drove a sinking liner to center. Zimmer charged in and made a diving attempt, but the ball skipped by him and bounced to the wall. Even though Escobar was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple, the hit allowed Cowart to score the tying run all the way from first.
"That's a great comeback to give yourself a chance at that game," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
"It was a big play right there," Zimmer said. "It gets them back in the game, so maybe [I was] a little too aggressive right there. I got a good jump and thought I could make a play, but like I said a little too aggressive and it didn't work out."
"I thought they really picked each other up. Both bullpens really did a great job. We had to kind of stagger it a few times. Each guy kind of picked each other up and [Bryan] Shaw was tremendous. [Dan Otero] with a big out getting [Albert] Pujols. There was a lot of good things. It was kind of a fun game to be a part of. It was a weird game. There was a lot going on." -- Francona, on the bullpen
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
After catcher Yan Gomes drew a leadoff walk against Angels reliever Blake Parker in the bottom of the eighth, Francona opted to bring in Erik Gonzalez to pinch-run. With Urshela at the plate, Gonzalez took off for second, but Martin Maldonado threw to shortstop Andrelton Simmons covering to catch him stealing. The Indians challenged the call at second, but after a one minute and 20 second review, the call stood.
BRANTLEY MAKES FIVE-STAR CATCH
With Ben Revere at the plate to lead off the top of the eighth, the Angels left fielder blooped a ball to shallow left near the line. Brantley came charging in and made a diving catch on a ball that had a 7 percent catch probability, per Statcast™, to rob Revere of a leadoff hit. Brantley covered 66 feet in 3.8 seconds to make the diving catch, making it a five-star play, his second of the season. On catches with more than 50 feet distance needed and under four seconds of opportunity time, Brantley is tied for the second-lowest catch probability this season.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Per Statcast™, Zimmer's grand slam in the second had an exit velocity of 112.2 mph, which is the hardest regular season home run for Cleveland since Statcast™ was introduced in 2015. The only homer that was hit harder in that span came from catcher Roberto Perez in the 2016 postseason, when he hit a 112.9 mph blast.
Tuesday marked the first time that the Indians had two grand slams in a game since September 24, 1999, when Dave Roberts and Manny Ramirez each hit one in an 18-4 victory over the Blue Jays.
Angels: Right-hander Ricky Nolasco (4-11, 5.13 ERA) will start the second game of the three-game series between the Angels and Indians on Wednesday night at 4:10 p.m. PT at Progressive Field. Nolasco has logged a 5.54 ERA in seven career appearances against Cleveland.
Indians: The Indians will send right-hander Carlos Carrasco (10-4, 3.62 ERA) to the mound for Wednesday's 7:10 p.m. ET tilt against the Angels at Progressive Field. Carrasco is coming off a strong outing against the Giants, where he took a no-decision after allowing two runs on six hits while striking out six in six innings of work.
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