KANSAS CITY -- As the Indians inch closer and closer to a challenging August schedule, the team needs to take advantage of every chance it has against teams with a sub-.500 record. And the Tribe was able to do just that against the Royals on Thursday night ... even if
KANSAS CITY -- As the Indians inch closer and closer to a challenging August schedule, the team needs to take advantage of every chance it has against teams with a sub-.500 record. And the Tribe was able to do just that against the Royals on Thursday night ... even if it took four hours and 51 minutes.
At the end of the marathon, Jose Ramirez put the Indians on top with a go-ahead solo homer in the top of the 14th inning after the bullpen combined to toss 8 2/3 innings in Cleveland’s 5-4 victory over Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium. It was the team’s first win in extra innings on the road since July 20, 2018.
• Box score
“We always say they play us tough,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “There was no give all the way to the very end. … That was a good win. That was gonna be a hard one to lose, but it ends up being a good win.”
The Indians had plenty of chances to end the game before the calendar flipped to a new day. The team went 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position and left 17 men on base, the most in a game since July 1, 2016, at Toronto, when Cleveland left 17 on in 19 innings.
The Tribe had the bases loaded with one out in the 12th, but Jake Bauers struck out and Greg Allen flew out. Francisco Lindor led off the 13th with a double, but no one could push him across.
“It’s frustrating,” catcher Roberto Perez said. “When you get men on third and less than two outs, you’re trying to drive them in. But that’s just part of the game. They made really good pitches on us. We had bases loaded and one out, but that’s just part of the game. We’ve just got to continue to battle. It seems like every day it’s a new guy, it’s a different guy when we’re winning ballgames. We’ve got to continue to play with a lot of energy and never quit.”
The Indians’ bullpen proved why it’s been the best in the Majors this season. Entering Thursday with the lowest bullpen ERA (3.36), the Tribe’s relievers combined to throw 7 2/3 scoreless innings before A.J. Cole allowed a run in the bottom of the 14th.
“A.J. was put in a really tough spot,” Francona said. “He hadn’t pitched in about a week. All the sudden, you’re asking him to close out a game. He knuckled down and got him.”
After the ‘pen was given a break on Wednesday due to Shane Bieber’s shutout, the team went through seven relievers and received two strong frames from Nick Goody.
“We didn’t quit,” Perez said. “The bullpen stepped up again. They threw [7 2/3] scoreless. Everybody was in the game. We needed this win. Those guys over there, they always find a way to play us really well.”
Ramirez's offensive struggles have been talked about time and again. Each time he's started to show signs of heating up, he’d also show why people shouldn’t assume he’s returned to form. But after his past month, it may be safe to say that Ramirez is back. His homer was part of a three-hit night, his 10th extra-base-hit performance in his past 12 games. He owns a .333 batting average (35-for-105) since June 21, with 12 doubles, a triple, six homers and 20 RBIs.
“He’s starting to feel good about himself,” Francona said. “That’s good. That’s welcomed. Those are games you win because of that, that maybe you don’t.”
Bauers added the insurance run that proved to be the difference, singling in Jason Kipnis. The victory kept the Tribe two games behind the Twins in the American League Central and improved them to three games ahead of the A’s in the AL Wild Card.
“You have to win these ones,” Goody said. “Every one is important, but when you can get into the 14th inning ... and every one of our guys out there in the bullpen is throwing up zeroes, that’s huge. That’s what championship teams are made of. Hopefully, the bullpen will be a backbone for the rest of the season.”
Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.