CLEVELAND -- For the second straight night, Tyler Naquin is the hero in the second consecutive Indians walk-off. The rookie outfielder scored on an inside-the-park home run to top Toronto, 3-2, on Friday night at Progressive Field in a battle between two first-place teams.Jose Ramirez gave the the Indians life
CLEVELAND -- For the second straight night, Tyler Naquin is the hero in the second consecutive Indians walk-off. The rookie outfielder scored on an inside-the-park home run to top Toronto, 3-2, on Friday night at Progressive Field in a battle between two first-place teams.
Jose Ramirez gave the the Indians life in the home half of the ninth with a one-out solo shot to right off Blue Jays righty Roberto Osuna. Naquin followed suit, lifting one off the wall in right before racing around the bases.
"It's a lot of fun," Naquin said. "The celebration after, everybody is genuinely in it. Whenever Jose hit that home run, I'm on deck and I have to relax a little bit, because Osuna has a good arm and I have to stay focused. It's a lot of fun."
It marked the fifth inside-the-park walk-off in baseball since 2000 and the first since Ángel Pagán of San Francisco did it against Colorado on May 25, 2013. The only other trip around the bags to close a game in franchise history was when Braggo Roth accomplished the feat on Aug. 13, 1916, against the St. Louis Browns.
Cleveland's latest heroics spoiled Francisco Liriano's bid for his first win as a member of the Blue Jays. Liriano did not allow an earned run for the first time in a start since Opening Day as a member of the Pirates. The lefty allowed four hits while striking out seven batters and walking two over six innings. At one point, he retired 10 straight Cleveland batters.
"It's really tough for me and for the whole team," said Osuna, who has 27 saves in 30 opportunities this season. "Liriano did an unbelievable job. Same for [Joaquin] Benoit and [Jason] Grilli. It really hurts."
Meanwhile, Tribe righty Trevor Bauer had a strong showing for himself, punching out a career-high 13 batters. Bauer allowed two runs on five hits in eight innings. His lone mistake was a pitch left out over the plate to start an at-bat against Russell Martin, who lifted it over the wall in left for a two-run shot in the first.
"That was exciting, that's for sure," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I thought even going into the ninth, it's not good to be down one, but I thought it was a heck of a game, both sides. Good pitching, good crowd excitement, good baseball. To see the way it ended makes it way better."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Missing the mark: During the final play of the ninth inning, Toronto outfielder Michael Saunders attempted to make a leaping grab at the wall, but he came up short. The ball bounced off and ricocheted toward the gap in right-center field, but center fielder Melvin Upton Jr. was late backing up the play. By the time Upton Jr. arrived, Naquin was nearing third base, and Upton Jr. then slipped on the grass, which allowed the Indians to score the winning run with relative ease. Toronto dropped to 13-21 in one-run games this season.
"It took a perfect bounce, and then Upton fell when he got there," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Those guys battled, they got the balls elevated and gave themselves a chance."
Homer issues: Martin's jack was the lone mistake Bauer made all evening. After he surrendered the homer, Bauer held Toronto to a 4-for-25 showing. Including Friday's blast, Bauer has now allowed seven home runs over his past 32 1/3 innings. He had surrendered just eight homers over his first 107 innings of the season.
"I thought Trevor pitched his heart out," Francona said. "I mean, he gave up a home run in the first inning and then just pitched his heart out. Win or lose, I thought he pitched really well. Aggressive, aggressive in. Those hitters, you look at their numbers, they kind of speak for themselves."
Starting early: The Blue Jays did not waste any time getting to Bauer in his second outing against Toronto this season. In the top of the first, Saunders drew a one-out walk, and two batters later, Martin put his team in front with a two-run shot to left field. According to Statcast™, Martin's 13th of the year was projected to travel 398 feet and left his bat at 103 mph. Martin now has five home runs over his past five games after hitting eight in his first 95.
Sour sixth: The Indians finally got to Liriano in the sixth inning. Jason Kipnis smacked a one-out single to right, advancing to third on a passed ball and a fielding error in the next at-bat. He would come into score on an two-out single to left by Mike Napoli to cut the deficit in half. However, the Tribe missed a chance to have a big inning, as two batters later, Ramirez whiffed on a slider for the final out with two men on base.
"We had a lot of swing-and-miss. It's one thing for the big boys to swing and miss, the other guys have to make some adjustments. … Your thumpers, that's one thing, that's what they do. The other guys, have to make some adjustments." -- Gibbons, on his team, which struck out 15 times and leads the American League with 183 strikeouts this month .
"Initially, I thought it was out. And then when it hit the wall, I saw that Upton was pretty far away from it backing up. And when he got to it, I thought we would have to stop him. But as soon as he fell, I thought we had a good chance of scoring. Just good job on Tyler's part, just making sure he kept running. That was a great way to win the game, that's for sure." -- Third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh, on Naquin's trip around the bases
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Martin is batting .545 (18-for-33) during at-bats which end on the first pitch, which is the highest average in the Major Leagues among players with at least 25 such at-bats this season.
According to Statcast™, Naquin went from home to home on the final play in 15.69 seconds. It is the fourth fastest inside-the-park home run of the season. The fastest mark is 15.23, set by Eduardo Núñez of San Francisco, who set it when he was with Minnesota on June 2.
The Indians are 20 games above .500 for the first time since the end of the 2013 season, when they were 22 games above .500.
KING AT THE BALLPARK
For Friday's walk-off, LeBron James of the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers was in attendance. It was his first game attended as a fan since the Cavs overcame a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the finals this summer. After the game, James tweeted about the unbelievable finish and noted the ballpark had a great atmosphere.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Aaron Sanchez will take the mound when the Blue Jays continue their three-game series vs. the Indians on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET at Progressive Field. Sanchez has allowed two earned runs or fewer in all but one of his previous 10 starts.
Indians: Right-hander Josh Tomlin is slated to return from the Family Medical Emergency List and start for the Tribe on Saturday. He spun 7 2/3 frames of three-run ball in the loss to Boston his last time out. Tomlin held Toronto to one run across six innings in a no-decision on July 1.
Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.