By Jim Ingraham, The Sports Xchange
CLEVELAND — Add-on runs are always great to have, especially when they end up being the difference between winning and a giant-sized headache. Just ask Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona.
“We got a couple tack-on runs (in the seventh inning) that made the ninth inning not as nerve wracking as it could have been,” Francona said.
Michael Brantley had two hits and two RBIs and Trevor Bauer pitched into the seventh inning as the Indians beat the Texas Rangers 5-3 on Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
Bauer (7-6) worked 6 1/3 innings, giving up one run and four hits with three strikeouts and one walk. Texas starter Yu Darvish (6-6) pitched six innings, allowing three runs (two earned) and seven hits with six strikeouts and one walk.
Leading 3-1, Cleveland added those two huge runs in the seventh inning, which began with Bradley Zimmer and Roberto Perez drawing walks from reliever Ernesto Frieri.
Jason Kipnis moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt, and Francisco Lindor was intentionally walked, loading the bases. Dario Alvarez relieved Frieri, and Alvarez was greeted by consecutive RBI singles from Brantley and Edwin Encarnacion to extend the Cleveland lead to 5-1.
“Those two runs really put us in a tough situation because then we had to face (Andrew) Miller and (Cody) Allen,” Texas manager Jeff Banister said. “We were able to chip Allen, but not enough.”
Elvis Andrus’ homer leading off the ninth inning against Allen made it 5-2, and an RBI single by Rougned Odor cut it to 5-3. But Allen struck out Robinson Chirinos to end the game.
The Indians also had several outstanding defensive plays, the biggest coming in the sixth inning.
With Cleveland leading 3-1, the Rangers had runners at first and second with one out. Adrian Beltre hit a wicked ground ball down the third base line. It looked like it was headed for the left field corner as a potential double, but Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez made a diving stop and threw out Beltre at first.
“That play saved the inning. If Jose doesn’t make that play, it’s one run, maybe two,” Bauer said.
“Wow,” Francona said of the play. “When Trevor is throwing the ball the way he did tonight, and we’re making plays behind him, we’ve got a good chance to win.”
Cleveland scored an unearned run in the first inning, which began with Rangers left fielder Nomar Mazara being charged with an error after failing to catch Kipnis’ fly ball hit onto the warning track, allowing Kipnis to reach second base.
“He got turned around, and the ball glanced off his glove,” Banister said.
Lindor followed with a single to right field, scoring Kipnis with the first run of the game.
The Indians added two runs in the third inning. Kipnis led off with a walk and went to third on a single to center by Lindor. Brantley followed with a single, scoring Kipnis and moving Lindor went to third. One out later, Ramirez singled home Lindor, giving Cleveland a 3-0 lead.
Texas made it 3-1 in the fifth inning on a solo home run by Chirinos, who hit a 3-2 pitch from Bauer over the center field wall for his 12th home run of the season and second in as many nights, estimated at 430 feet. It’s the fourth straight game in which Chirinos has homered.
Bauer was removed from the game after retiring the first batter in the seventh inning. He threw 103 pitches.
“He was really good, and that’s against a really good lineup,” Francona said. “He really competed and got us to the point in the game where we could hand the ball to Andrew Miller, which is always a good thing.”
Miller pitched a dominating 1 2/3 innings, retiring all five batters he faced, four of them on strikeouts.