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Must C Clutch: Carrera drops a go-ahead bunt in debut

CLEVELAND -- The whiteboard inside Indians manager Manny Acta's office usually has a message -- sometimes emphatic, often inspirational -- penned beautifully across in bright red ink. The latest note reads, "Paciencia y fe."

Patience and faith.

During Friday night's 5-4 Interleague win over the Reds, both virtues came into play. Down early, the Indians had to exercise patience in mounting a comeback. With the game on the line, and the bat in the hands of an untested rookie, the Tribe had to have plenty of faith.

"It has been someone different every night," Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan said. "That tells you what kind of team we have."

A team that has taught its fans to expect the unexpected.

With two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, runners on the corners and the game caught in a 4-4 deadlock, Ezequiel Carrera stepped up to the plate for his first career at-bat in the Majors. On the first pitch he received, Carrera pulled off a perfect drag bunt for a spotlight-stealing single.

Progressive Field erupted in a raucous roar as Shin-Soo Choo crossed home plate after a mad dash from third, and the house got even louder when Carrera avoided a tag attempt by first baseman Joey Votto to reach on a base hit. That completed a five-run turnaround to overcome an early exit by Indians starter Alex White.

Indians closer Chris Perez finished off the Reds in the ninth for his 11th save of the year.

Especially at home, where they boast a 16-4 mark, the Indians look like a team that firmly believes that, no matter how large the deficit, is never out of a game.

"That's the attitude you should have," Acta said. "I think because we've done it, I would say, more than a few times now this year, they do feel that they're never out of it. That's a good feeling to have, especially when the game is close."

As it happens, the last six wins at home for the Indians have come during the club's final at-bat.

The Indians, who lead the American League Central with a 27-15 record, trailed, 4-0, as late as the sixth inning. White exited with a right middle finger injury after being charged with two runs (one earned) in three frames. His hand will be evaluated further with an MRI on Saturday.

"I'm just glad the team could overcome the situation I put them in," White said.

In the third, White fired off a painful slider to Ryan Hanigan but remained in the game for the duration of the inning. He walked two, hit another batter and watched Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta commit a critical throwing error on a potential double play to gift-wrap a 2-0 lead for the Reds.

As the inning wore on, it was clear that White was relying solely on fastballs. After just 65 pitches in the outing, the rookie right-hander was pulled in favor of reliever Frank Herrmann.

"He's a great competitor," Acta said of White. "But I don't think it was fair for him to be out there just competing with his fastball alone. It was obvious that he probably didn't want to throw the other pitches."

Aided by a fielding error by second baseman Orlando Cabrera, the Reds (25-20) added a pair of runs off Herrmann in the sixth inning. The 4-0 cushion seemed like it might be enough for Cincinnati lefty Travis Wood, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning.

"We just started yelling and screaming in the dugout, trying to jinx him and stuff," Acta joked. "[We were] reminding the guy in every inning that he had a no-hitter going. It really doesn't make a difference. We had some good at-bats there and these guys are not going to give up."

Austin Kearns ended the no-hit bid with a one-out base hit off Wood in the sixth. Hannahan followed with a single of his own to shallow right field. Michael Brantley joined the parade with a third consecutive base hit -- this one trimming Cincinnati's lead down to 4-1.

Wood then walked Asdrubal Cabrera to load the bases and he hit Choo to force home a run. At that point, Reds manager Dusty Baker had seen enough.

"Not being able to get out of the sixth there is unbelievable," Wood said. "That can't happen. I've got to find a way to bear down and get some more outs and be able to get out of that."

Reds reliever Logan Ondrusek did not fare much better. He walked Carlos Santana with the bases full of Indians to bring home another run. Shelley Duncan followed with a sacrifice fly to left field that proved sufficient in plating Cabrera, tying the game at 4.

That set the stage for Carrera.

Choo delivered a two-out triple in the home half of the eighth inning and Reds reliever Bill Bray opted to intentionally walk Santana. Cincinnati turned to righty Nick Masset to face Duncan, but Acta called the big designated hitter back to the bench.

Carrera -- promoted from Triple-A Columbus prior to the game -- was told to grab a bat.

He was also given another message.

"I said, 'Just look around and try to bunt the ball," Acta said. "Obviously, the right side is perfect for him."

It was perfect because Votto was forced to play close to the bag with Santana on first base. Down the third-base line, slick-fielding Scott Rolen was shaded in and ready in the event that Carrera chopped a pitch in his direction.

"In that situation," Carrera said, "in the last inning with two outs, I just looked a little bit at the position of the first baseman and the third baseman. It was good. I can do that.

"I can bunt with a man on third with no outs, one out, two outs."

Carrera squared and chopped the pitch to his right. Votto charged in, gloved the baseball and tried to apply the tag on Carrera. The speedy outfielder leaned to his right as he sprinted up the line, avoiding Votto's swipe.

Choo scored. Carrera reached first. The Indians grabbed a 5-4 lead.

"He made a perfect bunt," Baker said. "Nobody could get there. Joey couldn't reach him. It was just a well-executed bunt."

And a memorable first hit in the Majors.

"It's unbelievable," Carrera said with a smile. "My first at-bat in the Major Leagues, to bunt, get an RBI and get the run that wins it for the team, it's good.

"I'm so happy. That was a surprise." Comments