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Must C Clutch: Choo belts a walk-off three-run shot

CLEVELAND -- Shin-Soo Choo was at an area hospital on Tuesday morning, spending time at his wife's side after the birth of their third child one day earlier. The Indians right fielder then received a phone call.

Indians manager Manny Acta wanted to know if Choo was available to play.

Choo hung up the phone, talked things over with his wife and then headed to Progressive Field with her blessing. Then in the ninth inning against the Mariners, Choo turned Tuesday into his own kind of Father's Day, delivering a three-run home run that sent Cleveland to a dramatic 7-5 walk-off victory in the first game of a doubleheader.

"We didn't even know if he was going to make it for the game," Acta said. "I'm glad he came."

Acta might want to send a thank you note to Choo's wife.

"She understands a baseball player's life," Choo said. "She said, 'Go.'"

Choo's teammates were undoubtedly glad he showed up, too.

Indians closer Chris Perez was in line for a loss after giving up two ninth-inning runs for his fourth blown save of the season. Perez's struggles spoiled a solid start from Justin Masterson, who was in line for a complete-game win, but hit the showers with two extra runs on his line and a no-decision for his effort.

This season, though, the Tribe has had a knack for pulling something out at the moment the team appears left for dead. With one swift swing, Choo erased the late-inning woes of Perez and ended Cleveland's four-game losing streak. He also halted the Indians' slide in the standings for another game.

Asked how badly the Indians needed this win, Acta could not help but smile.

"Really bad," Acta replied. "How bad can you put 'really bad' on camera. Really bad."

Along the same lines, the Indians (63-62) badly need Choo to regain the form that turned the right fielder into one of the game's budding stars over the past two years. The Tribe really needs him now with Travis Hafner (right foot), Grady Sizemore (right knee) and Michael Brantley (right wrist) out of the lineup.

With the victory in Game 1 of Tuesday's twin bill, Cleveland trimmed first-place Detroit's lead in the American League Central down to five games. As the Indians continue their quest to slice further into that lead, the ballclub would benefit greatly from having a rejuvenated Choo in the heart of the lineup.

Cleveland only recently received Choo back from the disabled list after he missed seven weeks with a broken left thumb. Through nine games back with the club, all Choo has done is hit .359 (14-for-39) with two home runs and six RBIs.

"We've got still over a month of baseball to play," Acta said. "He's a guy that can carry this ballclub for weeks. Right now with Travis out, and not having Brantley and Sizemore, it's a perfect time for him to pick us up a little bit."

Choo did just that in Cleveland's latest win, which marked the sixth walk-off homer of the season for the team. That represents the most in one season for the Indians since they had six during the 1996 campaign. The win was the Tribe's 30th comeback victory this year and the 20th win in the team's last at-bat.

"I can't say enough about these guys' hearts," Acta said. "They don't give up."

Masterson limited the Mariners (54-73) to three runs over the first eight innings and was sent to the mound 110 pitches deep for a shot at a complete game. With the Tribe holding a 4-3 lead -- thanks largely to Kosuke Fukudome, who went 3-for-3 with two doubles, two runs scored and one RBI -- Masterson allowed two straight one-out hits in the ninth.

Acta said it was an easy call to stick with Masterson.

"We felt he had as good of stuff as anybody that we were going to bring out of the bullpen," Acta said. "We gave him a shot and he threw the ball well."

Masterson was upset that he could not finish the job.

"Of course you want to finish out the ninth," said the starter. "We were so close. A little jam shot to center, a rollover to right field, and I was like, 'Oh my goodness, come on. Let's do something.'"

One day after suffering a loss to the Mariners, Perez entered and fell behind in the count against Seattle's Trayvon Robinson. Perez then had a 3-2 fastball pulled down the right-field line by Robinson to score both Brendan Ryan and Kyle Seager, giving the Mariners a 5-4 advantage.

With the lead in hand, Seattle turned things over to closer Brandon League.

Ezequiel Carrera -- with two hits earlier in the game against Seattle starter Blake Beavan -- led off by slicing a pitch to left for a double. Asdrubal Cabrera then reached on a fielder's choice groundout, which was gloved by second baseman Dustin Ackley, who then threw errantly to third in an effort to nab Carrera.

That set the stage for Choo.

"I've faced him before," Choo said of League. "He throws a good hard sinker. So, with nobody on and runners on first and third, I tried to hit the ball hard somewhere. I tried quick swings, to start early and let good things happen."

Good things have happened for the Indians facing League in the past.

On May 13 this season, Hafner clubbed a two-run home run off League to send the Indians to one of their other walk-off victories. Right now Hafner is on the disabled list, wearing a walking boot and possibly facing season-ending surgery for a right foot injury that has bothered him since late April.

Choo would have to do.

On the first pitch he saw, Choo made hard contact and sent the baseball arcing high over right field. The Indians right fielder knew it would at least hit the 19-foot wall that towers beyond the outfield. The fans at the ballpark erupted when it cleared the top for a game-winning homer.

Count Perez among those grateful for the blast.

"He bailed me out," said the closer.

While running the bases, Choo thought of his wife and of his daughter, Abigail, who was born at 12:05 p.m. ET on Monday. The right fielder said it was the best present he could have given them.

"I felt like there was so much drama," Choo said. "My daughter is coming. The next day I hit a homer, a walk-off homer for the first time in my baseball career. It's like a movie, you know?

"After the homer, while running the bases, I had a lot of things on my mind."

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