Tribe overcomes Rangers in extras
Peralta's game-winner gives Indians four straight victories
CLEVELAND -- The Indians blissfully charged from the dugout, and onward to first base.
But as Jhonny Peralta and friends forcefully celebrated his game-winning single in Tuesday's 11th inning, the night's star ended up taking the brunt of some friendly fire.
"Somebody punched me in the lip," Peralta said with a smile, displaying a small cut on his lip.
It was a fitting end to the Indians' bizarre 8-7 win over the Rangers before 13,843 at Jacobs Field.
How bizarre, exactly, was this 4-hour and 5-minute affair?
Try a game that saw Tribe ace C.C. Sabathia pitch masterfully through five scoreless innings, and then had the bottom entirely fall out. A game that saw the two teams combine for 32 strikeouts. A game that saw temperatures hover in the 40s after sunny, 70-degree weather presided over Cleveland, while the home club was away playing in domes. And a game that saw closer Joe Borowski cough up a ninth-inning lead.
"That," manager Eric Wedge said, "was not your usual, run-of-the-mill ballgame."
No sir. Not until Peralta's one-out bouncer into left-field against Willie Eyre could the Tribe finally escape with its fourth straight. But in the bizarro world that has been Cleveland this season, the Indians care little how they pull off their wins.
"These are the games we lost last year," Sabathia said. "So for us to come back and win this game, it's huge."
Still, the Indians could have taken a smoother ride. Two innings before Peralta's game-winner, Cleveland looked to polish this one off in nine. But closer Joe Borowski, issuing a leadoff walk to Gerald Laird, who entered the game hitting .190, to start the ninth. Michael Young's two-out double over the head of Grady Sizemore in center field brought new life for Texas.
Officially, it was Borowski's first blown save of the season. But few will soon forget Borowski's ninth-inning implosion against the Yankees last week. In that case, he was not charged with a blown save, because he came in with the Indians owning a four-run lead.
Still, Wedge is hardly concerned. Since when, he asks, is eight saves in nine opportunities a problem?
"You can't ask for any more than that," Wedge said. "He was one pitch away from putting it away. He's had a lot of work lately, and he's done a great job for us."
The blown save denied C.C. Sabathia from becoming the first Indians pitcher to begin a season 4-0 since Cliff Lee got off to a 5-0 start in 2004.
Not that Sabathia can't shoulder some of the blame for this. The big left-hander was brilliant through the fifth, facing just one Texas hitter over the minimum. But his night swiftly deteriorated. Working with a 6-0 lead, Sabathia gave up five runs on six straight hits, including a two-run double to Sammy Sosa.
"Today, I kind of blew it for us, but the guys ended up picking me up," said Sabathia, whose ERA jumped from 2.25 to 3.18 by the end of that marathon sixth inning.
Fernando Cabrera carried the heavy load. After Borowski lost the lead, Cabrera struck out five over two scoreless innings to pick up his first win of the season. His domination, too, was fitting on this night.
Their 19 strikeouts were the most put up by Tribe pitchers since 1968.
"We struck out 19 guys?" Wedge said, somewhat incredulously.
Perhaps he was still in shock from the sight of so many of them. The Indians struck out 13 times themselves. In fact, the Tribe got off to a gloomy start when Rangers right-hander Vicente Padilla punched out the side in the first.
For a team so often burdened by the strikeout, it looked to be an ominous forerunner.
It was not. The next inning, the Indians battered Padilla for five runs in their biggest inning since Opening Day in Chicago.
And then after a quiet rest of the evening, Peralta came through when it mattered most. Adhering to the night's free-swinging ethos, Peralta had his mind set on swinging at the first pitch from Willie Eyre.
"That's what I had in my mind," Peralta said. "Whatever he threw, I was going to swing at."
Peralta indeed swung, Victor Martinez came home from third, and the Indians had won their fourth straight.
"For us to grind out these wins, especially in extra innings in games we didn't always win last year, it's big," Sabathia said. "Hopefully, this gives us confidence to carry us out the whole year."
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.