Bats bail out 'pen vs. Royals
Garko delivers walk-off win after Borowski struggles in ninth
CLEVELAND -- It should have been a time for celebration.
Yet after Ryan Garko drove the game-winning single into center field to lift the Tribe to a 5-4 victory over the Royals, he was a tad frightened.
At the front of a joyous pack of Indians charging from Jacobs Field's third-base dugout, there was second baseman Josh Barfield running full bore at his roommate.
"I just saw how hard he was coming," Garko said. "I was scared."
And for good reason. The collision ended with Barfield body-checking Garko to the infield turf and a euphoric pile-on that belied the calendar. This was July and not October, after all.
But after the Indians emerged with their 14th last at-bat triumph, overcoming closer Joe Borowski's rare blown save moments earlier, the Tribe cared little.
Well, except for Garko.
"Next time [Barfield] has a walk-off hit, he better have his head on the swivel," Garko said with a smile.
Revenge, eh? Are these celebrations getting a little out of hand? Heck, even Trot Nixon tripped and fell on the dugout steps while on his way to slam Garko with the obligatory pie in the face.
"These guys are tough," manager Eric Wedge said.
They certainly showed that again on the field.
Taking a 4-3 lead into the ninth, closer Borowski allowed a pair of singles before Tony Pena's sacrifice fly to left field tied the game.
Borowski retired David DeJesus to end the inning, but the damage was done. In a rare misstep from the man who has been so surprisingly reliable, the league's saves leader had dropped just his third save chance in 28 tries.
"It's going to happen," Wedge said.
Yet instead of deflating the Tribe, the opposite happened. They just figured it was a simple roadblock on the way to another last at-bat win. For such victories have occurred so frequently, a different feeling has permeated the Tribe's clubhouse this season.
"Let's go win this thing, guys," Garko heard Wedge saying between innings from the dugout's top step.
Said starter Jake Westbrook: "We were feeling pretty good about our chances."
So once more, the Tribe's bats went to work. Facing hard-throwing right-hander Zack Greinke, Travis Hafner lined a one-out double into the right-field corner. Greinke then intentionally walked Jhonny Peralta to get to Garko.
And on a first-pitch fastball, Garko shot the game-winner into center field. A few players ran over to congratulate pinch-runner Mike Rouse, who scored the winning run, but the real party surrounded the star du jour.
"No one's scared to be up there," Garko said. "It's a different guy every night."
The win sent a message that the second half would be no different than the first. The Indians will win at Jacobs Field, and more often than not, they'll do it in improbable fashion.
Turns out all the Tribe needed following a five-game stretch heading into the All-Star break that saw them drop four games in the standings was a return ticket home.
That's where Cleveland is a baseball-best 32-12. And that's where, on Friday in front of a fireworks-night crowd of 32,624, Westbrook continuously skirted danger to toss six gritty innings of three-run ball, the Indians cobbled together single runs in the second through fifth innings against Royals starter Odalis Perez and Borowski could not deliver.
Little was perfect. But like always seems to be the case at home, the Indians made things work in the end.
"These guys work hard to expect good things to happen," Wedge said.
And as the Tribe's rowdy celebrations can attest to, that work doesn't always end with the final out.
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.