The Indians (34-32) beat Cincinnati, 2-1, in 10 innings on a bases-loaded single by rookie Oscar Mercado to win the first chapter in the annual Battle of Ohio. It was the Indians’ first extra-inning victory of the season and their fourth walk-off win.
Mike Freeman started the rally with a one-out walk against closer Raisel Iglesias (1-6). Leonys Martin singled him to third and Francisco Lindor was intentionally walked to bring Mercado to the plate. He singled to left on a 1-2 slider to deliver Freeman and make the Indians 5-2 on this home stand.
“That was really fun,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “A couple at-bats earlier in the game, he (Mercado) came up with a runner on second and struggled to move him. But he hung in there, and that’s a pretty good pitcher he got a big hit off of.”
The win went to closer Brad Hand (3-2), who pitched the final two innings. He struck out four, including the side in order in the 10th.
Bauer is still looking for his first win since April 30, but it would be hard to ask a pitcher to do much more than he did Tuesday night. He allowed one run in 7 2/3 innings and the only thing that knocked him out of the game was the number of pitches he threw — 118. Over his last five games, Bauer has averaged 116 pitches per start. He entered averaging 111.9 pitches per start overall, the most in the big leagues.
The Indians took a 1-0 lead on Santana’s homer in the fourth. He hit a 2-1 pitch from Luis Castillo over the wall in right center for his 13th homer of the season. Tyler Naquin followed with a double, but Castillo retired Jose Ramirez on a fly ball to right and Jake Bauers on a liner to first.
Ramirez and Bauer would feel the heat again in the sixth. Lindor opened with his second double of the night. Mercado grounded out to third, but Castillo did the Tribe a favor by walking Naquin and Santana to load the bases with one out and the score tied, 1-1.
It was a favor they were unable to use to their advantage. Castillo struck out Ramirez and Bauers to end the threat. But here’s something from the Department of Silver Linings to consider: Ramirez struck out after a nine pitch at-bat and Bauer went down after six pitches. That pushed Castillo’s pitch count to a season- high 106 and he did not come out for the seventh.
The Reds tied it in the fifth on a double by rookie Neck Senzel off the wall in center. Jose Iglesias opened the inning with a single off Freeman’s body at second. He went to second on Tucker Barnhart’s ground out and scored on Senzel’s 11th double of the season.
The threat ended ended when Joey Votto lined out to Freeman, who threw to second to force Senzel.
Bauer extracted himself and the Indians from a big-time jam in the seventh. Yasiel Puig’s leadoff double off Mercado’s glove in left center and walks to Iglesias and Barnhart loaded the bases with one out. Bauer went to a 2-2 count against Senzel before he grounded back to the mound where Bauer was only too happy to throw home and start a 1-2-3 double play.
“I thought he competed like crazy,” Francona said of Bauer. “I thought he shook him off Berto less than he has in the past, which I think is a good thing because Berto has such a great feel. There were a lot of close misses, and that’s OK. He followed the glove a lot closer than he has.”
Castillo, with just one loss on the season, allowed one run on two hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked two.
The Indians and Reds end this two-game interleague series on Wednesday afternoon when rookie Zach Plesac (1-1, 1.86) faces Cincinnati right-hander Anthony DeSclafani (2-3, 4.70). Game time is 1:10 p.m. with SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM carrying the game.
Plesac is coming off his first big-league win, a seven-inning effort Friday against the Yankees. He struck out five, walked one and allowed two hits. This will be his first time facing the Reds.
DeSclafani is 1-1 with a 3.79 ERA in three starts against the Indians. He’s 1-1 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts at Progressive Field.