CLEVELAND -- Right-hander Shane Bieber did his part to get the Indians a win Friday night at Progressive Field. As has been the case for much of the season, Cleveland’s hitters did not -- except for Tyler Naquin.
Bieber allowed just a run over a career-high 7 2/3 innings and Naquin ensured the Indians would walk off with a victory when he delivered a game-winning, pinch-hit single with two outs in the ninth inning to hand the Mariners their fifth straight loss -- 2-1.
Prior to the game, manager Terry Francona said the Indians needed to find a way to be one run better than the Mariners. They did exactly that.
“That’s what we set out to do. It wasn’t easy, but that was our goal for today,” he said. “Obviously, we put it in the rearview mirror pretty quick, whether it’s a win or a loss. We’ll see if we can do it again (today).”
In addition to his innings count, Bieber threw a career-high 114 pitches, striking out eight and walking only one. He retired the final nine hitters he faced, leaving in the eighth after striking out Mitch Haniger.
“For us to let him go that far speaks volumes of the trust he’s earning,” Francona said. “He deserved to pitch. The way we ended up, if they’d have scored that inning, I’d have felt bad. You’re trying to not let him get in a situation where he could get a loss because he didn’t deserve it.”
“I thought (my stuff) got better as the game went on,” Bieber said. “The velocity was a little down tonight, but I thought my stuff altogether played pretty well.
“I think our staff is one that wants to go as deep as possible in every single game. We’re extremely competitive in that aspect and it’s really nice to have that vote of confidence from your manager and be able to go out there and execute pitches that late in the game.”
The Indians failed to muster a hit and produced only one baserunner through the first three innings off Japanese rookie left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, trailing 1-0 after a Jay Bruce solo home run with two outs in the fourth.
Cleveland responded in the bottom half of the inning, with Leonys Martin snapping an 0-for-21 skid with a leadoff double for the Indians‘ first hit. Jose Ramirez followed with a single and Martin scored when Carlos Santana grounded into a double play.
Kikuchi allowed a double to Jordan Luplow before retiring the final 10 batters he faced -- six on strikeouts.
Luplow’s biggest contribution of the night came in the fifth inning -- on defense.
He chased down a leadoff drive to right-center from Tim Beckham and made a strong throw relay throw to Francisco Lindor, who fired the ball to third baseman Jose Ramirez to cut down Beckham trying to stretch a triple.
“A lot of guys came up huge obviously in different situations, Naquin and Luplow and other guys you could mention,” Bieber said. “But that throw from Luplow, I felt like it kind of changed the game, not just for me but for all of us. It kinda felt like it got us all going.”
The Indians ninth-inning rally began with Lindor drawing a walk off former Cleveland pitcher Anthony Swarzak.
Martin grounded into a fielder’s choice out and Ramirez struck out looking at a fastball down the middle before Swarzak walked Santana. Naquin pinch hit for Luplow and swatted the first pitch he saw through the hole between first and second for Cleveland’s fourth hit of the night.
It was the second walk-off win of the season and the first walk-off hit by a pinch hitter since Brandon Guyer’s game-winning single, Sept. 20, 2016, against Kansas City.
“At that point, I didn’t care about (Naquin’s) approach,” Francona said. “I just wanted him to get the ball to the outfield so we could win.”