Baseball / Sports

Indians beat Tigers in 13th on walk-off balk

CLEVELAND -- Perhaps Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin pitching three innings of relief when he was supposed to start on Thursday added to the feeling.

Perhaps Tigers' star Miguel Cabrera getting ejected in the sixth inning for arguing a check-swing strike added to the feeling.

Perhaps Indians right fielder David Murphy hitting a two-run home run to right center in the ninth inning to send the game to extra innings contributed to the vibe.

But there was a sense that the finale of the three-game series between the Indians and Tigers on Wednesday afternoon was more important than just one game between rivals in the American League Central Division.

Even then, no one would have imagined it would end with a balk-off.

Al Alburquerque balked home the winning run with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 13th inning to give the Indians a stunning 11-10 victory and a sweep of the three-game series.

With Ryan Raburn at the plate, Alburquerque moved his gloved hand, scoring Asdrubal Cabrera from third.

"Do I get an RBI for that?" Raburn joked afterward.

"If he didn't call it, we were going to call it," Indians manager Terry Francona said of home plate umpire Tim Timmons. "(Alburquerque) flinched coming up."

According to STATS, it was the first walk-off balk since July 4, 2011, when the Chicago White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals. It marked the first in extra innings since June 16, 2011, when the Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets in the 11th inning.

Three batters earlier, Michael Brantley had tied the game 10-10 with an RBI single to left off left-hander Phil Coke. Alex Avila had put the Tigers ahead 10-9 with a home run to right off Tomlin in the top of the inning.

In the bottom of the 13th, Mike Aviles led off with a single to shallow left and Michael Bourn bunted him to second. Coke hit Cabrera just below his left knee with a pitch and Cabrera went down face first, struggling with the pain. But after a few minutes, he walked to first base.

"I'm sure he's sore; I'm sure he's going to be sore tomorrow," Francona said. "But his willingness to stay in the game, then as much as he was hurting, jockeying around over at third and causing that balk, that's a kid who wants to win."

Asked if Cabrera told him he wasn't coming out, Francona said, "No. There was nobody to put in. That's why we were trying to give him some time."

Brantley's single to right scored Aviles to tie the game. Murphy grounded out to short, moving Cabrera to third and Brantley to second. Then the Tigers replaced Coke with Alburquerque and Francona lifted Justin Sellers, who was scheduled to bat, for pinch-hitter Yan Gomes. Gomes was intentionally walked, setting the stage for the strange finish.

"I don't know what he did," Cabrera said of the balk, and he wasn't alone. Most the Indians had a hard time realizing what had just happened.

"I don't really know if that was a baseball game or a marathon combined with a circus," Murphy said.

As dramatic as the 13th inning was €" and the whole game for that matter €" what it meant loomed even larger.

"We took enormous steps to getting that personality and that chemistry, all the things that you talk about that you're dying to get to," Francona said.

Francona saw his team's resilience in 2013. But the season looked to be slipping away with the Indians 10 1/2 games back in the division when the Tigers arrived on Monday. Now they're 7 1/2 back.

"I thought these three games were important for us in a number of ways," Francona said. "We did so many things well. We made some mistakes, and you're going to make mistakes. But we looked to pick each other up, and it showed on the scoreboard. Regardless, if we play with that much passion, we're going to be OK."

(c)2014 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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