CLEVELAND — Drew Stubbs’ speed on the bases allowed the Indians to start their nine-game homestand on a high note.
Stubbs scored the game-winning run with one out in the ninth inning — sliding home to beat the tag of catcher Kurt Suzuki on a fielder’s choice — as the Tribe edged Washington 2-1 on Friday night.
It was Cleveland’s third straight victory after losing a season high eight games in a row.
“Losing eight or nine in a row is not the character of this team,” Stubbs said. “We just needed a few breaks to go our way to turn things around. Now that they’ve started bouncing our way, we’re back on a roll.”
With Stubbs on third base and Michael Bourn at second, Jason Kipnis hit a full-count pitch from reliever Fernando Abad sharply toward first. First baseman Adam LaRoche made a good stop, but Stubbs outran his throw home to the delight of the 30,824 fans at Progressive Field.
“That was a heck of a play by LaRoche, but fortunately Stubbs went on contact and his speed beat the throw,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “That’s one of the things about our ballclub, no matter what, you’ve got to respect the speed.
“In that situation, there was no reason not to send Drew because we had another fast runner right behind him in Michael. We felt pretty good about our chances either way.”
After Mike Aviles flied out to start the ninth, Stubbs lined a one-out single off Abad (0-1, 1.00 ERA) into right field. He subsequently attempted to steal second on a pitch to Bourn, who turned it into a hit through the right side of the infield, moving Stubbs to third.
Bourn then stole second to remove the possibility of an inning-ending double play, which proved huge when Kipnis followed with a smash just inside the bag to LaRoche.
“Drew started it off in the ninth, and we just kept it going,” Bourn said. “Kipper had a great at-bat, hitting the 3-2 curve solid, which was not easy, but he got it hard enough for Drew to score. Having that kind of speed is one of our biggest keys, so we’re going to try and use it to our advantage as often as possible.”
Cleveland reliever Joe Smith (3-0, 1.16 ERA) tossed a scoreless ninth to earn the victory, while designated hitter Ryan Raburn accounted for the Indians’ other run with a fourth-inning homer off left-hander Gio Gonzalez.
Raburn is a career .538 hitter with three home runs in 13 at-bats against Gonzalez, which prompted Francona to bat him cleanup.
The Nationals had taken a 1-0 lead in the third, when Suzuki scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch by right-hander Justin Masterson. Ryan Zimmerman struck out and LaRoche grounded out to end the inning.
Both starters were exceptional throughout their seven-inning outings, but neither figured in the decision.
Tribe ace Masterson only allowed two hits while striking out 10, while Gonzalez had eight strikeouts and scattered three hits. Each walked four batters and combined to throw 240 pitches, 144 for strikes.
“Gonzalez was very good, so was Masty,” Francona said. “We saw seven pretty good innings of good pitching both ways.”
Masterson is 5-1 with a 2.22 ERA in eight home starts this season, while Gonzalez is 5-0 with a 0.81 ERA in seven career games in Cleveland.
“The matchup of aces definitely lived up to its billing tonight,” Stubbs said. “I’m just glad things turned out our way in the end.”
Kipnis was the only player on either team with multiple hits, going 2-for-5, along with his third career walk-off RBI. It was the Indians’ sixth walk-off win of the season.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Washington
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Kazmir (3-4, 5.33 ERA) vs. Zimmermann (9-3, 2.00)
TV/RADIO: Channel 8; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM