CLEVELAND — With their season on life support in the sixth inning Sunday at Progressive Field, the Indians broke out the defibrillators.
Cleveland was on the verge of losing its seventh straight game and being swept away on the homestand before rallying to overcome the Los Angeles Angels 6-5 in front of a win-starved crowd of 23,433 fans.
Down 5-0 through five innings, the Indians got a pair of two-run home runs from Nick Swisher and Mike Aviles in the sixth, then won it with two runs in the seventh on a solo homer from Carlos Santana and an RBI single from Michael Bourn.
As far as must-win games are concerned, this one would qualify for Cleveland, which was swept by the first-place Tigers in a four-game series that knocked them out of contention in the Central Division to kick off the homestand, then dropped the first two games of the series to a struggling Angels team.
“I don’t care how we got it, man, we just needed a win,” Swisher said. “It didn’t matter how we got it whatsoever. It’s been a rough week. I guess you can kind of roll it all back to that first game against Detroit (on Monday). You can always play that would of could of should of, but for us, in the situation we’re in right now, it hasn’t worked out for us.
“You get down 5-0 early and it kind of felt like it’s been the same thing all week long and then we just kind of pulled together. That’s huge for us. It definitely gives us some momentum going into the road trip.”
Cleveland leaves Progressive Field for nine straight games, sitting a distant seven games behind Detroit in the division standings, but within four games in the American League wild-card race.
It could have been much worse.
“It’s got to be,” manager Terry Francona said when asked if the comeback win was good for morale. “We kept fighting and that’s the kind of team we have to be. We can’t just show up. We gotta kind of bring our lunch pail and find a way to be better than the other team.
“We did nothing the first five innings, then all of a sudden. ... If I had the answer, we would have done it in the first inning.”
Frustrations were rising early for the Indians, who lost two-time All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to a second-inning ejection for arguing balls and strikes, then went scoreless on just one hit over the first five innings against unheralded Angels starter Jerome Williams.
A favorable pitching matchup for Cleveland didn’t pan out that way, as ace Justin Masterson allowed five runs over the first four innings, lasting a season-low 4⅓ innings.
“The ball was moving a whole heck of a lot, but not the best control,” said Masterson, who allowed five or more runs for the eighth time in 25 starts. “I think what was great about today is that the boys came back and we saw some offensive power.
“The offense came back and did a great job. That’s the story of the day and I think that’s something we needed. I think the boys needed to see some guys hit some homers.”
What was certainly on display was Cleveland’s resiliency, something that has been a hallmark of the club all season.
“We just never gave up within the game,” Bourn said. “We’ve been a contagious team the whole year, that’s just how it is for us. The biggest thing is we just didn’t give up. You can’t give in in that situation.”
“For us, man, that was just a much-needed win, not only for us, but for our fans, too,” Swisher said. “I feel like we’ve been having some pretty good crowds. We haven’t been playing as well as we would like. It was good to get that win today, especially in front of our home crowd.”
Was it a season-saving victory?
“I wouldn’t say no,” Bourn said. “Certain games are key games in the season. This could have been one of them. We’ll see in the future. You can’t say that right now, just by one game.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Minnesota
WHERE: Target Field, Minneapolis
PITCHERS: Salazar (1-0, 3.29 ERA) vs. Albers (1-0, 0.00)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM