The Cleveland Indians’ slogan throughout a season of improbable comeback wins has been ”What If?”
Rookie Jason Kipnis added a new twist Monday night: "Why not?"
That’s what Kipnis thought as he came to bat with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning, before delivering his first career hit to give Cleveland a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
”That was so cool,” Kipnis said after hitting a 1-0 pitch from Hisanori Takahashi between first and second base to give the Indians their 11th last at-bat home win and break a four-game losing streak.
Kipnis was well aware he was 0 for 5 since being called up Friday and really wanted a hit.
”I actually thought, why not now? I might as well do it,” he said.
Kipnis was mobbed by teammates as the club’s latest late-inning hero. First base coach Sandy Alomar Jr., gave the ball to the 24-year-old after retrieving it from a fan when Angels right fielder Torii Hunter tossed it into the crowd.
”I’m very appreciative of that,” Kipnis said. ”I’m going to keep this one a long time.”
Indians manager Manny Acta will savor the much-needed victory awhile, too.
”This is a good way to break a little losing streak,” Acta said. ”We showed a lot of heart and he couldn’t pick a better spot for his first hit in the big leagues.”
Tony Sipp (5-2) pitched a scoreless ninth for the win after Bobby Abreu’s two-run homer off Vinnie Pestano put the Angels ahead 2-1 in the eighth.
Angels closer Jordan Walden then blew his seventh save in 30 tries.
Michael Brantley opened the ninth with a line single to left and stole second, getting Kipnis to think.
”I mapped out what had to happen to get me up there or just be cheering,” Kipnis said. ”And that was bases loaded, two outs.”
After Walden struck out Asdrubal Cabrera on a 3-2 pitch clocked at 98 mph, Travis Hafner drove the first pitch he saw to left-center, easily scoring Brantley to tie it at 2.
”Great at-bat there by Michael and then by Hafner,” Acta said. ”These guys believe when we get to the ninth and are close we can win. I’m just glad the lineup turned over to put those guys in position to do it.”
Walden then walked Carlos Santana and hit Jack Hannahan in the right ankle with a 0-2 pitch to load the bases.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia brought in Takahashi to pitch and summoned Hunter from right to play as an extra infielder between first and second base.
”You have to defend what you can in that situation,” Scioscia said. ”Any fly ball is going to beat you.”
The ploy worked when Travis Buck tapped a one-hopper to Hunter, who threw home for the forceout.
”I was thinking, gee, we can’t even hit a ball over an outfielder playing the infield,” Acta said. ”But we pitched great one more time. When you pitch well, you have a chance.”
Acta acknowledged the second-place Indians are watching the scoreboard to see what other AL Central teams are doing. Cleveland moved within one game of first-place Detroit and is 2 1/2 ahead of Chicago.
”After what we went through last year (93 losses), why not watch the scoreboard?” Acta said.
Angels starter Dan Haren struck out 10 over 7 2/3 innings and was in line for his fifth win in seven starts since June 24. The right-hander gave up one run and three hits, walking two.
”I struggled a little bit in the first inning,” Haren said. ”I didn’t really have too many baserunners after that. In a 1-0 game you have to be more careful.”
Haren matched his season high in strikeouts, set May 8 in a 6-5 Angels win over Cleveland in which he got a no-decision. On April 12, he blanked the Indians 2-0 on a one-hitter — a fourth-inning single by Shin-Soo Choo.
Maicer Izturis singled to open the eighth off Pestano. One out later, Abreu stepped up, hitting only .152 (10 for 66) in July. The veteran pulled a 1-0 pitch into the right-field seats for his fourth homer and a 2-1 lead.
Cleveland scored in the first. Brantley lined a one-out double to right and came home on Cabrera’s single for a 1-0 lead.
Indians starter Fausto Carmona worked six strenuous shutout innings for one of his best outings of an otherwise rocky season. Named Cleveland’s No. 1 starter at the outset of spring training, he was pounded for 10 runs in three innings on opening day by the Chicago White Sox. He later lost eight of nine starts from May 19 through June 26. He was sidelined July 2 to 18 with a strained muscle in his right thigh.
He stranded two runners in the second, fourth and fifth innings. In the fifth, with Angels on first and third and two outs, Abreu hit a shot that right fielder Buck caught with his back against the wall.
Notes: Indians C Carlos Santana has one hit in his past 15 at-bats, a fourth-inning bunt single. … Indians rookie RHP Alex White, out since May 21 with a sore right middle finger, threw a simulated game. Acta said trainers will see how White feels Tuesday before putting together a timetable for his return, but it will be as a reliever. The Indians want to get White back as soon as possible and think that it will take too long to build up his arm strength to get back into the rotation. … Indians INF Jared Goedert accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Columbus. He was designated for assignment Thursday.