CLEVELAND — Jason Kipnis remembers making noises, but he doesn’t know what they were.
“There were no words coming out, really,” he said Friday night. “It was just kind of sounds. Gibberish. Just screams.”
Kipnis had just watched his 10th-inning fly ball sail into the right-field stands to give the Indians a 6-3 win over Seattle. And as the crowd of 34,282 exulted, so did Kipnis.
The dugout emptied to welcome Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourn to the plate, then put a semi-circle around home as Kipnis rounded the bases.
He put his arms out and looked to the crowd headed to first. As he got to second, he started screaming. As he got to third, he enjoyed the roars of the most exuberant crowd at Progressive Field this season. Halfway down the third-base line, Kipnis slammed his helmet, then jumped on the plate and into the the gaggle of teammates.
“I was so happy for them,” manager Terry Francona said. “I get a big kick out of that. Watching those guys jump on each other is fun.”
The two-out rally ended what Bourn called “a battle of the bullpens,” as the Mariners retired 15 Indians hitters in a row before Stubbs and Bourn were able to scratch their way on base ahead of Kipnis’ game-winner. The 10th epitomized the way the Indians have played this season, as Stubbs and Bourn got to second and third without hitting the ball out of the infield and Kipnis came through for the third walk-off win of the season.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge had just removed Carter Capps for left-handed Lucas Luetge. Luetge got Michael Brantley to ground out, but threw three consecutive balls to Stubbs before walking him on five pitches.
With Bourn following, Francona gave Stubbs the go-ahead to steal. But Luetge threw to first as Stubbs broke for second.
“They know he’s going; that’s why they threw over,” Francona said. “Because if he’s out, you have the top of the order coming up.”
Stubbs said he had one thing in mind: Run like mad to beat the throw to second.
He did, on pure speed. But he also praised second-base umpire Mark Wegner.
“I’ve had a lot of plays like that where you go first move on a lefty,” Stubbs said. “You do beat the ball, but you get an automatic out call. (Wegner) actually watched the play develop, and I was in there safe.
“I have to applaud him for making the right call.”
Bourn fell behind 1-2 when Luetge threw what Bourn called a “nasty” breaking ball away.
“I was trying to actually stop my swing, but I hit it and it went in the right place, simple as that,” Bourn said.
The ball dribbled off the bat, just to the right of the mound. By the time second baseman Dustin Ackley grabbed it at the cut of the grass, the speedy Bourn was at first.
“I was able to get a cheap hit, but I’ll take all my hits,” Bourn said.
“Kind of a fluke infield hit for Bourny … good placement, I should say,” Stubbs said.
Kipnis thought about his approach as he walked to the plate. He didn’t want to swing over a breaking ball, and he wanted to make sure he drove whatever pitch he got. He was thinking single, and he took a first-pitch slider as Bourn took second with no throw.
Kipnis looked off-speed on the second pitch.
“He threw me the 0-0 slider and then he came back with the same pitch,” Kipnis said. “I knew I didn’t want to roll over it or pull off. I wanted to actually stay through it. I just got the bat in a good position for that pitch and got it up in the air.”
Kipnis saw the ball go into the front row of the stands as he approached first base; it was his second walk-off, game-winning hit and first walk-off home run.
“It’s always exciting,” Bourn said. “It never gets old.”
Kipnis started slowly this season, but worked with hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo to shorten his swing, which added more whip to his bat. Since May 3, he’s hitting .316 with 13 extra-base hits, six home runs, 19 RBIs and a 1.164 OPS.
“He’s getting not just hits, but big hits,” Francona said. “He’s driving the ball out of the ballpark. He’s running the bases. He’s doing everything.”
He did it Friday in front of the Indians’ biggest crowd since Opening Day and its most boisterous.
“I loved, I loved it,” Bourn said. “I loved the fans. … That was a great atmosphere. Everybody in the dugout loved it.”
“I was just as amped up as they were rounding first base,” Kipnis said.
Kipnis did what kids pretend to do in the backyard when they first start playing Wiffle ball. He hit the home run that won the game. Before he headed out of the clubhouse to lift weights, he acknowledged he understood what it meant.
“This was outstanding,” he said. “This was one of the more fun nights I’ve had on a baseball field.”