The Cleveland Indians have been enjoying walk-off wins with great frequency of late, while the Pittsburgh Pirates have been stumbling over themselves for much of the season.
The surging Indians (34-24) look to remain in hot pursuit of the American League Central title on Saturday when they continue their three-game series versus the visiting Pirates (18-40).
“That’s what we want. We want to win the division,” right-hander Carlos Carrasco said after Cleveland matched a season high with its sixth straight win in the series opener on Friday. The dramatic 4-3 victory also served as the red-hot Indians’ third walk-off win in their last four games.
Cleveland’s victory pulled it even with the Chicago White Sox for second place in the AL Central, one game behind the Minnesota Twins. The White Sox and Twins both lost Friday, meaning the Indians can clinch a home series in the wild-card round with wins on Saturday and Sunday.
Cesar Hernandez played the hero on Friday after ripping an RBI double with two outs in the ninth inning.
“When the situation is that you need a guy to get a key hit with two outs, he’s been the guy,” Cleveland interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr said.
Hernandez has hit safely in eight of his last nine contests for the Indians, who have won eight of nine following a season-high eight-game losing skid.
“We knew we were better than that,” Delino DeShields Jr. said of the slide. “We just kept telling ourselves to keep the energy up, don’t panic, we have a good ball club and yeah we’re just stringing together hits, making pitches, coming up with hits.”
Cleveland right-hander Aaron Civale (4-5, 3.99 ERA) will bid for back-to-back wins for the second time this season when he takes the ball on Saturday. Civale also won consecutive starts on Aug. 14 and 19, with the latter outing being a complete-game victory in his lone career outing versus Pittsburgh.
Pirates right-hander Joe Musgrove (0-5, 4.68 ERA) will look to put a positive spin on a brutal season when he takes the mound on Saturday. Musgrove deserved a better fate in his last start, as he struck out a career-high 11 batters and scattered three hits over six scoreless innings in a no-decision versus St. Louis.
Musgrove, 27, sports a 1-1 mark with an 8.10 ERA in two career starts against Cleveland.
Gregory Polanco belted a two-run homer to give him three RBIs in his last two games after failing to record one in his previous six games.
Rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes had an RBI single in the eighth inning to extend his hitting streak to six games.
“There’s no pressure on me. I use it as motivation,” the 23-year-old Hayes said. “The success that I’ve had makes me even hungrier to get back home after the season ends and get even better. There are things I still can work on offensively, defensively, running — all those things.”
–Field Level Media