CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – When you have another grand slam in your back pocket, use it. When you have five tools at your disposal, use them.
Edwin Encarnacion did the heavy lifting in the 11th, walking off a winner with a grand slam, but it was rookie center fielder Bradley Zimmer who set the table time and time again in the win, using all of his many gifts to do so. Had Zimmer not made every play he did, Encarnacion’s winner never happens.
The 24-year old showed his power in the 2nd inning, slashing the first of the Tribe’s two grand slams on a majestic 435 foot, 112.2 mile per hour blast to deep center. It was the first grand slam of Zimmer’s career, and the team needed every run.
Zimmer showed his contact skills on two more base hits, a pulled ball to right field in the 4th inning, and a 107 mph smash up the middle in the 8th.
Following the second single, the speedster swiped second base, setting up Francisco Lindor for an ultimately failed attempt to score a runner in scoring position.
That speed resurfaced in the 10th, combined with his fielding, crashing into the wall in order to make a catch on a deep fly from Ben Revere that ended the inning.
The rookie showed the speed again in the 11th inning with a leadoff walk, nabbing his second steal of the night before advancing to third on a ball-four wild pitch to Lindor.
“To get him on base, because he’s such a threat to be able to run, it’s really helpful,” Manager Terry Francona said. “You don’t just have to automatically go to the sacrifice bunt. Then you got the middle of the order coming up and they have to make decisions.
“They’re not fun ones to make.”
Had Zimmer never stolen second, the wild pitch never happens, and Scioscia does not face the threat of Michael Brantley with a runner on third and no outs.
Ultimately the decision he made was to let Encarnacion hit against a five-man infield. The cleanup hitter said he was trying to hit the ball over the infield.
While the game was ultimately won on the plays Zimmer made, the game almost turned the opposite way on a play he failed to complete.
The rookie made an aggressive play on a 6th inning line drive from Yunel Escobar, diving to record an out. Instead the ball snuck by Zimmer’s glove and rolled to the warning track, allowing Kaleb Cowart to score from first to tie the game.
Coupled with being picked off following his 4th inning single, Zimmer acknowledged the roller coaster ride of success that turned out fine in the end.
“It was a big play right there, it gets them back in the game so maybe a little too aggressive right there. I got a good jump and thought I could make a play, but like I said a little too aggressive and it didn’t work out so,” Zimmer admitted.
“There was a lot of ups and downs and the name of the game is that you just got to stay with it and not get defeated and just stay with it and continue to have good at-bats and we came out on top.”
By the time Encarnacion ended the game, Terry Francona had exhausted his bullpen and sent Thursday’s scheduled starter, Trevor Bauer, out to center field for if an emergency arose.
Hamstrung by a six-man bullpen caused by the activation of Austin Jackson, the timing could not have been at a better time for Francona.
“It never fails,” the Manager said. “It never fails. You look at the lineup card, I saw they sent J.C. down there, we were sending Trevor down there. It was already interesting and it was getting ready to get more interesting.”
Jackson wasted no time in his return, turning in a 3-for-4 night with a walk and a run scored. He also saw 34 pitches over the course of his five plate appearances.
“He gave us a lift last time,” Francona added. “He comes right back tonight and looks like he’s mid-season. It’s fortunate for us.”