CLEVELAND -- Much like they were with shortstop Francisco Lindor, the Cleveland Indians were cautious with outfielder Bradley Zimmer when it came to promoting him through the minor-league levels, and that patience has been paying dividends in the 2017 season.
In Tuesday’s 11-7 win over the Los Angeles Angels in 11 innings at Progressive Field, Zimmer collected three hits in five at-bats, drove in four runs with a grand slam in the bottom of the second, scored two runs and drew a walk that served as a catalyst in the game-winning rally.
“Everybody talks about tools,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “That’s what he (does). He shows them in a number of ways. Whether it’s on the bases, hitting for power, making a catch up against the wall, he’s pretty exciting to watch.”
In the bottom of the second inning, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion doubled to the wall in left field, and came around to score when second baseman Jose Ramirez followed with an RBI two-base hit to center field.
Then, to load the bases with only one out, outfielder Austin Jackson and catcher Yan Gomes drew back-to-back walks, the latter of which was a four-pitch at-bat. Third baseman Giovanny Urshela got an RBI when he drew a bases-loaded walk on just four pitches, and that set the table for Zimmer.
On a 3-1 pitch from Angels starter Jesse Chavez, Zimmer dropped the barrel of the bat through the strike zone and belted the ball into the bullpen in right-center field for his first career grand slam in Major League Baseball.
In the top of the 10th inning, Zimmer chased down a fly ball from Ben Revere for the final out of the frame. On a 2-2 pitch from Indians reliever Zach McAllister, Revere roped a line drive to deep center field, but Zimmer timed his jump correctly, corralled the ball and despite crashing into the wall, held on for the out.
“In a game like this, if a play doesn’t get made, you’ll probably lose,” Francona said. “Fortunately, we made some good defensive plays.”
Zimmer added, “I got a good jump on it. The ball was hit well, and the only thing going through my head was get to the spot and do what you can to make a play. I timed that pretty well and was able to come down with it.”
Zimmer led off the Indians’ 11th-inning rally when he fought back from being in a 1-2 hole and drew a walk. Then, Zimmer hustled down the line and stole second base with Lindor at the plate. After moving over to third base on a wild pitch and an intentional walk to outfielder Michael Brantley, Zimmer scored the game-winning run when Encarnacion belted the first offering from Angels reliever Bud Norris into the left-field bleachers.
“To get him on base, because he’s such a threat to be able to run, it’s really helpful,” Francona said. “You don’t just have to automatically go to a sacrifice bunt. Then, you’ve got the middle of the order coming up.
“They have to make decisions, and they’re not fun ones to make. I understand why you walk Brantley, but Eddie’s sitting there. That’s why playing those games at home are a lot better than playing them on the road.”