CLEVELAND -- A shoulder injury and subsequent surgery made All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley watch the Cleveland Indians mount several last at-bat wins during the 2016 season, one that resulted in a trip to the World Series for the first time in 19 years.
But on Tuesday, Brantley played a key role when he delivered a game-winning hit, which gave the Indians (4-3) a 2-1 win over the Chicago White Sox (2-4) in the 10th inning of the 2017 home opener at Progressive Field.
“I’m happy for us, but to see him do it probably makes it that much better,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “To say that it was potentially a frustrating day would be an understatement. For the amount of hits we had, we had a lot of opportunities it seemed like, especially later in the game. We just couldn’t push a run across.
“You kind of thought somebody’d have to hit a home run or something like that. We’ve seen Michael do that so many times because he uses the whole field. It’s hard to defend him because he hits the ball from line to line.”
Michael Brantley delivers game-winning hit for Cleveland Indians
Prior to the Indians’ opener against the White Sox, the organization honored the players, coaches and staff for their efforts during the 2016 season.
Each member of the team was presented with their American League Championship ring, and for Brantley to finish off the win was a fitting end to an emotional day for Francona.
“It was nice for us to win,” Francona said. “It’s added when it was Michael. Today was a special day, and for him to cap it off, I’m sure it felt really good for him. I know it felt really good for us.”
With two outs and a full count in the bottom of the 10th inning of the home opener at Progressive Field Tuesday night, Brantley smacked an RBI double to the corner in left field and drove in shortstop Francisco Lindor in a 2-1 walk-off win over the Chicago White Sox (2-4).
Brantley’s game-winning hit gave the Indians (4-3) their fourth walk-off win in a home opener at Progressive Field (1994, 1998 and 1999), and their second last at-bat victory in just seven games this season.
Including the home opener, Brantley has five hits in 20 at-bats with one double, four RBI, three walks and one stolen base over six games.
Brantley had one hit in three at-bats Tuesday and drew two walks. And that one hit was Brantley’s fourth in a walk-off situation, as he smacked two game-winning solo home runs during the 2014 season (May 19 vs. Detroit/August 3 vs. Texas) and an RBI single against the New York Yankees on August 11, 2015.
Also, Brantley drew a bases-loaded walk on May 10, 2011 in a walk-off situation.
“He uses the whole field, so he doesn’t have to reach back for more,” Francona said. “A lot of times, guys try to do more and you get yourself in trouble.
“He’s a good hitter, and he’s the same hitter when there’s nobody on, but with a runner in scoring position, you rarely see him pull off or roll over. He’ll make a pitcher beat him and go the other way like he did.”