Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley went from making a costly error to an offensive hero in a matter of an hour, as he generated a two-run single in the ninth to start a rally that led to a 6-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics in the night-cap of a double-header at the O.co Coliseum.
Brantley, who has been nicknamed "Dr. Smooth" by his teammates and media members alike, stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, and drove a single to right field. That sharply-hit single off Oakland closer Jim Johnson drove in Ryan Raburn and Jason Kipnis for the tying and go-ahead runs, respectively.
"It was a sinker in," Brantley told Sportstime Ohio after the win. "I've faced him a lot of times, and he likes to throw sinkers away to a lot of people, but he's been front-dooring me a lot lately. I was just looking for a good pitch over the middle and put a good swing on it."
After Brantley's go-ahead single, the Indians added an insurance run when right fielder David Murphy drove in catcher Carlos Santana with a sacrifice fly to center field. That drove Johnson out of the game for the second time in three days against the Tribe.
Brantley said the team was able to get to Johnson again because of "a never-give-up attitude."
"Every day we go to the plate, we know we've got three outs in the ninth, you've got to use them wisely," Brantley said. "He's a great pitcher. We've just got to put up good, quality at-bats like our team did tonight. It's fun. It's a great victory there."
Indians manager Terry Francona added, "The less we see of him, the better because that means they're winning and he's good. Sometimes, when you keep playing, you find a way to win. He's really good. You're going to look up and you're going to see a lot of saves."
Before Brantley got the hit that broke the game open, he needed a little help from his teammates.
Raburn and Nick Swisher started the ninth with singles to right field, and then, Kipnis reached base on a fielder's choice that eliminated Swisher. Then, Santana drew a walk to load the bases.
"It was nice to see everything that happened, the way the ninth inning unfolded," Francona said. "We had really two good at-bats, Raburn and Swish, at the start of the inning. Kip can't get the bunt down, and instead of giving in, he battles, battles, battles, hits a grounder, runs like his pants are on fire, and then, he steals second. From there, we did some really good situational hitting against a really good pitcher. That was fun to watch.
"As much as my body hurts, I don't think that I could give it up because of what it feels like to go through that with a team you really care about. That's a lot of fun. That's really gratifying to see those guys. We used everybody. We used all our position players. Everyone in our bullpen pitched today. That's really a team win."
While Brantley got what turned out to be the game-winning hit, it was an error in the bottom of the seventh inning that put the Athletics in front.
With one out and Indians reliever Bryan Shaw fresh out of the bullpen, Oakland's Josh Donaldson hit a fly ball to center field. Brantley and Raburn both charged the ball, which kicked off Brantley's glove and moved Donaldson to second.
Donaldson later scored on Brandon Moss' single to second baseman Mike Aviles, who was aligned in a shift in short right field.
"I think they both called it, and they both called it at the same time," Francona said. "Probably the most conscientious guy on the field was kicking himself, so for him to get a hit like that was really great."