Kearns' walk-off gives Tribe twin-bill sweep

Kearns' walk-off gives Tribe twin-bill sweep

CLEVELAND -- The focus turned, as it always does in baseball, to tomorrow.

Except, in this case, in the aftermath of the Indians' rain-soaked, long-lasting, 2-1 nightcap victory that completed a doubleheader sweep of the Tigers, tomorrow was today. And yesterday? Well, that felt like ages ago.

Austin Kearns delivered the knockout blow in the bottom of the 11th, punching an RBI single to left to score Jayson Nix with the winning run and sending the few dozen people still remaining at Progressive Field home happy.

That hit came about 11 hours after the first pitch of Game 1, which the Indians had won by a 4-3 count. The Tribe and Tigers began play at 1:04 p.m. ET on Saturday and finished at 12:15 a.m. They were the first teams in baseball to go to work Saturday and the last ones to finish.

But with results like these, who in the Tribe clubhouse could complain about the schedule, or the one-hour, 53-minute rain delay that extended Game 2?

"We all want to win," Kearns said. "After a two-hour rain delay, it definitely feels a little better to get the win."

They got it because of Kearns' hit late and Mitch Talbot's tightrope theatrics early.

Talbot had to deal with traffic throughout his five innings of work, and he dealt with it quite well. The Tigers loaded the bases on him with no outs in the first, but Talbot struck out Miguel Cabrera, got Brennan Boesch to pop out and got Brandon Inge to hit into a fielder's choice to escape unharmed.

He wasn't quite as fortunate in the second, but it still could have been much worse. Don Kelly led off with a double and advanced to third on Gerald Laird's flyout to right. Danny Worth grounded to third baseman Andy Marte, who fired home to retire Kelly on the fielder's choice. But consecutive singles from Austin Jackson and Ryan Raburn allowed Worth to advance and score the game's first run.

That would be the only run allowed by Talbot.

"With the way it started," manager Manny Acta said, "if you would have told me the game was going to end up 2-1, I wouldn't have believed you."

Talbot was done after five, his pitch count elapsed because of all those Houdini acts. But thanks to Carlos Santana, he was not on the hook for the loss.

The Indians didn't do much against Rick Porcello, freshly promoted from Triple-A Toledo. But with one swing of the bat, Santana tied the game in the fourth. He hit a shot to dead center for his sixth homer of the season, and just like that it was 1-1.

That was the only run allowed by Porcello, who tossed eight impressive innings.

"[Porcello] was unbelievable," Santana said. "He had a very good sinker and changeup, too. But he threw me a fastball just a little bit up."

And so it was a 1-1 game, and it would remain that way for some time. A freshly promoted Jensen Lewis relieved Talbot and worked two perfect innings. Frank Herrmann worked a scoreless eighth. Meanwhile, the Tribe bats remained perplexed by Porcello.

The game was still an undecided matter entering the ninth, when lightning and heavy rains hit the area, delaying the action for nearly two hours. When play finally resumed, closer Chris Perez came on and gave up a leadoff double to pinch-hitter Johnny Damon, who then moved to third on Worth's sac bunt. But Perez got Jackson to strike out and Carlos Guillen to fly out to escape the jam.

The game dragged into extras, where Joe Smith and Rafael Perez combined on a scoreless 10th. Perez then worked a scoreless 11th.

"Can't say enough about our bullpen," Acta said. "Just fantastic."

And in the bottom of the 11th, the Indians got something going against Robbie Weinhardt. With two outs, Jayson Nix sent a bloop single to center and Santana walked. Kearns came to the plate, and the count went full.

"I was just trying to get the guy home," he said. "Nix had a good at-bat, and Carlos did, too. With two strikes, I was just trying to get something I can handle."

He got it. Weinhardt delivered a fastball low in the zone, and Kearns smacked it to left, where Kelly had some trouble coming up with it. Nix streaked home, slid in safely, and the Indians charged to the field to celebrate.

It's one thing to pull off a doubleheader sweep. It's another to do so in such dramatic and extended fashion. The Indians, who dismantled Detroit on Friday, left the Tigers' clubhouse a quiet place and Jim Leyland an angry man.

"We stunk up the joint," Leyland said.

And with Sunday's series finale mere hours away, the Indians had visions of sweeping the Tigers out of their joint.

"We'll come out tomorrow and see if we can finish it," Kearns said.

Of course, he immediately had to be corrected. Tomorrow was today.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for He blogs about baseball at CastroTurf. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.