April 20, 2014

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Indians 7, White Sox 4: Bench brigade gets it done again

CLEVELAND — The Indians’ bench brigade rode to the rescue once again Tuesday night at Progressive Field.

A night after veteran Jason Giambi stoked a raucous celebration with a pinch-hit walk-off home run, fellow bench mates Ryan Raburn and Yan Gomes produced the highlights, contributing a pair of big hits to push Cleveland past the White Sox, 7-4.

Raburn’s pinch-hit single in the eighth inning put the Indians in front for good and Gomes followed with a two-run double that provided the final count.

Throw in some effective work by the Indians’ bullpen and Cleveland had its sixth straight victory — a win that left them 10 games over .500 for the first time since June 4, 2011.

“I thought tonight was a good team win,” said manager Terry Francona, whose team trails first-place Detroit by 2 1/2 games in the Central Division standings. “We showed our versatility. I thought that tonight’s a win that (general manager) Chris (Antonetti) deserves some credit for the roster he’s put together. Our bench is very productive in a number of ways. That’s a nice way to play.”

Raburn, who struggled mightily after beginning last year as the starting second baseman in Detroit, has been more than a pleasant surprise since arriving in Cleveland. He’s hitting .272 with 11 home runs and 33 RBIs in 61 games, with a .349 batting average (22-for-63) and 22 RBIs with two outs.

Raburn is one of just four players in the majors with 10-plus homers in less than 200 at-bats and his two-out RBI total ranks second on the club to Michael Brantley’s 23.

“I couldn’t do anything right last year, and now it seems like I can’t do anything wrong,” Raburn said.

Gomes has been doing everything right as well, pushing starting catcher Carlos Santana with a .291 batting average and 26 RBIs in 44 games. He’s hitting .390 (16-for-41) with eight RBIs over his last 12 games.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bench this productive,” Raburn said of a group that includes veteran utility infielder Mike Aviles.

The Indians were in an early hole after a brief and ineffective outing from starting pitcher Scott Kazmir, and a sparkling one from Chicago right-hander Andres Rienzo, who was making his big league debut in place of Jake Peavy.

Peavy is expected to be traded before today’s game against the Indians.

Rienzo filled in more than admirably, allowing three unearned runs on five hits, while striking out six over seven innings.

Cleveland scored three runs in the fifth on a pair of fielding gaffes to tie it at three, but Kazmir allowed another run in the sixth to put the Sox back on top. He allowed four runs on nine hits over five innings.

“I don’t think he felt real good about his stuff,” Francona said of Kazmir. “To his credit, he hung in there.”

With Chicago up by a run, the Indians made their move in the eighth against reliever Donnie Veal.

Asdrubal Cabrera singled with one out and moved to third base on Carlos Santana’s two-out base hit. Drew Stubbs replaced Santana as a pinch runner and stole second base to bring Raburn to the plate.

With right-hander Matt Lindstrom on the mound, Raburn lined a single up the middle to score Cabrera and Stubbs. Gomes’ double scored Raburn and Lonnie Chisenhall, who followed Raburn with a base hit.

Closer Chris Perez allowed a hit in the ninth but no runs, converting his ninth straight save since leaving the disabled list. He has allowed just one run in his last 15 games.

Cleveland trailed at a number of points in the game, but never buckled, showing the resiliency that has been a trademark of the team all season.

“That’s what a good ballclub does, you find ways to win,” Raburn said.

The Indians notched their season-high ninth straight win at Progressive Field. It is the longest home winning streak since Cleveland won 14 straight in 2011.

When Rienzo faced Gomes in the third, it was the first time two Brazilian-born players ever faced each other in the majors. Gomes collected a single and walked with the bases loaded to force in a run against Rienzo in the fifth.

 

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @CAwesomeheimer.