For the Star Beacon
Michael Bourn was on a mission.
The mission was successfully completed when he belted a one-out fastball into the right-field stands for a tie-breaking two-run homer, giving the host Indians a 6-4 win Sunday afternoon, and a sweep of their three-game series with the Colorado Rockies.
To understand Bourn’s mindset, one must turn the clock back a couple hours prior. After scoring 3 times in the first inning, the Indians were hanging onto a 3-2 lead in the third. Michael Cuddyer was on first base for Colorado via a leadoff single, and stayed there while starter Josh Tomlin caught Carlos Gonzalez looking at a third strike.
Troy Tulowitzki then lined a single to center in front of Bourn. Cuddyer apparently baited Bourn into thinking he would stop at second, and then kept going. Bourn’s throw to third was too late to get Cuddyer and allowed Tulowitzki to take second.
The Rockies (28-28, 4 consecutive losses) would tie the score when Justin Mourneau drove Cuddyer in with a single. Tulowitzki’s extra base didn’t end up costing the Tribe anything, but the fire had been fueled within Bourn.
“I think he was kind of aggravated,” manager Terry Francona said. “He laid back on that ball in center field a little bit, and Cuddyer kind of lulled him into that extra base. When that happened, I think Bournie was kind of on a mission to help us win that game.”
“I was kind of mad at myself, because I overthrew the cutoff man a little bit,” Bourn said.
It took a while, but Bourn’s long ball eventually decided the contest and enabled Cleveland to climb to 27-30 and out of the AL Central-Division cellar.
As a result, perhaps reliever Adam Ottavino (0-2) was having a lotta vino later Sunday.
Mike Aviles, the hero in Saturday’s 7-6 win, started the ninth by greeting Ottavino with a single to center. George Kottaras sacrificed him to second before Bourn came to bat.
Bourn took a strike before launching an Ottavino fastball high and deep. Right-fielder Brandon Barnes raced back to the wall, but watched as the ball cleared the fence just to the left of the 375-foot sign. It was estimated at 399 feet.
“They said I was flying around the bases,” Bourn said. “I was just happy, because not only was it my first (career) walkoff home run, but we were able to complete the sweep.”
“Bournie knocked the heck out of it,” Francona said. “But to get to that point, we got some really good pitching — some good relief pitching. And when you’re at home, you know you’re hitting last. Once you get ’em out, once something happens, you win and you go home.”
Scott Atchison (2-0) picked up the win by pitching a scoreless ninth. Atchison chalked up 3 of his team’s 12 strikeouts during the stanza, and got Charlie Blackmon to swing and miss at a third strike after a two-out double by D.J. LeMahieu.
“Atch has actually had a really solid year,” Francona said. “He got a couple (earned runs Saturday), on a ball that (Bourn) didn’t see and a home run, but Atch has been so reliable. And that kind of proves it right there, because you could normally go to Cody (Allen). But it’s the bottom of the order, and Atch has been super-tough on right-handers. And it allowed us where if we didn’t score, then we have Cody for the middle of their order. So that says a lot about Atch.”
The Indians took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the third and held it into the seventh. However, with Bryan Shaw on the mound, Barnes doubled inside the first-base bag with no outs.
After Jordan Pacheco coaxed a walk, LeMahieu sacrificed the runners to second and third. Barnes was then able to score on Blackmon’s fly to short center to tie it, and the game stayed that way until Bourn ended it.
The Tribe struck for 3 runs in the first inning despite getting one hit.
Bourn and Asdrubal Cabrera drew walks against starter Jhoulys Chacin, with a throwing error on a pickoff attempt in-between. Michael Brantley’s line single to right produced a run.
Jason Kipnis struck out, but when Lonnie Chisenhall hit a dribbler in front of the plate, Pacheco’s throw to second pulled Tulowitzki off the bag, loading the bases. The play was ruled a fielder’s choice.
Jason Giambi then drew a walk to force in a run. David Murphy’s sacrifice fly completed the rally.
Corey Dickerson’s two-run homer to right against Tomlin cut it to 3-2 in the second. One run was unearned because of Aviles’s error at third base.
After the Rockies evened it, the Indians regained the lead in the bottom of the third when Brantley doubled to right-center and eventually came home on a sacrifice fly by Chisenhall.
“I thought they made (Tomlin, who went 5.2 innings) work for everything, which is not a surprise,” Francona said. “You look up and down their lineup — you see .300, .320, .340, and they have stolen bases, power and they don’t really strike out a lot. And I thought he threw his fastball in and out, I thought he threw some real good breaking balls, especially with 2 strikes to get a couple of them looking. Saying that, they made him work for everything. But he did a great job hanging in there.”
The Indians struck out the Rockies a total of 38 times during the weekend series.
“I felt pretty good,” Tomlin, who struck out 8 batters for the second straight time, again matching his career-high, said. “The first couple innings, I showed them my command with my other pitches.
“My curveball, I felt good with. But other than that, it was kind of trying to fill out the zone with my fastball and cutter for the first couple innings.”
Josh Outman and Marc Rzepczynski also pitched for Cleveland.
Tommy Kahnle, Rex Brothers and Boone Logan also pitched for Colorado.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.