CLEVELAND – Tyler Naquin made the play of the game at the right time.
Detroit’s Nick Castellanos belted a hard liner in the top of the ninth inning that looked like it might drop in right field when Naquin dove and made a backhanded stab and caught the ball.
The Cleveland right fielder got up quickly and fired the ball to first baseman Carlos Santana to double off Christin Stewart and preserve the 7-6 win at Progressive Field Friday.
“It’s like he willed himself,” Cleveland Manager Terry Francona said after the game about Naquin. “That was an incredible play.”
For a moment, Tigers Manager Ron Gardenhire thought his team might rally and tie the game in the ninth inning. But the catch by Naquin dashed that hope.
“It was just a great play, man alive,” he said. “I thought that was in the gap for sure. That kid is an athlete out there and that was some kind of play.”
The catch came off the heels of Jason Kipnis’ RBI triple in the eight that gave the Tribe the 6-5.
Initially, his hit was called a home run. But after review, the ball hit off the yellow padding and was ruled a triple.
Kipnis scored off the sacrifice fly by Jake Bauer for insurance.
“It was good baseball, exciting baseball,” Gardenhire added. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t stop them when we needed to.”
Santana gave the Indians a 2-0 lead in the first when he belted a home run that scored Francisco Lindor who walked in his first appearance.
Detroit answered over the next three innings and took a 5-2 lead on homers from Brandon Dixon and Stewart.
But Naquin countered in the bottom of the inning with a home run, and Jordan Luplow’s homer in the sixth inning tied the game 5-5 for Cleveland.
Adam Cimber was credited with the win, while Joe Jimenez suffered the loss for Detroit.
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