CLEVELAND — Oscar Mercado has accomplished a number of firsts during a rookie year that has spanned 22 games.
He checked off another on the list Tuesday night at Progressive Field, getting the first walk-off hit of his career, as the Indians opened an interleague series against intrastate rival Cincinnati with a 2-1 victory in 10 innings.
With the Reds walking Francisco Lindor to load the bases with one out, Mercado made them pay by lining a single into left field off hard-throwing closer Raisel Iglesias for Cleveland’s fourth walk-off win of the season.
“That was pretty incredible, I’m not going to lie,” said Mercado, who was in a similar situation Sunday in the ninth inning of a 7-6 loss to the Yankees. “I’ve never actually felt such high emotions before. Getting called up was right up there. You want to say the biggest thing is just breathing during those at-bats, but it’s tough. The game’s on the line.
“Coming from the last game when I had a chance to do the same thing and came up a little short, I think it made it that much better.”
Mercado hit at the bottom of the order upon his arrival from Triple-A Columbus but has moved up to the second spot.
“I know that we’re gonna need to be patient because we’ve had (Jason Kipnis) there for the most part for the last seven years. To expect Oscar to do that is not fair,” manager Terry Francona said. “But he’ll grow into it. He might grow into hitting third. Just try not to put too much on his plate because I’m sure the game’s going pretty fast as it is. But he’s holding his own pretty damn good.”
Indians starter Trevor Bauer snapped a string of subpar outings but got nothing to show for it after the offense, which entered averaging over six runs in the last six games, went back into hibernation.
The Indians managed only six hits and Cincinnati had seven in a game dominated by pitching.
Bauer wasn’t exactly dominating — walking five and striking out six — but it was the first time in seven starts he didn’t allow at least four runs.
“I mean, the results were good, obviously,” said Bauer, who hasn’t recorded a win since April 30 in Miami. “I don’t think I was nearly as sharp tonight as I was my last outing. I’ve been pitching pretty well over my last four. I’ve got like a 3.10 (ERA) over my last four starts. I’m happy the team got a win tonight.”
The teams went scoreless over the first three innings before Carlos Santana put the Indians on the board with a one-out solo shot in the fourth — his team-leading 13th homer.
Bauer gave it right back in the top of the fifth, allowing a leadoff single to Jose Iglesias, who scored on a one-out double from Nick Senzel.
Both teams had scoring opportunities late.
The Indians loaded the bases in the sixth after Lindor started the inning with his second double of the game and Santana and Mercado drew one-out walks.
Castillo got out of the jam by striking out Jose Ramirez and Jake Bauers.
Ramirez’s struggles continued in earnest, with the third baseman also lining out with a runner on third in the fourth inning, as his batting average sunk to .200 over 65 games after an 0-for-4 effort with two strikeouts.
Cincinnati failed to score in a bases-loaded situation with one out in the seventh.
Yasiel Puig started the inning with a double, then after Bauer got an out he walked two straight before getting out of the inning on a double-play ball back to the mound.
Bauer was fired up after the play, pumping his fist twice as he ran to the dugout.