CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber put the Indians in position for a victory, but needed Mike Aviles and Scott Atchison to finish the job.
Aviles led off the bottom of the 11th inning with a homer onto the left-field porch, giving the Tribe a 2-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.
The walk-off home run was Cleveland’s MLB-high seventh of the season and its second in three days at Progressive Field. It also pulled the Indians within five games of Seattle in the race for the final American League wild-card berth.
“Obviously, every win is big for us right now, no matter how it happens,” said Kluber, who allowed one run in 72⁄3⅔ innings and threw a season-high 116 pitches. “Again tonight, you saw that never-die attitude that we have. That’s what makes this team special, the way we pick each other up.”
Aviles’ 355-foot blast came off Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz (2-3, 4.10 ERA), who entered to record the final out of the 10th before allowing the Indians’ ninth overall walk-off win of the season.
Atchison (6-0, 3.00 ERA) pitched two perfect innings to earn the win, continuing his late-career resurgence. The 38-year-old right-hander now owns the second-most wins on the Tribe, trailing only Kluber’s 13.
“It’s nice to see your name go across the ticker once in a while,” Atchison said, smiling.
“Obviously, though, wins aren’t necessarily something that you strive for as a reliever because you could allow a run and have the team bail you out. But I am having a blast right now, no question about it.”
Kluber and Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who have a 25-10 combined record, engaged in a classic pitchers’ duel for most of the evening.
Kluber scattered five hits while striking out 10, exiting with a 1-0 lead in the eighth after allowing a two-out single to Baltimore left fielder Nelson Cruz.
Bryan Shaw followed, but allowed back-to-back hits — the second by J.J. Hardy, scoring Cruz — to cost the right-hander a shot at the win.
Kluber likely would have finished the eighth, if not for a lengthy dispute between Orioles manager Buck Showalter and crew chief Ron Kulpa with one out. Adam Jones offered at a Kluber pitch before it struck him on the hand, which Showalter attempted to challenge.
The play was not reviewable, but the long argument caused Kluber to tighten up.
“He’s a very good umpire, but that situation was handled poorly,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I don’t think they can allow another team to ice the kicker, so to speak.”
In his last six starts, Kluber is 4-0 with a 0.75 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 47⅔ innings, putting him in the discussion for the AL Cy Young Award.
“That’s not why we have the replay system, to try and affect the flow of the game,” he said flatly. “I’m not going to say anything more than that.”
The Tribe’s lone run off Chen came in the fifth when designated hitter Zach Walters homered off the railing in left. Two days earlier, Walters hit a walk-off shot in the ninth that give Cleveland a 3-2 win over Arizona in the first game of a doubleheader.
“I think Zach’s best position is second, but Jason Kipnis is going to play almost every day there,” Francona said. “We’re going to find a way to keep him in the lineup as much as possible, though, because he’s got a lot of pop in his bat.”
Third baseman Aviles also shined defensively, bare-handing a pair of ground balls and throwing runners out at first to aid Kluber.
“This would have been a tough one to lose, especially with how well Corey pitched,” Francona said. “Runs were at a premium, but, fortunately, our guys didn’t get discouraged after Baltimore tied it up late. This team never quits.”