Ben Revere stepped up to bat with one teammate near first base and two outs in Tuesday’s 10th inning, the score tied between the Angels and Cleveland Indians. When he fell behind 0 and 2, Revere retreated three steps to settle his nerves. He battled the count back into his favor and earned a fastball over the middle, at which he cocked his chiseled 5-foot-9 frame and swung with all his limited might.
As the ball shot toward the center-field wall, he took off sprinting, thinking surely he had at least a hit. It would be a huge hit, his first in so long, his once-promising career now on the verge of irrelevance at age 29. And the Angels could finally take the lead and complete their three-hour comeback from a seven-run deficit.
It was not to be. Cleveland’s Bradley Zimmer tracked the baseball throughout its trajectory and hurtled into Progressive Field’s padded barrier to procure it. Revere launched his helmet as he struggled to process his misfortune. He stared into the outfield until Kole Calhoun came with his cap and glove.
“I try to tell myself I love this game,” Revere said. “But it just keeps coming back to me, saying, ‘No.’”
All the Angels had to feel some of the same sentiment. They had mounted a lengthy, unlikely revival, only to see their work undone with one swing, in such indivisible fashion. Edwin Encarnacion whacked a walk-off grand slam off of Bud Norris in the bottom of the 11th inning, when the game went quickly awry and Cleveland won 11-7.
“Our team did an unbelievable job coming all the way back,” Norris said. “Unfortunately, I was very sloppy in my one inning of work. I was pretty terrible, to be honest.”
Steadily, the Angels chipped away after starter Jesse Chavez imploded in the second inning. Twice, they even appeared on the verge of speeding past Cleveland. When Yunel Escobar tied the score with a double, he continued to third base and was thrown out without a slide. He made the sixth inning’s first out as Mike Trout approached the plate.
“That’s a bad read by Yunel,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
The Angels faced Cleveland’s upstart right-hander Mike Clevinger, whom they parted with in an ill-advised trade for reliever Vinnie Pestano three years ago. Now in the independent leagues, Pestano hardly pitched for the team.
Wielding pinpoint command, Clevinger struck out the first two Angels he faced Tuesday. He began to falter in the second, After Andrelton Simmons singled, Revere whacked a double down the right-field line. Simmons flirted with going home but opted against it and would not score.
Encarnacion bashed Chavez’s second pitch of the second inning for a double. Jose Ramirez stroked his fifth for a run-scoring double. After Carlos Santana struck out, Chavez issued three consecutive walks, loading the bases and forcing in a run.
“Today was a case of the walks,” Chavez said. “And then you have to go over the plate at some point.”
That point was 3 and 1 to Zimmer, who mashed a grand slam. Soon, Michael Bradley notched a solo shot, and the Indians had their seven-run lead.
The Angels struck back for four in the third. Kaleb Cowart lined a double to center, Trout walked, and Calhoun crushed a three-run home run. Simmons soon notched an infield single and scampered to second on an errant throw. He scored when Luis Valbuena snuck a single into center.
The Angels added two more runs when Valbuena homered in the fifth and pumped his fist as he rounded first base. As their bullpen kept the game within reach, they squandered further chances. They were hurt by Escobar’s gaffe, several star turns from Indians outfielders, and, perhaps, a sacrifice bunt in the top of the 11th.
Norris did not record an out in the bottom of the inning. After two unintentional walks and one intentional pass to set up a force play, Encarnacion clubbed the first pitch into the left-field bleachers.
With a little luck, Revere’s strike could have averted it all. He’s not the team’s savior, but it was almost his night to shine, despite his .230 average, unsteady playing time, and remarkably unorthodox swing.
“He’s a how not-to video in the making,” one National League scout said of Revere this spring.
Again, the same could be said for the Angels. They have no established, effective, and healthy starting pitchers. The right side of their infield has been by far baseball’s worst. And yet they entered the final days before the deadline with a chance.
“It’s still unfortunate, it still sucks that we got all that way, play 11 innings, and not win the game,” Simmons said. “But at least we showed that we can put up some runs.”
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura