Baseball

First hit, first game-winner

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Indians’ slogan throughout a season of improbable comeback wins has been, “What if?”

Rookie Jason Kipnis added a new twist Monday night: “Why not?”

That’s what Kipnis thought as he came to bat with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning, before delivering his first career hit to give Cleveland a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

“That was so cool,” Kipnis said after hitting a 1-0 pitch from Hisanori Takahashi between first and second base to give the Indians their 11th last at-bat home win and break a four-game losing streak.

Kipnis was well aware he was 0-for-5 since being called up Friday and really wanted a hit.

“I actually thought, ‘Why not now? I might as well do it,’ ” he said.

Kipnis was mobbed by teammates as the club’s latest late-inning hero. First base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. gave the ball to the 24-year-old after retrieving it from a fan when Angels right fielder Torii Hunter tossed it into the crowd.

“I’m very appreciative of that,” Kipnis said. “I’m going to keep this one a long time.”

Tony Sipp (5-2) pitched a scoreless ninth for the win after Bobby Abreu’s two-run homer off Vinnie Pestano put the Angels ahead 2-1 in the eighth.

Angels closer Jordan Walden then blew his seventh save.

Michael Brantley opened the ninth with a line single to left and stole second – getting Kipnis to think.

“I mapped out what had to happen to get me up there or just be cheering,” Kipnis said. “And that was bases loaded, two outs.”

After Walden struck out Asdrubal Cabrera on a 3-2 pitch clocked at 98 mph, Travis Hafner drove the first pitch he saw to left-center, easily scoring Brantley to tie it at 2.

Walden then walked Carlos Santana and hit Jack Hannahan in the right ankle with an 0-2 pitch to load the bases.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia brought in Takahashi to pitch and summoned Hunter from right to play as an extra infielder between first and second base.

The ploy worked when Travis Buck tapped a one-hopper to Hunter, who threw home for the forceout.

“I was thinking, ‘Gee, we can’t even hit a ball over an outfielder playing the infield,’ ” Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. “But we pitched great one more time. When you pitch well, you have a chance.”

Angels starter Dan Haren struck out 10 in 72/3 innings and was in line for his fifth win in seven starts. He yielded one run and three hits, walking two.

“I struggled a little bit in the first inning,” Haren said. “I didn’t really have too many baserunners after that. In a 1-0 game you have to be more careful.”

Haren matched his season high in strikeouts, set May 8 in a 6-5 Angels win over Cleveland in which he got a no-decision.

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