CLEVELAND (AP) - From unknown rookie to hero - in a pinch.
Ezequiel Carrera's first major league at-bat was perfect.
Called up earlier in the day from the minors, pinch-hitter Carrera bunted home Shin-Soo Choo from third base with two outs in the eighth inning, sending the Cleveland Indians to a 5-4 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Friday night in the Ohio Showdown's series opener.
``It's unbelievable,' a grinning Carrera said. ``First at-bat, first bunt, a hit, an RBI and we win the game. It's great. I'm happy.'
Carrera, brought up when Travis Hafner went on the 15-day disabled list, dropped the first pitch from Nick Masset down the first-base line, scoring Choo, who had tripled off Bill Bray (1-1). The speedy Carrera was able to avoid a tag by first baseman Joey Votto for an unforgettable hit, giving the Indians their latest dramatic win in a season that's already had its share of magical moments.
``It's awesome,' closer Chris Perez said. ``That was special. He'll never forget it, and I'll never forget his first big league hit. To be able to put that bunt in and miss the tag, wow. That's what we've been doing here the last couple of years, building depth.'
Vinnie Pestano (1-0) got two outs in the eighth for his first career win. Perez worked the ninth for his 11th save in 12 tries.
The Indians' last six wins at home have come in their final at-bat - and this one came on a day when Hafner joined Grady Sizemore on the DL. Hafner is expected to miss at least three weeks with a strained muscle on his side.
Cleveland overcame a season-high three errors to improve baseball's best record to 27-15, including 16-4 at home.
The Indians are entering a crucial stretch with 16 straight games against teams over .500, and they're going to have to do it without two of their best hitters.
``It seems like we've been dropping like flies the last week,' Perez said. ``It's baseball. It's a long season and we know we're going to have bumps and bruises, just as long as we stay floating and don't give too many games back. Two of our big boppers are out and we just need to pick it up.'
Jay Bruce had two hits for the Reds, who lost their third straight after leading 4-0 in the sixth. Travis Wood didn't allow a hit for 5 1-3 innings, but then everything unraveled for Cincinnati.
``This is a tough one to lose,' manager Dusty Baker said. ``Especially the way Wood was working. He had a low pitch count until that inning.'
After Choo's triple in the ninth, Baker had Bray walk Carlos Santana before bringing in right-hander Masset. Indians manager Manny Acta countered by pinch-hitting the left-handed Carrera for Shelley Duncan. Acta told Carrera to bunt and the kid came through.
``All you need is a hit,' said Acta, wearing a ``Wahoo Baseball' T-shirt. ``You don't need an extra base, anything like that. We saw a perfect opportunity, especially with the first baseman holding on the runner. He executed it perfectly. He's done that his whole life. He was perfect for that.'
Baker was confident he had the right matchup to get out of the inning.
``With a kid from Triple-A up there, I still felt comfortable,' Baker said. ``I figured he might try a bunt, and he did. It was perfect.'
Wood didn't give up a hit until the sixth and was coasting before the Indians tied it with four runs in the inning.
He allowed a one-out single to former Reds outfielder Austin Kearns, and that's when things fell apart for Wood, who went from flirting with history to getting a no-decision.
After Kearns' hit, Jack Hannahan and Michael Brantley followed with singles to make it 4-1. Wood walked Asdrubal Cabrera to load the bases and then hit Choo with a pitch to force in Cleveland's second run. Logan Ondrusek came on and walked Santana on a 3-2 pitch, making it 4-3.
Duncan followed with a sacrifice fly to tie it, capping another improbable rally by the Indians, who have been doing it all season.
``These guys are not going to give up,' Acta said. ``We've done that a few times now. They do feel they are never out of it and that's a good feeling to have.'
Cleveland starter Alex White lasted only three innings before leaving with soreness in his right middle finger. The right-hander will undergo an MRI on Saturday.
``We'll know more tomorrow,' he said.
NOTES: The Indians didn't win their 27th game until June 27 last season. ... Cincinnati hasn't had a no-hitter since Tom Browning's perfect game in 1988. ... The Indians announced Saturday's game is sold out, the club's first sellout other than for opening day since May 24, 2008. ... The Reds began a season-long, 10-game road trip that includes stops in Philadelphia and Atlanta. ... With RHP Mitch Talbot set to return from the disabled list, the Indians' starting rotation will undergo another change. Acta said he will wait a few days before making a move. It's possible the club will see how RHP Carlos Carrasco fares on Sunday.
The Associated Press News Service
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