Jason Kipnis’ run-scoring fielder’s choice in the ninth inning lifted the Cleveland Indians to a 2-1 victory over the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
With runners on second and third and one out, Kipnis hit a hard ground ball to the right side. First baseman Adam LaRoche made a diving backhanded stop and fired a throw to catcher Kurt Suzuki, but Drew Stubbs slid in with the winning run.
Stubbs’ one-out single off Fernando Abad (0-1) started the rally before the Indians executed a perfect hit-and-run play. As Stubbs broke off first, Michael Bourn punched a ground ball through the hole that opened when Steve Lombardozzi went to cover second base. Stubbs advanced to third.
Joe Smith (3-0) retired the side in order in the ninth for the Indians, who have won three straight after losing eight in a row.
Cleveland starter Justin Masterson and Washington’s Gio Gonzalez both allowed one run in seven innings, but weren’t involved in the decision.
Masterson’s bases-loaded wild pitch in the third inning gave the Nationals their run. Gonzalez gave up a two-out homer to Ryan Raburn in the fourth.
The Indians loaded the bases in the sixth and eighth innings but failed to score.
Masterson, who held Washington to two hits, struck out 10 and walked four. He was removed from the game after throwing 113 pitches. The Indians managed only three hits off Gonzalez, who struck out eight and walked four. Three of the walks came with two outs in the sixth, but the left-hander retired Mark Reynolds on a popup to keep the game tied.
Gonzalez, who threw a season-high 127 pitches, is 5-0 with a 0.81 ERA in six career starts against the Indians. He is 4-0 with a 0.82 ERA in five career starts in Cleveland.
Masterson remained dominant at Progressive Field. The right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.23 ERA in eight home starts this season.
Walks to Suzuki and Roger Bernadina along with Lombardozzi’s single loaded the bases in the third. Masterson then bounced a 1-1 pitch in the dirt with Ryan Zimmerman batting to score Suzuki.
Masterson escaped further trouble, striking out Zimmerman and getting LaRoche on a groundout with runners on second and third to end the inning.
Raburn’s two-out homer to right tied it in the fourth. Raburn, moved to the cleanup spot by manager Terry Francona, is 7-for-13 with three home runs against Gonzalez.
Ian Desmond was 0-for-3 with a walk, ending his 15-game hitting streak.
The Indians were coming off a road trip in which they dropped the first seven games before winning the last two in Texas. Cleveland broke an eight-game losing streak on Tuesday.
Francona said closer Chris Perez (shoulder tendinitis) will “more likely than not” begin a minor league rehab assignment Sunday. Perez, a two-time All-Star, threw a bullpen session Friday.