CLEVELAND — Francisco Lindor pushed an RBI single through Washington’s drawn-in infield with one out in the ninth inning, and the Cleveland Indians rallied for three runs in their final at-bat to stun the Washington Nationals 7-6 on Tuesday night in a matchup of two first-place teams with sights on October.
Down two runs and three outs from their losing streak reaching a season-high four games, the Indians rallied against Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon (2-4), who did not get an out before he was pulled by manager Dusty Baker.
With the bases loaded, Lindor fisted his base hit into right field and danced his way up the first-base line as the Indians celebrated an improbable victory.
Bryan Shaw (2-4) got two outs in the ninth and picked up the win as Cleveland won its first home game since July 10.
Anthony Rendon hit a two-run homer and Wilson Ramos added a solo shot for the NL East-leading Nationals, just 4-6 since the All-Star break.
The Indians, who overcame three errors, began their rally against Papelbon with a leadoff walk to Jose Ramirez. Pinch-hitter Tyler Naquin followed with an RBI double to left-center, and Chris Gimenez dropped a bunt toward first that Ryan Zimmerman fielded and threw past second baseman Daniel Murphy covering the bag, allowing Naquin to score the tying run on the error.
Rajai Davis then popped up a bunt attempt, but the ball dropped onto the infield grass for a single as the Nationals were shifting on the pitch. Baker then pulled Papelbon for Oliver Perez, who got Jason Kipnis to fly to left for the first out. Lindor fouled off one pitch before getting his single past Murphy to score Gimenez as the Indians poured out of the dugout and onto the field.
Before Cleveland’s comeback, Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez was in line to improve his unbeaten record against Cleveland. The left-hander allowed two runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings and is 5-0 with a 1.07 ERA in eight career starts against the Indians.
Rendon broke a 2-all tie in the fourth with his homer off All-Star Danny Salazar, who was in jeopardy of losing for the first time since May 22. He lasted a season-low four-plus innings.
The Indians, who came in leading the AL Central by 5 1/2 games, are 8-11 since reeling off 14 straight wins.
Cleveland was back at Progressive Field following a long road trip because of the All-Star break and Republican National Convention.
Gonzalez nearly spoiled the homecoming.
The left-hander yielded two runs in the first inning and then settled in, limiting the Indians to four hits before giving up a one-out double in the seventh. According to the Nationals, Gonzalez’s 1.07 ERA is the lowest for any pitcher in major league history with at least eight starts against Cleveland.
Salazar hung an 0-2 changeup to Rendon in the fourth and the Nationals’ third baseman made him pay with a 411-foot shot to center. Ramos opened the inning with a double and, one out later, Rendon connected for his 12th homer to give the Nationals a 4-2 lead.
Nationals: Zimmerman returned from the disabled list after missing 13 games with a strained left rib cage and went 0 for 4.
Indians: OF Michael Brantley feels encouraged after hitting in the cage for two days following a small procedure to relieve discomfort in his surgically repaired right shoulder. Brantley has been on the disabled list since May 14. He was on a rehab assignment at Double-A Akron recently when he had a setback in his recovery. However, the former All-Star remains confident he can have an impact this season.
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg, who took his first loss last week after starting the season 13-0, makes his first start against Cleveland since 2013.
Indians: Carlos Carrasco will be pitching on six days’ rest because of a pair of scheduled off days. He’s won five of his last six starts, posting a 1.16 ERA.