CLEVELAND — Before touching home plate, Mike Aviles slowed down long enough to get splashed in the face with cold water by his teammates.
Maybe the Indians are waking up just in time.
Aviles homered leading off the 11th inning Friday night to give Cleveland a 2-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
Aviles, who made two barehanded plays at third base earlier in the game, connected on a 1-2 pitch from Brian Matusz (2-3), driving it onto the home run porch in left field for just Cleveland’s second run in the past 22-plus innings. The Indians were shut out 1-0 by Arizona in 12 innings on Wednesday night.
After rounding third, Aviles was doused by his jubilant teammates, who then embraced him and danced as one up the first-base line.
“That would have been a tough one to lose,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
The Indians’ ninth walk-off win — and second in three games — allowed them to keep their playoff push going and not waste another strong outing from Corey Kluber, who allowed just one run in 7 2-3 innings and remained unbeaten in eight starts since June.
Scott Atchison (6-0) retired all six batters.
Kluber struck out 10 and has allowed just four runs in 47 2-3 innings over six second-half starts. He has a 0.76 ERA since July 6. The stoic Kluber, nicknamed “Klubot” by for his passive demeanor, walked one.
“He’s so good and he competes,” Francona said. “He’s just worked himself into being one of the premier pitchers in baseball. He wants to be the best.”
Rookie Zach Walters homered off Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen as the Indians won for the fourth time in five games.
Blanked until the eighth by Kluber, the Orioles tied it on J.J. Hardy’s two-out single. After Kluber got two outs, Nelson Cruz singled off the right-hander, who has been on a remarkable run during the season’s second half.
Kluber received a standing ovation from Cleveland’s fans as he walked to the dugout, and he had barely taken a seat when the Orioles evened it against Bryan Shaw.
Delmon Young singled and Hardy, who missed the previous four games with a sprained left thumb, also singled, with Cruz scoring ahead of center fielder Michael Brantley’s throw to the plate.
Kluber’s eight double-digit strikeout games this season are the most for an Indians pitcher since Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley in 1976.
Walters gave the Indians a 1-0 lead with a homer in the fifth off Chen, who allowed only four hits in seven innings.
During his brilliant second-half stretch, Kluber has struck out 55 in less than 48 innings, outdueled Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, downed the Tigers and Yankees and carried a perfect game into the seventh at Kansas City on July 24 before getting a no-decision.
Kluber hasn’t lost since June 30, and that was a 1-0 setback against the Dodgers.
Francona wasn’t pleased with how the umpires handled Baltimore manager Buck Showalter contesting that Orioles center fielder Adam Jones was hit by a pitch in the eighth. Francona felt the delay — Jones squared to bunt and appeared to get hit in the hand — may have affected Kluber. After looking at a replay, the umpires determined Jones offered at the pitch.
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Francona had high praise for baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who will be replaced in January by Rob Manfred. Francona has gotten to know Selig over the years and credited him with steering the game through “some tumultuous times.”
“I can’t imagine trying to please 30 owners and 30 teams,” Francona said, “especially the way baseball is set up.”
Orioles: 3B Manny Machado (sprained right knee) is traveling with the team, but there’s no timetable for when his return.
Indians: 1B Nick Swisher will have his right knee examined again on Tuesday in Los Angeles. It’s possible he’ll need season-ending surgery, and Swisher’s injury could explain his lack of production in his second season with Cleveland.
Former Indians RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (4-8) faces his ex-teammates for the second time this season. Jimenez went 13-9 for Cleveland last season before signing with Baltimore as a free agent. He’ll face RHP Carlos Carrasco (4-4), making his second start since returning to Cleveland’s rotation.