CLEVELAND, Ohio – Jason Vargas, a left-handed nightmare of the Indian past, returned to Progressive Field to haunt them once again Saturday night.
This obsession may well spread after Halloween.
Vargas recovered after a difficult start to help the Phillies beat the Indians, 9-4, and end their run of five consecutive wins. That loss put the Indians tied for second place with Wild Bay Tampa Bay with only seven games to play in the season.
To what extent do Indians know Vargas? He made more starts against them (20) than any other team. The win earned him a 10-5 lead with a 4.16 ERA against the Indians. This is Vargas 'first victory since July 28, the day before the Mets' acquisition of the Phillies.
Vargas had help to cause a sleepless night for the Indians. Brad Miller, who had not taken his liberation from the Tribe in April, dominated the victory twice.
The Indians entered the match behind the Twins, who occupy first place, four times in the AL Central. Kansas City hit the Twins, 12-5, but their magic number to eliminate the Indians and win the division fell to four. In the Wild Cards race, Oakland, with a two-game lead over first place in the Wild Cards, had a big early lead over the Rangers. The Rays beat Boston in the walk-off style for the second straight night, 5-4, to take second place on the second card with the Tribe return match.
"Vargas was not worried," said manager Terry Francona. "He gave up four hours earlier, but he just kept throwing. He was not pissed off. He kept us out of balance. We have already seen it before.
Rookie Zach Plesac, who made his first start since his four-man hitter against the Angels on Sept. 10, took fifth with a 4-2 lead. When Oliver Perez was raised with one on and two, the head was still intact. It did not last long.
Perez, recruited to dismiss Bryce Harper, left a three-run run giving the Phillies a 5-4 lead. Perez (2-4) dropped Harper Friday night in the eighth, but lost a nine-run duel on Saturday. Harper hit 3-2 in the right seat for his 33rd circuit of the season.
Harper was 0-in-5 with four strikeouts against Perez.
"He made two really good shots," said Perez. "Sometimes you have to flip your cap. We all know how good he is. . I made a mistake and paid the price. "
Jay Bruce, who helped the Tribe win 22 consecutive games in 2017, was 6-4 away later when he played in James Hoyt's left-sided bleachers. The driver, the 26th of Bruce's season, put an end to a skid from 0 to 15.
The Indians, as they did on Friday night, attacked early to take a 4-1 lead. They scored twice in the first goal on two undeserved points. Francisco Lindor attempted a mistake from Jean Segura to start the inning. He flew in second place and went in third position following a throw error from receiver J.T. Realmuto.
Carlos Santana, who spent last year with the Phillies, delivered a single to Lindor for his 93rd RBI. Santana's career at RBI before this season was 87 in 2016 with the Tribe. Santana scored goals with Jordan Luplow and Franmil Reyes.
The Phillies went 2-1 on Adam Haseley's double in the second period, but the Indians made it 4-1 on Mercado's two-point homer to second after Lindor made a turn to two. It was the 13th Mercado circuit of the season and his seventh extra goal in seven games.
In April, the Indians released Miller when Jason Kipnis was injured. Miller was not happy, telling reporters at the time "that they obviously do not want the best players here."
Miller spent the last two nights of the evening. He doubled and scored on Friday night. Saturday in the fourth inning, he dominated Plesac to make 4-2. Then he added the dagger to the ninth to start a three-round rally against Nick Wittgren and James Karinchak.
"Honestly, it was good because we are fighting for every game," said Miller, referring to the chances of the Phillies Wilds. "I know that they are too much there. It's a very good team and that's one of the reasons I was frustrated in April. It was a good team and it pleased me.
Plesac allowed four runs on five hits in 4 1/3 of the way. He took out three and walked two. Vargas (7-8, 4.40) allowed four points, two earned, in six innings and two-thirds. He scratched eight and walked two.
Brad Hand eliminated the Phillies in the order in the sixth. It was his first appearance since September 8 when he was arrested with a tired left arm. He hit 94 mph with his fastball and his slider was sharp.
The Indians finish the regular season season Sunday night with right-handed Adam Plutko (7-4, 4.34) against the Phillies and right-hander Vince Velasquez (7-7, 4.89) at 6:37 pm. ESPN, WTAM and WMMS will carry the game.
Plutko, who has just defeated the Tigers, will make his 19th start of the season. He has never faced the Phillies and will make the third career start of his career. Velasquez, 1-1 with a silver medal of 1.46 in two career starts against the tribe, will make his 22nd start of the season.
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