Indians manager Terry Francona expected to see Oliver Perez run out of the bullpen. Pitching coach Carl Willis made the call for Dan Otero instead. The mixup was a miserable one for the AL Central leaders.
Joey Votto hit a go-ahead, three-run double off Otero in the ninth inning as Cincinnati scored seven times with two outs, overcoming a gem by Trevor Bauer to beat Cleveland 7-4 on Tuesday night.
Francona instructed Willis to have “O-P” warm up, referring to Oliver Perez, with the bases loaded and a 4-3 lead with closer Cody Allen struggling. Willis misunderstood the message, believing he had used Otero’s nickname of “O-T.”
“When I saw O-T coming through the gate, it’s not that I don’t think he can pitch, but it just wasn’t the guy I was expecting,” Francona said. “We had a communication (error). That one lands squarely on me, no getting around it. I know Carl is beating himself up right now, but that one lands on me.”
Willis, who rejoined the staff this season, accepted responsibility for the mistake. He noted that Votto was 0 of 4 in his career against Otero, but said he should have asked Francona for clarification.
Allen (2-4) initiated the sequence by loading the bases after recording two outs in relief of Bauer, who struck out 12 in eight shutout innings. Cleveland’s bullpen entered the day with the third-highest ERA in baseball at 5.13.
“Quite frankly, heart of hearts, I felt like Cody was going to get out of the situation,” Willis said. “But you know, I made the mistake, got the wrong guy up. It’s not that O-T can’t get the job done, but it probably wasn’t the best matchup.”
Adam Duvall also doubled in a pair in the ninth, while Jose Peraza and Eugenio Suarez had RBI singles off Allen. Cincinnati’s final seven batters reached base before Scooter Gennett ran into the third out on Suarez’s hit.