This haunting may linger well past Halloween.
Vargas recovered from a shaky start to help the Phillies rally to beat the Indians, 9-4, and end their five-game winning streak. The loss knocked the Indians out of a tie for the second wild card spot with Tampa Bay with just seven games left in the season.
How well do the Indians know Vargas? He’s made more starts against them (20) than any other team. The win made him 10-5 with a 4.16 ERA against the Indians. It was Vargas’ first win since July 28, the day before the Phillies acquired him from the Mets.
Vargas had some help in causing the Indians a sleepless night. Brad Miller, who did not take his release from the Tribe well in April, homered twice in the win.
The Indians (91-64) entered the game trailing the first-place Twins by four games in the AL Central. Kansas City hammered the Twins, 12-5, but their magic number to eliminate the Indians and clinch the division dropped to four.
In the race for the Wild Card Game, Oakland (94-61), with a two-game lead for the top wild card spot over Tampa Bay, won yet again. The Rays (92-63) beat Boston in walk-off style for the second straight night, 5-4, to move into sole possession of the second wild card spot with the Tribe one game back back.
“Vargas didn’t get rattled,” said manager Terry Francona. “He gave up four early, but he just kept pitching. He didn’t get flustered. He kept us off balance. We’ve seen him do that before.”
Tribe rookie Zach Plesac, making his first start since his four-hitter against the Angels on Sept. 10, entered the fifth with a 4-2 lead. When Oliver Perez relieved with one out and two on, the lead was still intact. It did not last long.
Perez, brought in to get Bryce Harper out, allowed a three-run homer to give the Phillies a 5-4 lead. Perez (2-4) retired Harper on Friday night in the eighth, but he lost a nine-pitch duel Saturday. Harper hit 3-2 slider into the right field seats for his 33rd homer of the season.
Harper was 0-for-5 with four strikeouts going into the at-bat against Perez.
“He fouled off a couple of really good pitches,” said Perez. “Sometimes you have to tip 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 straight games in 2017, made it 6-4 an out later when he homered into the left field bleachers off James Hoyt. The homer, Bruce’s 26th of the season, ended an 0-for-15 skid.
The Indians, as they did Friday night, struck early to take a 4-1 lead. They scored twice in the first on two unearned runs. Francisco Lindor reached on an error by shortstop Jean Segura to start the inning. He stole second and went to third on a throwing error by catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Carlos Santana, who spent last year with the Phillies, delivered Lindor with a single for his 93rd RBI. Santana’s career high in RBI before this season was 87 in 2016 with the Tribe. Santana came around to score on singles by Jordan Luplow and Franmil Reyes.
The Phillies made it 2-1 on Adam Haseley’s two-out double in the second, but the Indians made it 4-1 on Mercado’s two-run homer in the second after Lindor drew a two-out walk. It was Mercado’s 13th homer of the season and his seventh extra base hit in the last seven games.
In April the Indians released Miller when Jason Kipnis injured list. Miller was not happy, telling reporters at the time, “obviously, they don’t want the best players up here.”
Miller has spent the last two nights evening the score. He doubled and scored on Friday night. In the fourth inning Saturday, he homered off Plesac to make it 4-2. Then he added the dagger in the ninth to start a three-run rally against Nick Wittgren and James Karinchak.
“Honestly, this was sweet because we’re fighting for every game,” said Miller, referring to the Phillies’ wild card chances. “I know they are too over there. That’s a really good team and that’s part of the reason why I was frustrated in April. That was a good team and I enjoyed it.”
Plesac allowed four runs on five hits in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out three and walked two. Vargas (7-8, 4.40) allowed four runs, two earned, in 6 2/3 innings. He struck out eight and walked two.
Brad Hand struck out the Phillies in order in the sixth. It was his first appearance since Sept. 8 when he was shut down with a tired left arm. He hit 94 mph with his fastball and his slider was sharp.
The Indians end the home portion of the regular season Sunday night with right-hander Adam Plutko (7-4, 4.34) facing the Phillies and right-hander Vince Velasquez (7-7, 4.89) at 6:37 p.m. ESPN and WLKR 95.3 FM will carry the game.
Plutko, coming off a win over the Tigers, will be making his 19th start of the season. He has never faced the Phillies and will be making the third interleague start of his career. Velasquez, 1-1 with a 1.46 ERA in two career starts against the Tribe, will be making his 22nd start of the season.