CLEVELAND -- It began in August and ended in September. When the Indians and A's finally finished Wednesday night's marathon, Jack Hannahan was Cleveland's latest hero, surrounded and mobbed during an on-field celebration by a band of fatigued teammates.
Hannahan's one-out single off A's lefty Josh Outman in the 16th inning delivered the decisive run in a draining 4-3 victory at Progressive Field. The Tribe's third baseman also launched a pair of home runs in the win, though he had a hard time recalling either blast when it was all said and done.
"By the time that at-bat came up," Hannahan said, "I didn't even really remember the first couple hits I had."
It was that kind of night in Cleveland.
Hannahan's game-winning hit came on the game's 509th pitch at 12:07 a.m. ET. The Indians and A's combined to use 34 players -- including 14 pitchers -- in a tightly-contested affair that lasted 5 hours and 2 minutes. For Cleveland, this was simply another night in August.
The Tribe played four extra-inning contests -- three lasting at least 14 frames -- during the month of August. On Aug. 9, Cleveland pulled out a 3-2 home win over Detroit in a 14-inning game that included a lengthy rain delay. Reliever Frank Herrmann finished out that game for the Indians well after 1 a.m. ET.
Herrmann turned in four perfect innings to close out this win over the A's.
It was the type of victory that had Herrmann contemplating the team's future.
"Maybe it is our year," said the reliever. "We keep pulling out games in this kind of fashion. Who knows? Maybe it is our year. Maybe things are falling into place."
For now, things at least remain in place.
The American League Central-leading Tigers defeated the Royals before the Indians took the field in Cleveland on Wednesday. Thanks to the win over the A's, the Indians (68-65) maintained their 5 1/2-game deficit in the division standings. The Indians have 29 games left (six against Detroit) over the final 28 days of the season. During the stretch, Cleveland has one off-day and two doubleheaders.
"If we're going to play so many games and doubleheaders," Indians manager Manny Acta said, "then we shouldn't be playing 16-inning games. But, as long as we win, it's all good. That's all we're looking for."
The Indians will also be looking for more of the same from Hannahan, who has been living up to his "Supermannahan" nickname over the past month. In his last eight games, Hannahan has hit .500 (15-for-30) with three homers and 11 RBIs. The third baseman -- known mostly for his defensive prowess -- has hit over a .429 clip across his past 16 games.
Part of Hannahan's surge has been due to increased playing time. The third baseman is also feeling much better after a bout with a nagging right hamstring injury earlier this season. It has been a combination that has helped him turn in a remarkable August for a depleted Indians club that needs every ounce of offense it can muster.
"I've kind of always been a streaky hitter," Hannahan said. "I've had some good months and some bad months. But, no, I can't remember having a month like this."
Hannahan's latest hat trick of heroics included two solo home runs off A's starter Rich Harden -- who bowed out after allowing three runs in six innings -- and the walk-off single. The second homer marked the 3,000th blast in the history of Progressive Field, but more importantly it pulled the game into a 3-3 deadlock in the sixth inning.
That allowed Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez to escape with a no-decision, after also surrendering three runs over six innings. From there it was a battle of bullpens, and neither club flinched for nine frames. The Tribe's relief corps escaped a handful of jams. The A's (60-76) retired 24 hitters in a row between the seventh and 14th innings.
That streak for Oakland did not have Acta worrying.
"I was thinking it's going to go a long way," Acta said, "because our bullpen is pretty good, too."
Lefty Tony Sipp worked two innings, Chris Perez and Joe Smith each logged one and veteran Chad Durbin added a pair (one that included an escape act with the bases loaded). Herrmann did away with the drama and retired the 12 Oakland hitters he faced consecutively to set the stage for some fireworks.
Outman entered in the 16th inning and allowed a one-out single to Indians designated hitter Jim Thome, who was replaced by pinch-runner Cord Phelps. Carlos Santana followed by drilling a pitch into center field for a base hit of his own, moving Phelps into scoring position for Hannahan.
Hannahan was not thinking about going for a third home run.
"I was looking for a fastball kind of up, not trying to do too much," Hannahan said. "I was just trying to stay through the middle. It got in on me a little bit, but I was able to get it out there."
As the ball skipped into right field, where outfielder David DeJesus charged in with thoughts of throwing Phelps out at the plate, the Indians rookie hustled around third and headed home. The throw arrived in time and catcher Kurt Suzuki appeared to tag Phelps, but home-plate umpire Bruce Dreckman thrust both arms out and called him safe.
Relieved, Phelps stayed in the dirt for a moment before shifting to his feet to celebrate.
"I knew it was going to be close," Phelps said. "I tried to get around him. Apparently, I did."
Sukuki did not do much in the way of arguing.
"I really didn't ask," said the catcher. "I tagged him. I just don't know if he was on the plate or not."
Herrmann ran out of the dugout and joined the pile of players swarming Hannahan.
"I was one of the first guys out there to mob Jack," Herrmann said with a smile. "What a great night."
A long night.
"It was worth it," Acta said.