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BAL@CLE: Indians bring chicken to batting practice

CLEVELAND -- With the season now in September, the Indians have been busy calling up players from the farm. That trend continued at Progressive Field on Wednesday, when a live chicken roamed the outfield during batting practice before the game against Baltimore.

The chicken, which wore a fashionable block "C" cape for Cleveland, helped loosen up the Indians, who went on to win, 6-4, over the Orioles to clinch a series victory and remain 3 1/2 games back of the Rays in the American League Wild Card race.

Bench players Yan Gomes and Ryan Raburn each chipped in a pair of RBIs and the bullpen tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings, leading to a lot of laughing -- and lot of clucking -- inside the clubhouse after the final out.

"I actually love it," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said of the chicken, which was brought in by a pair of mystery players. "They're trying to have fun, and that's the best way to be a good team. It doesn't mean we're not taking what we're doing seriously, because we really do. But yeah, I think it's a good way to come to the ballpark laughing. It's a good atmosphere."

With the win, the Indians (74-65) moved ahead of the Orioles (73-64) in the Wild Card race.

More than two decades after fictional Indians outfielder Pedro Cerrano wanted to sacrifice a live chicken for more power before a big game in the movie, "Major League," Cleveland finally got its live chicken.

In the movie, of course, Cerrano's teammates made a compromise by bringing in a bucket of KFC. The real Indians went all out on Wednesday, though Francona wanted to make it clear that no animals were harmed during the making of this victory.

But what would the chicken's fate have been if the Tribe had lost?

"It wasn't going to be dinner or anything," Francona said.

The chicken's presence was inspired by reliever Cody Allen, whose nickname is "Chicken Al." Allen retired all four batters he faced in Wednesday's game, striking out two of them.

Though he was a good sport about the chicken all along, Allen didn't have a whole lot to say about it afterward. In his honor, the players took to calling it Cody.

"It was very calm," Allen explained. "A very calm chicken. It handled itself well."

The presence of the "Rally Chicken" -- as it became known on Twitter -- could be given credit for the Tribe's offensive explosion during the first inning, in which Cleveland scored four runs, a total the team had failed to reach in eight of its previous 12 games.

Orioles lefty Zach Britton quickly loaded the bases by yielding an infield single to leadoff hitter Michael Bourn, walking Nick Swisher and allowing Jason Kipnis to reach on a bunt single. After a Carlos Santana strikeout, Gomes shot a single into right field, moving each runner up a base and putting the Tribe on the board.

After Asdrubal Cabrera grounded into a fielder's choice, Raburn -- who had been sidelined since Aug. 18 because of a left Achilles strain -- hit a two-run double and Mike Aviles delivered an RBI single to make it 4-0.

"To have that long of a layoff, and to be able to come out and get it done, it was great," said Raburn, who still is not at 100 percent, according to Francona.

While the Indians are surely happy to have Raburn back in the lineup, it could be argued that his contributions on Wednesday paled in comparison to that of the chicken.

"We're going to have to get him his own locker, I guess," Raburn said. "He was in here after the game. Everybody had to give him high-fives. If we keep rolling, he's going to be here a while."

Indians starter Zach McAllister cruised until the fourth inning, when he surrendered a solo shot to Adam Jones with one out. He lost the lead with two outs in the fifth, when Manny Machado crushed a three-run homer to center field to tie the score at 4-4.

Cleveland regained the lead in the bottom of the fifth. After Baltimore reliever Kevin Gausman retired Swisher, Kipnis singled and Santana walked. That brought Gomes to the plate, and his double gave the Tribe a 5-4 lead and put runners in scoring position.

Baltimore opted to intentionally walk Cabrera, loading the bases for Raburn. Early in Raburn's at-bat, Gausman unleashed a wild pitch that allowed Santana to score an insurance run.

"This was a big series," Allen said. "I thought we played extremely well against them at Baltimore. We split there. To win two of three here against a team that was just ahead of us, knocking them off, hopefully we can get a little roll going down the stretch and play some good baseball the rest of the month."

Bryan Shaw, Allen, Joe Smith and closer Chris Perez pitched the final 4 1/3 innings, allowing just one hit while notching five strikeouts without issuing a walk. Perez gained his 22nd save.

"Hey, the chicken got us a 'W,'" Smith said. "I'm sorry, Cody got us a 'W' -- Chicken pitched well tonight."

The Indians relied on a team effort to win the game, with there being no bigger contributor than the chicken.

After the game, Smith wondered about whether livestock can travel on airplanes during road swings. Francona isn't so sure that's a good idea.

"I'm pretty OK with, as long as we win, whatever it takes," Francona said, "But I don't know about farm animals."

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