The Perfect Season Project is a unique look at Cleveland Indians history that asks the question ‘What if the Indians always won?’ For more about the Project, check out the Methodology and Inspiration pages
August 26, 2005 – Grady Sizemore Straight-Steals Home
The Indians were north of the border and C.C. Sebathia was on the mound against the Blue Jays and rookie starter Dustin McGowan.
Grady Sizemore led off the game with a line drive single to center. Coco Crisp tapped one back to the mound and was put out at first, but Sizemore was safe at second. Sizemore advanced to third on a wild pitch before Jhonny Peralta struck out swinging.
Sizemore noticed that McGowan was barely looking at him, let alone checking him back to the base. Pitch by pitch, he took a larger and larger lead as Travis Hafner worked against McGowan.
“Throughout the at-bat, I just kept going farther and farther,” Sizemore said. “I wanted to see how much they would let me have before they stopped me. They never did, and I told Skins [Third Base Coach Joel Skinner], ‘I can take this.’ “
Despite the two-strike count, Sizemore took a broad walking lead and turned it into a sprint to the plate. McGowan finally saw Grady break out of the corner of his eye, and rushed his pitch, which ended up coming in high. Catcher Guillermo Quiroz did not even attempt to apply a tag as Sizemore slid into home.
Travis Hafner was as surprised as anyone that Grady would attempt the steal on a two-strike count, “If I had swung and hit Grady in the face, I would have had every woman in America mad at me.”
Two pitches later, Hafner sent a home run over the Roger’s Center wall. He later jokes with Sizemore, “If I end up with 99 RBIs this year, you’re off my Christmas list.'”
Later in the inning, Ben Broussard notched an RBI with a line drive to left that scored Victor Martinez. The first inning came to a close with the Tribe up 3-0.
Victor Martinez homered off McGowan in the top of the third. In the top of the ninth, Travis Hafner cracked his second home run of the game–a two-run shot off Justin Speier that drove in Coco Crisp. Victor Martinez followed with a single to right and then Ronnie Belliard took Speier deep as well.
Sabathia went six innings giving up three runs on six hits. It was not his best outing, but the Indians offense more than covered for any mistakes. Bob Howry faced only seven batters in his two innings of work out of the bullpen, and David Riske closed things out with a scoreless ninth to preserve the 9-3 victory.
The Indians were on a roll, with an 18-6 record since the end of July. However, they would eventually miss the playoffs after getting swept by the White Sox in the final weekend of the season.
September 13, 1995 – Charlie Nagy Tops David Cone and the Yankees
Over 41,000 packed Jacobs Field to see the first-place Tribe take on the hated Yankees on this Wednesday night. Rain delayed the start of the game until nearly 9PM. Charlie Nagy was matched up with reigning Cy Young-winner David Cone in the rubber match of the series.
Nagy got out to a slow start, walking both Bernie Williams and Mike Stanley in the first inning. However, he got Darryl Strawberry to strike out swinging and end the inning.
The powerful Indians offense picked him up almost immediately. Kenny Lofton walked to lead off the Cleveland half of the inning. With Omar Vizquel at the plate he stole second, and then stole third two pitches later. Omar drove him home with a ground ball double into right field. Manny Ramirez eventually scored Vizquel with a two-out RBI single leaving the Tribe on top 2-0 after the first inning.
Lofton had Cone and Stanley’s number on this evening. After knocking a single to short in the bottom of the second, Lofton stole second once again.
Nagy retired the next seven batters he faced. His sinker was working beautifully, as eight of the first nine outs were either ground ball outs or strikeouts.
In the bottom of the fifth, Albert Belle took Cones 1-1 pitch deep into the Cleveland night. This was the first in an absolute flurry of home runs for Belle. He hit eight home runs over the next week, and totaled 17 dingers in September. This tied the mark for home runs in a calendar month set by Babe Ruth in 1927.
Tony Pena started the two-out rally in the bottom of the sixth with a single over the second base bag. Kenny Lofton doubled to right field, putting Pena on third. Then, Omar Vizquel punched a grounder through the left side of the infield, plating the Indians final two runs of the night.
Nagy continued to cruise through the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. He gave up only one hit, a double to Don Mattingly that was quickly erased in the top of the seventh.
Although his pitch count was already at 101 after eight innings, Mike Hargrove sent Nagy back to the mound to pitch the ninth. Bernie Williams grounded out for the fourteenth ground ball out of the game. Paul O’Neill gave Nagy a bit of a scare with a long fly ball to center, but Albert Belle was able to track it down on the warning track for the putout. Mike Stanley worked Nagy into a 2-2 count, but eventually struck out swinging to end the game.
Nagy’s final stat line was a complete game shutout giving up three hits, two walks and strking out five on 115 pitches. After one more win in the final days of the strike-shortened season Charlie finished the season 16-6.
August 26, 2016 – Guyer Hit by Pitch Twice in Rout of Rangers
Nearly 32,000 packed the Ballpark in Arlington to watch the first-place Indians take on the Rangers on this summer Friday night. Corey Kluber was matched up with Martin Perez.
Jason Kipnis kicked off the scoring in the top of the third when he punched a grounder into right field that scored Roberto Perez from first.
In the top of the sixth with Mike Napoli on third, Brandon Guyer was struck by Martin Perez’ 0-1 pitch. Abe Almonte doubled into deep left center to clear the bases and put the Tribe up 5-0. Roberto Perez singled in Almonte to chase Martin Perez from the game. Dario Alvarez retired Rajai Davis for the final out of the inning.
Alvarez hit Guyer to lead off the top of the eighth. After consecutive singles by Almonte and Perez, Alvarez was replaced by Rangers reliever Keone Kela. Kela hit Rajai Davis with his fourth pitch to drive in Guyer. After a Jason Kipnis pop-fly, Almonte scored on a wild pitch.
In the top of the ninth, Guyer finally got on base by making bat on ball contact. He dropped a single into short right field, and later scored on a Roberto Perez single. The Tribe routed the Rangers 12-1 and drew within two games of Texas for the best record in the American League.
The two hit-by-pitches brought Guyer’s total on the season to 27. Sportswriter Jordan Bastian posted this amazing diagram to his Twitter account.
Guyer’s plate-crowding stance and high-step with his lead foot play into all of the lower-body bruises. His final stat line: four runs scored with one hit in three official at bats.
Guyer said. “When it’s upper — head or upper body — I’ll move. I’ll throw my arms up or get out of the way. But lower body, I’ve always been that way with getting hit. That’s how it’s been the last three years in the big leagues, and college and the Minor Leagues. It’s just instinctual.”
August Fragerstrom of Frangraphs ran the numbers and found that Guyer was hit by pitch at a higher rate–in nearly 6% of his at-bats–than any player in modern baseball history.
August 24, 2017 – The Streak Begins
Indians were 5.5 games ahead of Minnesota in the Division. Their 70-56 record was 6.5 games back of Houston for the best in the League. However, they had just suffered two tough losses in which the bats could not get going. The Tribe lost the two previous games to the Red Sox 1-9 and 1-6.
Trevor Bauer was matched up with Sox’ ace Chris Sale. The Tribe got to Sale early and often. Jay Bruce and Brandon Guyer led off the bottom of the second with consecutive singles. Yandy Diaz drew a walk to load the bases. Roberto Perez scored Bruce on a line-drive single. Gio Urshela followed, and broke his bat bat on a grounder to short. Sale made a matrix-like move to avoid the biggest shard of bat as it whizzed by his head. Guyer scored and Diaz reached third, while Perez was forced out at second while Urshela hustled to first to avoid the double-play.
Francisco Lindor drove in Yandy with a line drive to left. Then, Austin Jackson stepped in and grounded one into the hole between second and third. Rafael Devers ranged over to catch it, but could not complete the throw to first. Jackson reached on the throwing error and Urshela scored the unearned run to put the Tribe up 4-0.
Mitch Moreland took Bauer deep to lead off the top of the third, but a greater Red Sox threat did not materialize.
In the bottom of the third, Yandy Diaz had an RBI double that scored Encarnacion. Two batters later, Gio Urshella drove in two with a timely single to center. Although Sale struck out Lindor to end the inning, his day was done.
Bauer gave up three runs in the bottom of the fourth, when Xander Bogarts lined a triple into left field and Mitch Moreland singled him home. With those highlights, the Sox closed the gap to 4-7.
The bottom of the order combination struck again in the bottom of the fifth, when Yandy Diaz singled, Roberto Perez walked, and Gio Urshella dropped a single into left to extend the Indians lead to four runs.
Jay Bruce uncorked the game’s first home run in the bottom of the sixth, followed by a Yandy Diaz triple. Roberto Perez doubled to score Diaz.
Blaine Boyer began the seventh inning pitching for the Red Sox. After a leadoff home run by Francisco Lindor, Boyer loaded the bases. Fernando Abad came in from the bullpen. During the pitching change, Boston made some changes in the field including brining Rajai Davis off the bench and into left field.
Davis, who had just been acquired by Boston a few days earlier, received a standing ovation from the Progressive Field crowd. Later in the inning, Yandy Diaz scored Jose Ramirez on a line drive to right field, but was thrown out to end the inning trying to stretch the hit into another triple.
Despite a 8th inning Sox home run by Mitch Moreland, the Indians cruised to an 13-6 victory. This was the first in the record-setting win streak of late 2017. We will visit the streak several times in the remainder of the project. Suffice to say that this win turned the momentum from those bad beats at the hands of the Red Sox and ignited the team–especially the bottom of the order.
Yandy Diaz finished the game with two doubles, a triple, and four runs scored. Gio Urshella had four RBI on two hits. Roberto Perez was 3 for 4 with two RBI.
On beating up the MLB strikeout-leader Francona said, “I guarantee you our guys aren’t like, ‘Oh, good, Sale is pitching.’ He’s had his way with us as all good pitchers do. We have probably done better than most teams against him, but boy, he’s good. We’ve just done a fairly good job against him.”
August 23, 2011 – Shin-Soo Choo Hits a Double in the Midst of an Earthquake–and Later a Walkoff Home Run
Game 125 of the 2011 Season was the first game of a day-night doubleheader. The doubleheader was the result of a rainout in an earlier series against the Mariners in May. Justin Masterson was matched up with Blake Beavan for the afternoon contest.
Indians centerfielder Kosuke Fukudome started off the scoring in the bottom of the first when he drove in Ezequiel Carrera with an RBI double. The M’s evened the score at 1-1 in the second via a Miguel Olivo RBI single.
In the bottom of the third, Shin-Soo Choo was at the plate with two outs when the stadium began to lightly shake and sway. Tom Hamilton remarked, “Boy, the press box here is really shaking. What is the world is going on?” Choo drove a fly ball into the right field gap, which went for a double.
The shaking turned out to be a magnitude 5.9 earthquake centered near Richmond, Virginia. Earthquakes occurring in the eastern United States can generally can be felt over a broader distance than those in the west due differences in bedrock geology. Several downtown Cleveland office buildings were evacuated, but the game continued. Choo was left on base when Calos Santana flied out to end the inning.
Later, Fukudome doubled to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Lonnie Chisenhall gave the Tribe the lead once again when he drove in Fukudome with a single through the left side of the infield.
The Mariners retook the lead in the top of the fifth. Trayvon Robinson doubled to left field then Ichiro knocked a single into right. Always hustling, Ichiro advanced to second on the throw home to challenge Robinson at the plate. Franklin Gutierrez then drove in Ichiro with a double into left-center.
Fukudome came through again with a single in the bottom of the sixth. He was pushed across the plate by Matt LaPorta’s sacrifice fly. An inning later, Carlos Santana gave the Indians the 4-3 lead by way of an RBI single. Unfortunately, Choo was put out at third on a throw from right field which squashed the Indians’ momentum for a time.
Justin Masterson had pitched a strong 8 ⅓ innings. When he gave up consecutive singles to Miguel Olivo and Kyle Seager, it was clear his day was done. Closer Chris Perez came in seeking the final two outs.
Instead, Trayvon Robinson drove a double down the right field line which scored the runners on first and third and give Seattle a 5-4 lead.
Brandon League came on to pitch for the M’s and put Ezequiel Carrera and pinch-hitting Asdrubal Cabrerea on to lead off the inning. Shin-Soo Choo stepped in with Carrera and Cabrerra at the corners Choo smacked League’s first pitch over the left field wall to give the Indians their sixth walk-off homer of the year.
Choo had returned to the ballpark only two hours before game time on Tuesday. His daughter had been born at Fairview Hospital the prior afternoon. He had not planned to play in the double-header, but with Hafner, Kipnis, Sizemore, and Brantley out for the game the Indians asked if he would be willing to play. “It was up to my wife,” Choo said. “She understands the baseball life and told me to go.”
Honorable Mention – August 22, 1989 – Felix Fermin Records Four Sacrifice Hits
Felix Fermin had a sacrifice bunts in the first, fifth, seventh, and ninth innings of this game. In his at-bat in the third inning he grounded into a double-play. Only one MLBer had ever recorded four sacrifice hits in a game before–Ray Chapman of the Indians in Game 115 of the 1919 Season.
Despite the general decline in sacrifice hitting over the years, two players have completed this feat since Fermin–Kris Benson of the Pirates in 2004 and Corey Sullivan of the Rockies in 2006. Fermin remains the only player to have four sacrifices in a game played with the DH.
August 23, 1986 – Andre Thornton Game-Winning Pinch Hit
The 1986 Indians were playing just above .500 ball, but were just one game out of last place in the American League East. A crowd of over 40,000 came down to the Lakefront to see the first place Red Sox. Knuckleballer Tom Candiotti was starting against Tom Seaver in the marquee pitching matchup of the weekend.
In the top of the third, Wade Boggs struck first for the Red Sox with a solo home run off Candiotti.
The Tribe bounced back in the bottom of the third when Brook Jacoby led off the inning with a single. Seaver walked Tribe catcher Chris Bando. Jacoby advanced to third on a fielder’s choice and was driven home on a Julio Franco single. Joe Carter hit another single, putting runners on second and third with one out. Mel Hall grounded out, but Tony Bernazard hustled home to give the Indians a 2-1 lead.
The Indians extended their lead in both the fourth and fifth innings. An RBI single by Chris Bando and a solo home run by Joe Carter, respectively gave the Indians a 4-1 lead after 5.
The Tribe threatened again in the bottom of the sixth. They chased Seaver from the game with consecutive singles by Jacoby and Bando. Sammy Steward replaced Seaver and walked the first batter he faced to load the bases. Julio Franco hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Candiotti gave up a double to Marty Barrett and a walk to Jim Rice in the top of the eighth. Ernie Camacho was brought in for relief. Camacho walked Don Baylor to load the bases. Dwight Evans singled to drive in a run, and then Rice scored on a Bill Buckner groundout to cut the Indians’ lead to 1 run.
Rich Gedman got aboard with a leadoff double in the top of the ninth and advanced to third on a groundout. Wade Boggs lofted a fly into foul territory in left field. Mel Hall put Boggs out on the fly, but Romero tagged up to win the game.
Bob Stanley came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth for the Sox and he brought his gas can to the mound. Chris Bando drew a walk. Tony Bernazard singled. Julio Franco hit into a fielders choice, leaving runners at first and second. Joe Carter singled to load the bases. Tribe Manager Pat Corrales called on Thunder Thornton to pinch hit. Andre knocked a game-winning single for a 5-4 final score.
Throughout the 1980s, Thornton was one of the most beloved ballplayers in Cleveland. He was a prolific home run hitter and run producer on a team that was often mediocre at best. Thornton played 11 seasons for the Indians, mostly as a DH. During his tenure, the Tribe finished above .500 just three times.
September 8, 1995 – Indians Clinch a Playoff Berth for First Time in a Generation
The Indians came into this Friday night contest with a hair shy of a .700 winning percentage. They were a whopping 23 ½ games ahead in the Central Division. The Orioles threw Kevin Brown against veteran Orel Hershiser .
In the bottom of the third, Sandy Alomar took first base on a hit-by-pitch. A Kenny Lofton single into right field advanced him over to third. Alomar scored on a sacrifice fly by Omar Vizquel for the first run of the game. Later in the inning, Eddie Murray drove in Carlos Baerga and Albert Belle with a two-out single over second base that put the Tribe up 3-0.
Hershiser gave up his first hits of the night in the top of the fourth–consecutive singles by Curtis Goodwin and Rafael Palmero. With runners at the corners, Bobby Bonilla hit a grounder to first which Sorrento scooped up, fired to Vizquel for the force at second and back to Sorrento for the double-play while Goodwin scampered home to cut the lead to 3-1.
Brown and Hershiser battled through the middle innings, until Harold Baines dropped a double into left field for the Orioles in the top of the seventh. Jeff Huson drove him in with another double and Mike Hargrove made the call to the Bullpen for Paul Assenmacher.
Assenmacher got the last out of the seventh and the first two of the eighth. Julian Tavarez came in to match up with Bobby Bonilla and recorded the final out of the eighth.
Jose Mesa came to the mound for the top of the ninth with the one-run lead intact. He retired Cal Ripken on a groundout to short and Harold Baines on a fly ball to right. He put the tying run aboard by issuing a walk to Chris Hoiles. Jeff Huson popped his 0-1 pitch into foul territory beyond third base. Jim Thome caught the fly, and the Indians were headed to the post-season for the first time since 1954.
Prior to the game, knowing that the clinch was possible, Manager Mike Hargrove made a request of the scoreboard crew. He asked that Garth Brooks “The Dance” be played during the post-game celebration. The Dance was a favorite of former Indians closer Steve Olin who died in a boating accident during Spring Training of 1993.
Hargrove later said, “I thought it would mean a lot to anyone who was there (at the time of the accident) For those who weren’t there it had no significance, but it was still a good song. It was a tribute to those guys, to their families. It was part of our promise to never forget them. We didn’t tell anyone that we were going to do it. For those who knew, there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen. I saw Charlie Nagy; tears were rolling down his face.”
Of course, the 1995 Indians would later run into the woodchipper that was John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine. Jose Mesa would go from second in the Cy Young voting to an all-time Cleveland villain, and the window of contention would eventually close without a World Series Ring. But for this day, Cleveland was on top of the baseball world.