May 25, 2009 – Memorial Day Miracle
The Indians started Memorial Day 2009 with a disappointing 17-28 record in last place in the AL Central. The Rays were fresh off their surprise appearance in the 2008 World Series, but were also scuffling early in the season. They arrived in Cleveland playing exactly .500 baseball.
Although Progressive Field was customarily unkind to the Rays–they had lost 14 straight at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario–things seemed to be trending upward at the start. The Rays had recalled David Price, who had blossomed in the 2008 playoff run, from AAA Durham to match up with Fausto Carmona.
Fausto pitched a 1-2-3 inning to lead off the game, but lost his control in the second. He walked the first four batters and forced in a run before finally striking out Dioner Navarro. He then gave up consecutive RBI singles and walked Evan Longoria before Eric Wedge made the call to the bullpen.
Jensen Lewis took the mound with the bases loaded and got out of the jam, but not before the score sat at 5-0. The Rays would add on in the third with a two-run shot by Gabe Gross. Lewis’ afternoon ended after he led off the top of the fourth with two consecutive walks and then gave up an RBI single to Carlos Pena. The Rays would score two more runs off Rich Rundles (in his only MLB appearance of 2009) bringing the score to 10-0 Rays.
The Indians began to chip away in the bottom of the fourth with a two-run home run by Ryan Garko. David Price was on a strict pitch count, and was pulled in favor of Lance Cormier partway through the bottom of the fourth. Reddit user /u/OhioIT who was at this game shared his recollection with me, “If it wasn’t for an Indians home run in the 4th inning to give me a little hope, I might have left the stadium after the 7th inning like many people did that day. In the 8th we finally started hitting and added a couple more runs to the board.”
The Tribe scored two more runs in the bottom of the eighth, and entered the bottom of the ninth down 10-4. Grady Sizemore led off the inning with a walk. Victor Martinez popped out, and Jhonny Perralta got a base hit. Left-hander Randy Choate was summoned from the Rays bullpen to face Shin-Soo Choo.
Choo hit a double play ball to short that should have ended the game. However, rookie shortstop Reid Brignac throw the ball wide of second base. Sizemore scored, and everyone was safe on the basepaths. Again, /u/OhioIT, “It was at this point I felt the momentum shift, and somehow the Indians had the upper hand, even being down by 5 runs!”
Grant Balfour was brought in to replace Choate. Mark DeRosa lined out to third and the Indians were down to their last out.
Ryan Garko stepped in and launched his second home run of the evening into the left field bleachers.
Asdrubral Cabrera came on to pinch hit for Matt LaPorta and drew a walk on four straight pitches.
With no further insurance, and perhaps some doubt creeping in, Rays manager Joe Maddon brought in closer Jason Isringhausen. In almost a mirror image on the beginning of the game, Isringhausen walked the first three batters he faced, forcing in Cabrera and cutting the Rays lead to one.
The eleventh batter of the inning was Victor Martinez, who was 0-5 so far on the day. On a 2-2 count, Martinez sent a ground ball back up the middle, for the Indian’s second walk-off win of the season. The Indians scored their seven runs in the ninth on only three hits, but Victor certainly made his only hit of the day count. The Rays would go on to lose 18-straight games at Progressive Field, a streak that extended until Price finally defeated the Indians on July 24, 2010