June 20, 2008 – Borowski Blows Save, Credited with Win
The Indians were visiting the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine for an interleague game with a most compelling pitching matchup. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw would go on to win three Cy Youngs and an MVP award. The Indians were throwing Cliff Lee would go on to win the AL Cy Young in the 2008 season. However, neither accomplished pitcher would end up with the win this evening.
Indians took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth courtesy of a two-run homer by catcher Kelly Shoppach in the top of the third and RBI hits by Casey Blake and Jhonny Perralta.
After a groundout by Juan Pierre to lead off the first, Cliff Lee gave up a line drive single to Matt Kemp. Lee’s pitch count was at 104, so manager Eric Wedge made the call to the bullpen.
Things unravelled quickly as Rafael Betancourt gave up an RBI double to Jeff Kent. Rafi was replaced on the mound by Rafael Perez, who gave up a single to James Loney scoring Kent. Perez was able to get out of the 8th with the score 4-2.
Dodgers reliever Cory Wade quickly shut down the Indians in the ninth, using only eleven pitches to retire Shoppach, Delucci, and Sizemore.
Indians closer Joe Borowski came in to pitch the Dodgers half of the ninth. Angel Berroa sent Borowski’s second pitch into right field for a single and Russel Martin followed with a double. Borowski struck out pinch hitter Blake DeWitt, but then gave up and RBI single to Juan Pierre.
Pierre stole second, and Borowski intentionally walked Matt Kemp to load the bases and set up the double play. Jeff Kent grounded one to the shortstop and was put out, but not before Martin crossed the plate for the tying run. Because he entered the game with a two-run lead and gave up the tying run, Borowski was charged statistically with a blown save.
With two outs in the top of the tenth, Jhonny Perralta knocked a double into right field, scoring Ryan Garko and Franklin Guttierez.
Masahide Kobayashi came to the mound to try and hold on to the Indians lead. Kobayashi was one of three players to record 200+ saves in Japanese professional baseball. In 2008, the Indians brought Kobayashi to Cleveland to convert him to an MLB closer.
Kobayashi retired the Dodgers side, giving up only one hit to Russell Martin. He was awarded the save. This was his fourth of six saves in his MLB career. Selfishly, I wish that he had worked out, because I loved hearing Tom Hamilton say “Kobayashi.”
After blowing the initial save opportunity, Borowski was awarded the win because the Indians scored the winning run while he was the pitcher of record. This is an interesting statistical twist–wins are generally considered a negative statistic for closers, because it generally indicates that they blew a save. For more on Blown Save Wins and a modest proposal to fix them, visit Wendy Thurm’s piece for FanGraphs.
Borowski led the American League in saves in 2007 and contributed greatly to the Indians playoff run, but clearly did not have his best stuff in 2008. He was designated for assignment a few weeks later on July 4th.
Honorable Mention: July 6, 1956 – Jim Busby Hits Grand Slams in Consecutive Games
The first came in an 7-13 loss to the Tigers. The second came in a 6-4 win against the KC Athletics. He is one of 23 MLB players in history to hit grand slams in consecutive games–and the only Indian.