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Game 120

August 19, 2016 – Naquin Walkoff Inside-the-Park Home Run

After a walkoff win the night before, the Blue Jays came to town for a weekend series. The Indians matched up Trevor Bauer with Francisco Liriano. The Jays were hanging to a fractional game lead in the east with a formidable hitting lineup, while the Indians were out ahead of the Tigers by seven games going into the weekend. 

Bauer got in trouble early, walking Michael Saunders in the top of the first. With two outs, Russel Martin sent a line-drive home run over the left field wall. The Indians found themselves in an early 2-0 hole. 

Liriano allowed only two hits through five innings. In the bottom of the sixth, Jason Kipnis got aboard with a line drive single to right field. With Lindor at the plate, Kipnis advanced to third on a passed ball that skipped away from Russel Martin. Mike Napoli drove Kipnis home with a single to left to cut the lead in half. 

The Jays bullpen showed up in a big way. For the second straight night, Naquin entered the game as a pinch hitter. He replaced  Brandon Guyer in the 7th inning for the matchup, as Joaquin Benoit came on to pitch for Liriano. Benoit pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, and Jason Grilli faced only four batters in the eighth to hold on to the 2-1 lead. 

After Jeff Manship retired the Jays side in order in the top of the ninth, Roberto Osuna came on to pitch for the Jays. 

After Carlos Santana popped out, Jose Ramirez stepped in. He took Osuna’s 0-2 pitch deep down the right field line and over the wall to tie the game at 2-2. 

Naquin battled through a series of fastballs and nearly struck out on Osuna’s fourth pitch–which he barely tipped. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Osuna lost one out over the plate, which Naquin squared and drove to deep center. 

For a moment it was unclear if the ball would be a home run, off the wall, or caught by a leaping Michael Saunders. 

As Saunders was leaping at the wall, Melvin Upton Jr. had slipped hustling over from second. Upton eventually ended up with the ball, but not before doing the splits and facing away from home plate. 

Greg Grant captured this moment in a legendary tweet

As Upton attempted to hit the cutoff man from the seat of his pants in right, Naquin was rounding third. Mike Sarbaugh gave him the green light, and Tyler dug for home. It was clear that there would be a play at the plate, but nearly as clear that he would be successful. The Indians bench had cleared well before  Naquin touched home and struck his now-iconic pose. 

The victory put the Indians 20 games over .500 for the season and set the tone for one of the great post-season runs in team history. It also put Naquin firmly into the Rookie of the Year discussion. He went on to finish third in the voting behind Michael Fulmer of the Tigers and Gary Sanchez of the Yankees

This was the first time in MLB history that a game-tying home run was followed by a game-winning inside-the-park home run.

Baseball Reference Box Score

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