September 23, 2005 – Bob Wickman Converts His 45th Save of the Season
Most closers live and die by the fastball. Bob Wickman relied on his sinker. Wickman lost part of his right index finger in a farm accident as a child. He credited the motion of his sinker to the unusual grip he adapted. A wily and strategic closer, Wickman walked batters he did not want to face rather than overpower them. His sinker was his out-pitch and so the difference between a converted save and a game-ending double-play could be a bad hop in the infield.
The Indians were a game and a half back of the White Sox and visiting the abysmal Royals for the second-to-last weekend of the season. C.C. Sabathia was matched up with Jose Lima for the Friday night contest.
Jose Lima retired the Tribe in order in the first inning (Limatime, BELIEVE IT!) and Chip Ambres led off the Royals half of the first by sending C.C.’s 2-2 pitch into the fountains at Kaufmann Park.
First baseman Jose Hernandez tied things up for the Tribe with an RBI single in the bottom of the second that drove in Travis Hafner.
The Indians broke things open in the top of the third. Grady Sizemore was hit by Lima’s second pitch. Grady stole second and then scored on a ground ball that Jhonny Perralta scorched past the shortstop. Travis Hafner teed off on Lima, sending a two-run homer over the wall to put the Indians ahead 5-1.
The Royals would chip away at the Indians lead. Chip Ambres came into score for the Royals on a wild pitch in the third.
Victor Martinez extended the lead to four runs with an RBI double in the top of the fifth.
Sabathia continued to have control issues in the bottom of the fifth. He gave up a single to Andres Blanco, threw another wild pitch to Ambres, and hit Matt Diaz with a pitch to put runners at the corners. The Royals manufactured three runs in the inning to bring the score to 6-5 and chase C.C. from the game.
Indians reliever Bob Howry blew his save opportunity when he gave up a solo homerun to Mark Teahen to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth.
The Royals kicked it around a bit in the ninth. Grady Sizemore reached on an error and then advanced to third on a throwing error as Coco Crisp tried to beat out a grounder. Sizemore scored on a ground ball single into left off the bat of Jhonny Perralta.
Bob Wickman entered the game looking for his 45th save. He struck out Denny Hocking swinging. Pinch hitter Aaron Guiel fell victim to Wickman’s sinker and grounded out to first. Terrance Long flied out to left on the first pitch to give the Indians the win.
This was one of the few instances where Wickman did not put at least one runner on base. It was a rare respite for fans from the high-tension situations Wickman would build up and eventually overcome.
In 1995, Jose Mesa converted 46 saves in 48 opportunities. Tied for second on the leaderboard for saves in a season are Wickman’s 45 in 2005 and Joe Borowski’s 45 in It 2007. Wickman chalked up 139 saves, which made him the all-time franchise leader, until he was surpassed by Cody Allen in Game 59 of 2018.