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Game 159

September 29, 2005 – Sabathia Throws 8 Scoreless Innings in Chase for Wildcard

On August 1st, the White Sox led the AL Central by 15 games. Starting August 1st the Indians went 37-15 to close the gap to three games with four to play. The White Sox were in Detroit looking to avoid a historic late-season collapse. The Indians had Tampa Bay in town and CC Sabathia on the hill against against Casey Fossum. 

The Rays put runners at first and third before CC got himself out of the jam by getting Aubrey Huff to ground out to second. 

Ronnie Belliard

The Tribe got an early lead with some timely two-out hitting in the bottom of the first. Jhonny Perralta drew a walk and was driven in by Travis Hafner’s home run. Victor Martinez poked a single into center before Ronnie Belliard belted one out of the park to make it 4-0 Indians. 

In the bottom of the second Grady Sizemore grounded into a double play that allowed Aaron Boone to scamper home from third. Jhonny Perralta led off the Indians’ half of the third with a homer that chased Fossum from the game. 

Working confidently with a 6-0 lead, Sabathia retired the Rays in order in the fourth, fifth, and eighth innings. Overall, he scattered five hits while striking out nine Rays over eight innings of work. 

Rafael Betancourt came on to close the game and faced only three Rays. He got Jonny Gomes to stike out swinging to end the game.

Sabathia closed out a strong 2005 season with a 15-10 record and 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings. Fangraphs credited him with the fastest fastball velocity in the American League in 2005.  

Despite the strong outing, math was not on the Indian’s side. The White Sox defeated the Tigers later in the day to clinch the division. The next day, Chicago arrived in Cleveland for the final weekend series of the year. The Tribe were still very much alive in the wildcard chase before being swept by the Sox in front of sellout crowds. They handed the wildcard berth to Boston on the final day of the season in their own sort of collapse. 

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Game 154

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

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Game 153

September 19, 2008 – Fausto Carmona Beats on Gary Sheffield in Bench-Clearing Brawl, Choo Homers Twice

Both the Indians and Tigers were well out of the playoff picture behind the Division-leading White Sox. It was only 70 degrees and the breeze was blowing in off the lake, but balls were jumping out of Progressive Field as though it were mid-August. 

The pitcher then-known as Fausto Carmona retired the first nine Tigers he faced. Meanwhile, Shin-Soo Choo put the Tribe up 1-0 with a solo home run of Armando Galaraga in the bottom of the first. 

Curtis Granderson doubled down the left field line to lead off the bottom of the fourth. After two outs, Miguel Cabrera took Fausto deep with a two-run homer to left center. 

Carmona returned to form and pitched 1-2-3 innings in both the fifth and sixth. Then Grady Sizemore tied things up with a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth. 

Maglio Ordonez led off the Detroit half of the seventh with a single. Miguel Cabrera stepped in and launched his second homer of the night off Carmona. Matthew Joyce grounded out, and Gary Sheffield stepped in with the 4-2 lead.

Carmona’s second pitch hit Sheffield square in the elbow. Sheffield walked all the way to first carrying his bat and maintaining a staredown on Fausto. Brandon Inge steps in, but the tension in the building remained between the mound and first base. Fausto made a pickoff move to first, which Sheffield took further exception to. He motioned toward Inge and told Fausto, “Throw to the Plate.” 

Helmets and gloves came off as Sheffield charged the mound. 6-foot-4, 270 pound Carmona caught him in a headlock and landed three or four solid punches before the benches arrived to push and shove the two apart. Victor Martinez in his catching gear goes down after a block in the back and gets up looking to knock a Tiger out. Brandon Inge is able to pull Victor away from the Fray while fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera gets between Victor and the rest of the Tigers. 

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Once things settled down and ejections were sorted out, Edward Mujica struck out Brandon Inge. Victor Martinez gunned down Jeff Larish (who had replaced Sheffield on first) at second for a strike-out throw-out double play to end the frame. 

Ramon Santiago tripled to lead off the eighth for the Tigers, and he was driven in on a Dusty Ryan sacrifice to give Detroit a 5-2 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth. 

Jamey Carrol pinch hit for Andy Marte to lead off the bottom of the eighth and grounded out to second. Asdrubal Cabrera popped out to short. Grady Sizemore blooped a two-out double into short left field which chased Galaraga from the game. 

Casey Fossum emerged from Detroit’s bullpen to throw five straight balls. He issued a walk to Ben Francisco, and then Shin-Soo Choo hit a prodigious three-run blast to right center on Fossum’s first strike. Choo’s homer tied the game at 5-5. 

Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez combined to retire the side in the ninth inning. 

Freddy Dolsi hit Kelly Shoppach with his second pitch to put Shoppach on first. He was replaced by Bobby Seay while Josh Barfield came on to pinch run for Shoppach. Travis Hafner struck out swinging, and then Ryan Garko singled down the left field line to put the winning run at third. Utility infielder Jamey Carroll lofted a fly ball to deep right field. It dropped for a walkoff single. 

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Game 149

September 20, 2000 (Game 2) – Omar Vizquel Catches Cormier Sleeping, Straight Steals Home

The Indians were fighting for the Wild Card spot and Boston was trying to keep their fading playoff hopes alive as the Indians visited Fenway to play back-to-back doubleheaders in the middle of the week. In Game 1 on Wednesday, the Indians defeated Pedro Martinez for the first time in 10 games. In Game 2 Dave Burba was matched up with Paxton Crawford. 

Troy O’Leary doubled to left field to lead off the bottom of the second. After a Trot Nixon strikeout, Lou Merloni drove in O’Leary with a line drive to deep left field. 

In the bottom of the fourth, the Red Sox extended the lead to 3-0 when Scott Hatteburg doubled with two outs. Lou Merloni followed with an RBI double, and then Brian Daubach drove in Merloni with a liner into center field. 

The Indians came up with their own two-out rally in the top of the fifth. Bill Selby was hit by Crawford’s pitch to get on base. Kenny Lofton moved him over to second with a single into center field. Omar Vizquel drew a five-pitch walk. Robbie Alomar poked a single into left-center that scored Selby and Lofton. Robbie and Omar executed a double-steal with Manny Ramirez at the plate. 

Manny drew a walk to load the bases, and Rheal Cormier came in to relieve Crawford. Cormier entered the game facing Jim Thome with the bases loaded. Cormier was focused on his pitches to Thome and took his time moving into the stretch for every pitch. He neglected 33-year old Vizquel on third. Jim Riggelman took two steps out of the third base coaches box and appeared to just say “Go.” Vizquel broke for home, and barely had to slide as he came in to score the tying run.

Cormier never even attempted a throw to the plate. 

Trot Nixon smashed a home run over the wall in left-center to lead off the bottom of the fifth and put the Sox up 4-3. 

In the bottom of the sixth, Steve Karsay came on to pitch against Lou Merloni who already had two doubles in the game. Scott Hatteberg was on first. Karsay got Merloni to ground out into a 4-6-3 double play. 

Chan Perry grounded out to begin the Indians’ half of the seventh. Kenny Lofton singled to right and then Omar walked. With runners on first and second, Rich Garces came on in relief for the Sox. Robbie Alomar flied out to center, but Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome plated two runs with back-to-back singles. 

Steve Karsay and Paul Shuey held things down through the late innings, before closer Bob Wickman came in to face Merloni with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth. Wickman got Merloni to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to end the eighth. He was able to close the door in bottom of the ninth to seal the 5-4 victory. 

Omar would repeat this feat several times throughout his career. Although he had moved on from the Indians by then, his straight-steal of home in 2008 at age 41 bears quite a resemblance to the play above.

No Indian completed a straight steal of home again until Grady Sizemore in Game 129 of 2005.

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Game 146

September 18, 2000 – Bartolo Colon has a Career Night, One-Hits the Yankees

The Yankees were leading the chase for the American League pennant, while the Indians were scrapping to stay in the wildcard race during this late-season visit to the Bronx. In a prime-time pitching matchup, Bartolo Colon was to face off with Roger Clemens. Clemens had not suffered a loss in his last 15 starts. 

Kenny Lofton drew a 10-pitch walk to lead off the game. Then Omar Vizquel bounced a single off the second base bag. After a Robbie Alomar strikeout, Manny Ramirez poked a ground ball single into short right field that scored Lofton from second. Jim Thome grounded into a double play, but not before the Indians were up 1-0. 

Derek Jeter lined one back to the mound and hit Colon in the side. Bartolo was able to recover and flip the ball to first. After a lengthy visit from the training staff, Colon stayed in the game. With two outs, David Justice reached on an error by Tribe left fielder Russel Branyan. However, Justice was quickly left on base as Bartolo struck out Tito Martinez on three pitches. 

In the bottom of the second, Kenny Lofton made a play reminiscent of the one featured in Game 111. Jorge Posada lofted a fly ball to center that looked like it would surely be a home run. Lofton once again showed off the vertical leap from his past life as a D1 basketball star. A perfectly timed leap allowed him to bring Posada’s home back over the wall. Back on the warning track, Lofton gingerly flipped the ball from his glove as Posada rounded second and headed back to the dugout. 

In the top of the third, Clemens struck out Omar and then retired Robbie Alomar on a groundout. Clemens then lost his command and composure for a bit. Manny Ramierez started the two-out rally by drawing a walk. Jim Thome’s double to right put Manny on third base. Manny was able to scamper home on a passed ball with David Segui at the plate. Segui eventually walked, as did Travis Fryman. However, Branyan left the bases loaded when he struck out. 

Colon blew through the Yankees lineup in the middle innings with great force. In the bottom of the sixth he struck out the pinstripe side. All three Yankees went down looking. In a post-game interview, Derek Jeter admitted “He’s one of the few pitchers who can overpower you. He basically dominated the game.”

The Yankees got their second baserunner of the night in the bottom of the seventh when David Justice drew a seven-pitch walk. Colon quickly retired Tito Martinez and Jorge Posada to strand Justice at second. 

Bartolo struck out Glenallen Hill to lead off the top of the eighth. His Dominican countryman and long-time friend Luis Polonia stepped to the plate. Polonia knocked Colon’s first pitch cleanly into center field. Polonia said, “He’d been throwing me fastballs all night and I was looking for one.”

Colon returned to pitch the bottom of the ninth and again struck out the Yankees side. The final out was Derek Jeter. When Jeter struck out looking, it ended his streak of getting on base in 41 straight games. However, he could not end another streak. The Yankees had not been no hit for 6,637 games–since Hoyt Wilhelm did it for the Orioles on September 20th, 1958. In 2003, the Astros threw a combined no-hitter in Yankee stadium using six different pitchers. 

Bartolo’s line of 1 hit, 1 walk, and 13 strikeouts was the best of his career so far. Of course, he would go on to become “Big Sexy”, the winningest Latin-American pitcher with 247 wins and the oldest player to hit his first career home run. 

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Game 134

September 2, 2006Kevin Kouzmanoff Hits Grand Slam on First Pitch in the Show

Both the Indians and Rangers were playing out the string by September of 2006. Cliff Lee was matched up with Edison Volquez for this Saturday night contest. Despite the lack of playoff implications, the 40,000+ at Ameriquest Field in Arlington were treated to something that had never happened before in MLB history. 

Grady Sizemore led off the game with a home run. Left fielder Jason Michaels singled to left. After a fly-out by Victor Martinez and a Ryan Garko strikeout, MIchaels stole second with Casey Blake at the plate. Blake eventually walked. Volquez then walked Jhonny Perralta to load the bases. 

This brought up Kevin Kouzmanoff. He had been hitting nearly .380 at AA Akron and AAA Buffalo throughout 2006. The Indians top prospect had been called up to the big league team approximately 10PM the night before. Kouzmanoff’s family had scrambled to make it to Texas from his hometown in Colorado.

Kouzmanoff stepped in against Volquez and crushed his very first pitch to center field into the batter’s eye lawn. He was the first player ever to hit a grand slam on his first swing.

He later told reporters, “I’m walking up to the plate, I figured, ‘Great, I’m a rookie, bases loaded, here we go. I’m nervous, everyone is here to watch, my family. But then I thought, ‘Hey, I’ve got nothing to lose.’ Just be aggressive and swing the bat if I get a good pitch.”

Only two players had hit grand slams in their first at-bat: Bill Duggleby for the Phillies in 1898, and Jeremy Hermida for the Marlins in 2005. 

Second baseman Hector Luna popped out to end the frame with the Indians up 5-0. 

In the top of the second, Grady Sizemore scored on a sac fly by Victor Martinez. From this point on, the game would be in the hands of the Tribe pitching staff. 

Cliff Lee gave up two runs on two hits in the bottom of the second, and another two runs on three hits in the bottom of the sixth. Overall, Lee pitched seven strong innings, giving up only those four runs on seven hits and striking out four. 

The Rangers threatened to spoil Kouzmanoff’s record-setting night in the bottom of the ninth. Gerald Laird got aboard with a bunt single against reliever Tom Mastny. Mastny gave up a double to Ian Kinsler that put Laird on third. Nelson Cruz grounded out for the first out of the inning. Gary Matthews hit a line drive single into the right field that scored Laird easily. Kinsler attempted to score from second to tie the game, but was punched out on a great throw from Casey Blake to Victor Martinez. MIchael Young lined one back to Mastny who caught it to seal the final out and the victory. 

In 2010, Daniel Nava joined Kouz in the first-pitch grand slam record book. Kouzmanoff played 16 games for the Indians before being traded to San Diego after the 2006 season. 

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Game 133

August 31, 2004 – Omar Notches Six Hits in Historic 22-0 Rout of the Yankees

A sellout crowd of over 51,000 packed Yankee stadium for this Tuesday night tilt between Jake Westbrook and Javier Vazquez. The Indians were just above .500 and were trailing the Twins by seven games in the Central. The Yankees were leading the AL East, but their record had suffered throughout the month of August and doubt was starting to creep into the clubhouse and owner’s suite. 

Travis Hafner hit a bases-clearing triple in the top of the first to put the Tribe up 3-0. In the top of the second, Ronnie Belliard bounced one over the wall for a ground rule double. Vizquel later singled for his second hit of the game and drove in Belliard. After Matt Lawton drove in another run with a single to right, Vazquez left the mound to a chorus of boos. This 1 ⅓ inning was the shortest outing of his career as a starter. All told, the Tribe scored another three runs on three hits in the second putting the score at 6-0.

In the top of the third, the Indians scored another three runs including two off a Vizquel double. This was his third hit of the game, and perhaps should have been an out. Kenny Lofton–at this point with the Yankees–mis-played the ball, which hit off the top of the center field wall.  

Westbrook retired the first 11 Yankee batters, including strikeouts of Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, and John Olerud on his first trip through the lineup. The Yankees were looking at a nine run deficit before Gary Sheffield doubled into left for New York’s first hit. 

Yankee reliever Tanyon Sturtz found his command in the bottom of the fourth and retired the Indians side in order. However; the Indians offense broke out again in the top of the fifth. Broussard and Belliard hit consecutive doubles to lead off the inning. Coco Crisp jacked a two-run homer off Sturtz. After Vizquel singled into left-center (4 for 4 at this point), Sturtz was pulled in favor of C.J. Nitkowski. Nitkowski gave up another three runs, and the Indians were ahead 15-0. 

Omar added his fifth hit of the game in the top of the sixth with an RBI double off Nitkowski. 

Esteban Loaiza came on to pitch the top of the seventh and would stay on for the final three innings of the game. He held the Tribe scoreless in the seventh. In the top of the eighth, Omar slapped a single through Loaiza’s legs and into center field. This was his record-tying sixth hit in a nine-inning game.  Not bad for a player known primarily for his defense.

After a John McDonald groundout to lead off the top of the ninth, Josh Phelps and Ronnie Belliard hit consecutive singles. Jody Gerut stepped in and launched Loaiza’s 2-0 pitch into the seats. After Coco Crisp walked, Omar had an opportunity to claim his sole place in the record-books. He hit a liner sharply down the right-field line, but his old teammate Kenny Lofton was there to track it down. 102 MLB players since 1901 have collected six hits in a nine-inning game. No one has ever recorded the seventh. 

Ryan Ludwick knocked a two-out single into center to advance Crisp to third, and Victor Martinez stepped in. Victor smashed Loaiza’s first pitch over the wall for the sixth run of the inning. Travis Hafner struck out to end the inning with the score 22-0.

Jeremy Guthrie retired the Yankees in order to put a finish to the most lopsided shutout since 1900 and the most runs allowed by the Yankees at home ever. 

The loss far overshadowed the franchise’s two past 18-run defeats: June 17, 1925 against the Tigers and against the Indians in League Park in Game 101 of the 1928 Season. 

The New York fans and media were in full panic mode, as the Red Sox were surging in the standings while the Yankees suffered an August collapse. This loss brought the Sox within 3 ½ games of the AL East lead. However, Alex Rodriguez quipped, “The way Cleveland played tonight, we’d better worry about Cleveland, not about Boston.”

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Honorable Mention – September 3, 2000 – Kenny Lofton Steals 5 Bases in Walkoff Win

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