Uncategorized

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. 

Baseball Reference Box Score


Standard
Uncategorized

Game 143

September 30, 1995 – Albert Belle Has First and Only 50/50 Season

The strike-shortened 1995 season was quickly coming to a close. The Royals were in town for the final weekend of the regular season. Mark Clark took the hill against Dave Fleming on a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd. 

Clark and Fleming carried their teams through the first three inning scoreless until Tony Pena hit a comebacker to the mound with one out in the top of the third. Fleming left the game and Melvin Bunch took the mound for KC. 

In the top of the sixth, the Royals finally broke through when Brent Mayne smacked a line drive double into center field on Clark’s first pitch. Two batters later, Tom Goodwin deposited a home run into the bullpen giving the Royals a 2-0 lead. 

Kenny Lofton led off the bottom of the sixth with a perfectly placed bunt single and then stole second base. Omar VIzquel flied out to deep right field, allowing Lofton to tag and advance to third. Carlos Baerga grounded to short and was put out at first while Lofton came home. 

Next up was Albert Belle. Albert was one of the most fearsome power hitters of the mid-90s and had risen to legend status in Cleveland both for his prodigious power hitting, but also his fiery temper and off-field struggles. Belle smashed Bunch’s 2-2 pitch over the left-field home run porch and through the stadium gates onto Eagle Avenue. 

Belle’s homer was his 50th of the season, and marked the first and only time a player recorded 50 homers and 50 doubles in the same year. It tied the game at 2-2. 

Mike Hargrove turned the game over to the bullpen to start the seventh inning. Chad Ogea pitched a 1-2-3 seventh. Erik Plunk retired the Royals in order in the eighth. Jose Mesa walked Tom Goodwin in the ninth, but escaped with the tie intact. Alan Embree allowed a single by Juan Samuel to lead off the tenth, but promptly squashed the threat. 

Backup catcher Jesse Levins led off the bottom of the tenth with a double. Jeromy Burnitz came in to pinch run for Levins. The Royals intentionally walked Kenny Lofton. Omar Vizquel laid down a sacrifice bunt that advanced Burnitz to third. Carlos Baerga dropped the game-winning single into center for the Tribe’s twelfth and final walkoff win of the regular season. 

I remember this game playing on our small black and white TV that we kept in the walk-out basement. I was helping my father with fall yard work and we ran inside each time Albert came to bat to wait for history to be made on Channel 43. After Albert hit the home run, dad and I toasted with a 50/50 soda. 

Todd Helton had a 54 double 49 home run season in 2001. This is the closest that any player has come to completing the feat…and Helton played in 159 games that year. 

Belle was known to feud with the media. Mo Vaughn won the 1995 MVP award–a clear rebuke from the baseball writers. Vaughn had a strong season, but was nowhere near the historic stat line that Belle generated in the strike-shortened campaign of 1995. Belle later said, “Actually I’m surprised I got as many votes as I did [from the writers].” He received 11 first-place votes to Vaughn’s 12.

Baseball Reference Box Score

Honorable Mention – September 13, 1936 –  Bob Feller Strikes Out 17 at Age 17

Bob Feller arrived from Van Meter, Iowa in 1936 and instantly took over as baseball’s hardest-throwing strikeout pitcher. On this Sunday afternoon, the 17-year old rookie sat down 17 of Connie Mack’s Athletics on his way to a complete game 2-hit shutout.

Baseball Reference Box Score

Standard
Uncategorized

Game 139

September 4, 1996 – Chad Ogea 4-Hit Complete Game Shutout

The dominant Indians were visiting County Stadium in Milwaukee for a mid-week series. The first-place Indians were 15 games ahead of the Brewers in the AL Central standings at this point, but the Tribe were looking for redemption.

Cleveland lost the opening game of the series in walkoff fashion when Jose Mesa gave up the tying run on a wild pitch and then gave up a game-winning single to Jose Valentin. The night before, Orel Hersheiser had a rare klunker of an outing and the Indians lost 8-2. Chad Ogea was matched up with Jeff D’Amico for the final contest of the series. 

Albert Belle staked Ogea to an early lead with a two-run double in the bottom of the first that scored Kevin Seitzer and Jim Thome. 

Sandy Alomar led off the bottom of the second with a single into right field. After two quick outs, Kenny Lofton made it a 4-0 game when he took D’Amico deep to right field for his 13th home run of the year. 

Ogea did not allow a baserunner until the bottom of the fourth when Dave Nilsson poked a single into right field. The Brewers had a bit of a threat going with runners on first and third with one out in the bottom of the fifth. Ogea got Matt Mieske to strike out swinging and Mike Matheny to fly out to center to put the threat aside. 

Brewers reliever Ramon Garcia gave up a single to Kenny Lofton to lead off the top of the seventh. Then, he hit Kevin Seitzer with the 0-1 pitch. Ron Villone replaced Garcia on the mound. Jim Thome stepped in and launched Villone’s very first pitch into deep left center to put the Indians up 7-0. 

Ogea had worked very efficiently. Coming into the bottom of the ninth he had given up only 4 hits and one walk on 97 pitches. 

He got Dave Nelson to fly out on the 0-1 pitch. John Jaha grounded out on Ogeo’s 100th pitch of the night. It took him four pitches to retire Jose Valentin on a fly ball to right and complete the shutout. Although he missed the Maddux by a few pitches, it was probably Ogea’s finest pitching performance of his six year career. 

Baseball Reference Box Score 

Standard
Uncategorized

Game 128

September 13, 1995 – Charlie Nagy Tops David Cone and the Yankees

Over 41,000 packed Jacobs Field to see the first-place Tribe take on the hated Yankees on this Wednesday night. Rain delayed the start of the game until nearly 9PM. Charlie Nagy was matched up with reigning Cy Young-winner David Cone in the rubber match of the series. 

Nagy got out to a slow start, walking both Bernie Williams and Mike Stanley in the first inning. However, he got Darryl Strawberry to strike out swinging and end the inning. 

The powerful Indians offense picked him up almost immediately. Kenny Lofton walked to lead off the Cleveland half of the inning. With Omar Vizquel at the plate he stole second, and then stole third two pitches later. Omar drove him home with a ground ball double into right field. Manny Ramirez eventually scored Vizquel with a two-out RBI single leaving the Tribe on top 2-0 after the first inning. 

Lofton had Cone and Stanley’s number on this evening. After knocking a single to short in the bottom of the second, Lofton stole second once again.

Photo: Al Bello

Nagy retired the next seven batters he faced. His sinker was working beautifully, as eight of the first nine outs were either ground ball outs or strikeouts. 

In the bottom of the fifth, Albert Belle took Cones 1-1 pitch deep into the Cleveland night. This was the first in an absolute flurry of home runs for Belle. He hit eight home runs over the next week, and totaled 17 dingers in September. This tied the mark for home runs in a calendar month set by Babe Ruth in 1927. 

Tony Pena started the two-out rally in the bottom of the sixth with a single over the second base bag. Kenny Lofton doubled to right field, putting Pena on third. Then, Omar Vizquel punched a grounder through the left side of the infield, plating the Indians final two runs of the night. 

Nagy continued to cruise through the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. He gave up only one hit, a double to Don Mattingly that was quickly erased in the top of the seventh. 

Although his pitch count was already at 101 after eight innings, Mike Hargrove sent Nagy back to the mound to pitch the ninth. Bernie Williams grounded out for the fourteenth ground ball out of the game. Paul O’Neill gave Nagy a bit of a scare with a long fly ball to center, but Albert Belle was able to track it down on the warning track for the putout. Mike Stanley worked Nagy into a 2-2 count, but eventually struck out swinging to end the game. 

Nagy’s final stat line was a complete game shutout giving up three hits, two walks and strking out five on 115 pitches. After one more win in the final days of the strike-shortened season Charlie finished the season 16-6. 

Baseball Reference Box Score

Standard
Uncategorized

Game 111

August 4th, 1996 – Lofton Vaults Outfield Wall to Rob BJ Surhoff Homer

The 1990s Indians were primarily known for their offense. However, of all the great Indians moments of the late 1990s, only one clip is so iconic and instantly recognizable that it was included in the SportsCentury montage that ESPN ran in the final moments of New Year’s Eve 1999. 

On a Sunday afternoon in August, the Indians entered this game against the Orioles with the best record in the American League. The Orioles threw Rocky Coppinger against Brian Anderson. 

In the bottom of the third, Kenny Lofton led of the inning by drawing a six-pitch walk. With Omar Vizquel at the plate, Lofton stole second and then third. After Vizquel drew his own walk, Jim Thome plated Lofton with a sacrifice fly. 

Baltimore tied it up in the top of the fourth with a solo home run by Bobby Bonilla. 

The Tribe broke the 1-1 tie in the bottom of the fifth when Lofton homered to right field. Jim Thome gave the Indians an insurance run when he poked a single through the right side of the infield which scored Vizquel from second base. 

After replacing Anderson, Paul Shuey gave up a solo home run to Jeffery Hammonds to make it a 3-2 ballgame. 

In the top of the eighth, with Raphael Palmero on first, BJ Surhoff came to bat. Shuey fell behind and into a 3-0 count. Surhoff took the 3-0 pitch to deep right-center. Omar Vizquel later shared, “I thought that ball was going to be a homer. Period. I dropped my head and I said, ‘Damn, man.’”

Kenny Lofton had not given up on the play. He raced toward the path of the ball. Lofton originally recruited to the University of Arizona on a basketball scholarship. He is the only person to have played in both an NCAA Final Four and a World Series. Arizona Wildcats head coach Lute Olson once said of Lofton, “He’s quick and a great leaper.”

This was never more evident as this moment when Loften barreled toward the bullpen wall, leapt off the warning track, found a foothold on some padding that protected the bullpen door and vaulted three feet above the right field wall to bring back what would have been a go-ahead homer for Surhoff. 

Jim Thome remarked, “Literally, I thought he was going to jump over the wall.”

After Eric Plunk struck out Eddie Murray for the final out of the inning, the energized Indians came to bat. They sent fifteen men to the plate and scored eleven runs on eight hits, including a three-run double by Jose Vizcaino, and three-run home run by Jim Thome, and another three-run homer by Brian Giles. 

Jose Mesa pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, but was clearly not eligible for a save in the 14-2 victory. 

Baseball Reference Box Score

Honorable Mention: August 16th, 1920 – Ray Chapman is Killed by a Pitch

While not a positive story, Chapman’s is a unique one. He was struck in the temple by a pitch that he likely never saw. The Yankee’s Carl Mays was a submarine-style pitcher known to skuff and soil the ball (as was legal at the time). The game was nearing twilight when Chapman–a talented hitter who is still sixth on the all time list of sacrifice hits–failed to track the pitch and was struck squarely in the head. He collapsed to his knees and was helped off the field. He died hours later in a New York hospital. Chapman remains the only MLBer ever to pass away as a result of an on-field injury. 

Baseball Reference Box Score

Standard
Uncategorized

Game 110

August 5, 2001 – The Impossible Comeback

The 2001 Seattle Mariners were one of the best ballclubs ever assembled. They had a .360 On Base Percentage for the season, and ended up with an MLB record 116 wins. Dave Burba was matched up with Aaron Sele in a late-summer contest that saw a good Indians team facing the juggernaut from the west. Seattle came into the game with a record of 80-30. 

That summer, my high-school girlfriend was hosting an exchange student from Talinn, Estonia. The game was nationally televised, and the wraparound weekend series had been hyped all week. We decided that on Sunday night, we would try to teach the exchange student about baseball. 

Burba pitched a 1-2-3 inning to start the game, but quickly began to unravel in the second. Al Martin and Mike Cameron hit consecutive doubles to score Seattle’s first run of the night. After a fly out by Carlos Guillien, Burba issued a walk to David Bell. With runners on first and second, Tom Lampkin doubled down the right field line to score Cameron. Ichiro drove in Bell and Lampkin with a line drive single to left. The Mariners were up 4-0 very quickly. 

Burba gave up three consecutive singles to load the bases in the top of the third, and manager Charlie Manuel had seen enough. Reliever Mike Bacsik was called from the bullpen to make his first major league appearance. Bacsik would later become a historical footnote for giving up Barry Bond’s 756th home run while pitching for the Nationals. The M’s sent ten batters to the plate against Bacsik and scored eight runs in the frame. The Indians found themselves in a 12-0 hole against the best pitching staff in baseball. 

Down 12 runs, Manuel decided to give some starters a rest–Juan Gonzalez, Robbie Alomar, Ellis Burks, and Travis Fryman all came out of the game after their second at bat. Kenny Lofton later remarked that he, “wanted to stay in the game for some reason. [Maybe] I had a girlfriend there.”

Jim Thome hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth to end the shutout, but Seattle quickly regained their 12-run margin scoring twice in the bottom of the fifth. 

In the bottom of the seventh, Russel Branyan cranked a home run to left center off Aaron Sele to lead off the inning. After retiring Marty Cordova and Will Cordero, Sele began to fade. Backup catcher Einar Diaz singled to center, and then Sele walked both Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel. 

After John Halama was brought in from the Seattle Bullpen, Jolbert Cabrera followed with a two-RBI single that cut the lead to 14-5. 

In the bottom of the eighth, Jim Thome led off with a home run off Halama. Russel Branyan took first when Halama hit him with his first pitch. Marty Cordova followed with a homer that made the deficit 14-8. Omar drove in one additional run in the 8th with a double to right field. 

Rich Rodriguez pitched a 1-2-3 top of the ninth for the Tribe. He used only seven pitches and got the offense–which was now beginning to feel a little spark–back to the plate. 

With two outs and the bases loaded, Einar Diaz singled to left, pushing Eddie Taubensee and Marty Cordova across the plate. The Mariners were forced to bring in their star reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki to attempt to quell the threat. Kenny Lofton took Sasaki’s second pitch through the left side of the infield to re-load the bases.

Vizquel worked Sasaki into a full count. On the eighth pitch of the at bat, Omar hit one sharply over the first base bag. It skipped under backup first baseman Ed Sprague’s glove and out toward the foul pole. Kenny Lofton–showing his characteristic speed, but on aging legs at this point in his career–dug hard to score from first. The bases-clearing triple tied the game at 14. The Tribe had closed the 12 run deficit over the course of just three innings. 

I turned to the exchange student. For about the fifth time in the last hour and said, “That is not usually how this works.” 

Both teams would fail to score in the 10th. The Indians’ controversial recent acquisition, John Rocker, came on to pitch the top of the 11th. Rocker struck out the side against the bottom third of the M’s order. 

Eddie Taubensee Celebrates with Kenny Lofton

After a fly out by Einar Diaz to lead off the bottom half of the frame, Kenny Lofton got aboard with a line drive single to center. Omar singled again to move Lofton into scoring position. This brought Jolbert Cabrera to the plate. Cabrera swung at Jose Paniagua’s first pitch and shattered his bat, sending fragments out to third base and the ball into short left. Lofton raced from second and rounded third. Mark McLemore threw a strike from left field to the plate, but Lofton slid in under the tag to deliver the walkoff victory. 

After the game, Lofton was beyond enthusiastic, “I can’t explain it. It was unbelievable. I’ve never been in a game like that in my life. My voice is gone from hollering so much. It was fun. Wow.”

Baseball Reference Box Score

Honorable Mention: August 26, 1995 – Eddie Murray Steals Home

At age 39, Eddie Murray was one of the grizzled veterans on the 1995 squad. I was with my father fishing for perch. We were bobbing at anchor next to the 5-mile crib with the Saturday day game on the radio. When Eddie Murray broke from third and stole home off of Tiger’s pitcher Mike Moore I asked my dad if it was a joke. It seemed unlikely, but was the real outcome of a wild fifth inning. 

Baseball Reference Box Score

Standard
Uncategorized

Game 71

July 16, 1995 – Manny Ramirez “Wow!” Home Run off Dennis Eckersley

The red-hot Indians were trying to complete a four-game weekend sweep of the A’s in mid-July of 1995. The Tribe were already running away with the Central Division, and every game seemed to have a new hero.

Oakland threw Todd Stottlemyre against “El Presidente” Dennis Martinez. Eckersley began his career in Cleveland as a hard-throwing starter. He threw a no-hitter for the Tribe in Game 41 of 1977. In 1987, he signed with his hometown Oakland A’s and became the most dominant closer of the era.

Rickey Henderson led off this Sunday afternoon game with a home run on the third pitch from Martinez. Four batters later, Geronimo Berroa took Martinez deep to left-center to put the A’s ahead 3-0.

In the bottom of the second, Tony Pena cut the lead to 3-1 when he grounded out to third with runners at the corners.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Indians loaded the bases on Stottlemyre, but Wayne Kirby ended the inning with a flyball out. Likewise, the A’s loaded the bases in the top of the 7th. Martinez was able to work out of the jam when Stan Javier grounded out to short.

The As went to their bullpen in the bottom of the 7th, bringing in Mark Acre to replace Stottlemyre. Following a Carlos Baerga single, Albert Belle rocked a two-run home run to deep left-center, tying the game at 3.

The A’s loaded the bases again in the eighth, but once again failed to score. Julian Tavarez and Todd Van Poppel pitched scoreless ninth innings, for their respective clubs and send the game to extra frames.

The bullpens continued to battle, until the top of the twelfth when Stan Javier scored Ricky Henderson on a sacrifice fly off of Alan Embree.

The Indians came to bat in the bottom of the 12th with pressure mounting. The A’s brought in Eckersley to slam the door. Carlos Baerga singled to left on Eck’s second pitch. Albert Belle and Jim Thome then popped out consecutively. The speedy Kenny Lofton came in to pinch run for Baerga and stole second.

With Lofton on second, Manny Ramirez stepped back in and fouled off a handful of Eckersley fastballs. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat Manny connected with one of those Eckersley fastballs in a big way. The two-run home run landed more than half way up the left field bleachers. As Manny rounded the bases, a TV camera caught the moment when Eckersley turned to see the ball leave the park and mouth “WOW!”

Interestingly, Eckersley is credited with coining the phrase I have used so often in this project “walkoff home run.” He initially used the term to describe the home run he gave up to Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

Standard