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Game 114

August 13, 1999 – Robbie Alomar’s Diving Catch Ends the Game

The Indians were 17 games ahead in the Central Division and cruising toward a fifth straight division title. Chuck Nagy was pitching against the Orioles’ Scott Erikson. 

Nagy did not allow a runner past second base until the top of the fifth. After Delino DeShields singled to center, he advanced to second on a Brady Anderson walk. DeShields and Anderson executed a two-out double-steal to get into scoring position. Mike Bordick took Nagy’s second pitch deep into left field. Richie Sexson leaped for the ball and made a backhanded catch. Sexson crashed into the outfield wall, but hung-on for the inning-ending putout. 

In the bottom of the fifth with two outs and Richie Sexson on second base, Dave Roberts hit a single through the right side of the infield. Sexson rounded third and came in to score, but Roberts was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. 

Former Indian Albert Belle tied things up in the top of the sixth when he drove home BJ Surhoff with a single to right. 

Omar Vizquel led off the bottom of the sixth with a single to right field. Robbie Alomar attempted to bunt him over, but the bunt was fielded by first baseman Will Clark and flipped to shortstop Mike Bordick at second to force out Vizquel. Manny Ramirez put the Tribe ahead despite the failed bunt, crushing a home run to deep right center. 

Paul Shuey replaced Nagy in the top of the eighth and gave up a leadoff single to Brady Anderson. After a Mike Bordick fly-out, BJ Surhoff singled to center. With runners at the corners, Albert Belle drove in two more runs with a two-run line drive double. Shuey was credited with a blown save, and Ricardo Rincon came on in relief. 

After putting Jeff Conine on base with a hit-by-pitch, Rincon got Will Clark to ground into a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning with the score tied 3-3. 

Scott Erikson returned to pitch the bottom of the eighth, but did not last long. Dave Roberts reached on an error and was moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt by Omar Vizquel. Robbie Alomar drove him home with a sharp line drive into right field. Manny Ramirez stepped in and launched his second two-run homer of the day. 

With the O’s down 6-3, Jesse Orosco came to the mound in relief. This was Orosco’s 1,071st appearance in the majors. This tied him with Dennis Eckersley for the all-time lead. Orosco broke into the majors in 1979 and would pitch until 2003, eventually amassing 1,252 appearances. He is one of only 29 big leaguers to have played in four decades. 

Mostly a matchup pitcher later in his career, Orosco struck out Jim Thome and gave up a single to David Justice. He was replaced by Scott Kamienecki who got Richie Sexson out to end the inning. 

Michael Jackon came on to close the game for the Tribe. He struck out Charles Johnson, and got Delino DeShields to ground out. With the grounds crew kneeling next to the tarp as rain threatened, Jackson walked Rich Amaral. Amaral advanced to second as Jackson focused on Brady Anderson. 

Anderson hit a ground ball sharply between first and second base. Ranging far to his left, Robbie Alomar snagged the grounder. He spun on his knees and threw a no-look strike to Jim Thome at first base. 

Anderson later remarked, “I wasn’t surprised. Anybody else, yes. But Robbie is one of the greatest second basemen ever.”

Baseball Reference Box Score

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Game 80

July 6, 1997 – Sandy Alomar’s 30-Game Hit Streak (maybe) Sets a Franchise Record

Although he is best known for his defense, leadership, and ability to call a game, Sandy Alomar Jr. put together one of the best summers of hitting in a generation during May, June, and early July of 1997. 

On this night, the Indians were trying to close out the first half of the season with a sweep of the Royals. Orel Hershieser was on the mound against Tim Belcher. Alomar extended the streak in the bottom of the second with a ground ball single to third base. He beat the throw down the line on the weak grounder. 

The Tribe got out to a lead in a big way with a grand slam by Manny Ramirez in the bottom of the third. 

However, the Royals came in the top of the fourth, hanging seven runs, including a three run double by Scott Cooper, on Hershiser and chasing him from the game.  

Matt Williams leadoff home run in the bottom of the fourth and a two-run double by Kevin Seitzer tied the game at 7-7. 

Jose Mesa held the Royals at bay for 3 and ⅔ innings. In the bottom of the eighth, Marquis Grissom drove in Omar Vizquel to score what turned out to be the winning run. Michael Jackson pitched the ninth and was awarded the win. The Indians completed the sweep and entered the break with a 3 1/2 game lead in the division.

Of course, the next game following this one was the 1997 All Star Game, which was held at Jacobs Field. Sandy hit the game-winning home run off Shawn Estes and was named the MVP of the All Star Game in front of the hometown crowd. 

Sandy could not keep the streak alive after the All Star break, but the 30-Game streak is regarded as the longest in team history. Some record-keepers note a possible 31-game streak by Nap Lajoie in 1906, but the records are somewhat unreliable this early in baseball history and there are differing accounts. 

During the streak, Alomar slashed .422/.455/.595. He had 11 home runs at the break, including a streak of five straight games with a home run in April. “I’m in a zone. Everything looks like a beach ball,” he said in one post-game interview. 

The one benchmark that Sandy’s streak did not achieve was the longest streak by a catcher. This is notable because that mark is held by Sandy’s old rival Benito Santiago. Santiago put together a 34 game streak for the Padres in 1987. This performance–along with his ability to throw out baserunners from his knees–kept Sandy out of the San Diego lineup in the late 80s and eventually led to his trade to the Indians. 

Baseball Reference Box Score

Humorous Mention: July 3, 2015 Trevor Bauer Imitates Teammate’s Batting Stances in Interleague Game


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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.

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Game 39

May 17, 1996 – Manny Ramirez Pinch-Hit Home Run

The Indians came into this weekend series with the Rangers riding a five-game winning streak. Orel Hershiser matched up with Kevin Gross in front of a sold out Friday night crowd.

At the end of three innings, the score stood at 2-1 Tribe. Things went sideways for Hershiser in the top of the 4th. Texas scored five runs on six straight hits, including four doubles. After Kevin Elster’s double, Joe Roa was summoned from the bullpen. Roa gave up the sixth run of the inning on a line-drive single by Pudge Rodriguez, but otherwise was able to stop the bleeding.

In the top of the 5th, Roa would walk Mark McLemore and then give up back to back doubles to Kevin Elster and Darryl Hamilton. Alan Embree replaced Roa and secured the last out of the 5th, leaving the score at 9-2 Rangers and leaving the fans wondering if they would see some Jacobs Field comeback magic.

The Tribe began to close the gap in the top of the 5th, with a sacrifice fly by Kenny Lofton followed by an RBI single by Julio Franco.

Embree battled through the top of the 6th, striking out the Rangers side in order on 19 total pitches. Leading off the bottom of the 6th, Eddie Murray chased Gross from the game after he sent a home run over the wall in right-center on a full count.

Dennis Cook replaced Gross, and quickly struck out Jim Thome. At this point, Manny Ramirez was brought in to pinch hit for right fielder Jeromy Burnitz. Manny and Sandy Alomar were retired in order, unable to build on Murray’s energy.

Kevin Elster touched up Embree for a line-drive solo home run in the top of the 7th, leaving the score total 10-5 Rangers.

With two outs in the bottom of the 7th and Kenny Lofton on first, Carlos Baerga hit a bloop single into short right field. Lofton reached third on a throwing error. With Baerga on first and Lofton on third, Albert Belle singled to center, sending Lofton home. Next, Eddie Murray stepped in and knocked an almost identical single to center driving in Baerga.

Reliever Ed Vosburg was brought in to face Jim Thome, and was immediately replaced by Gil Heredia after walking Thome.

Heredia headed to the mound and immediately got behind in the count to Manny Ramirez. Manny drove one into the bleachers. Manny’s grand slam put the Tribe ahead 11-10.

Albert Belle would later drive in Lofton for an insurance run. Jose Mesa secured the save, and the 1990s Indians kept on rolling.

Manny is regarded as one of the best clutch hitters of all time. He was masterful with runners on base. Ramirez hit thirteen grand slams over his eight-year career with the Indians. Over his entire career, he recorded twenty-one, which is third on the all-time list only behind Alex Rodriguez (25) and Lou Gerhig (23). The closest active player is Albert Pujols with fourteen.

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