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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 147

September 14, 2017 – Lindor Keeps the Streak Alive with 2-out Single Off the Wall

The Indians entered this Thursday night game riding a twenty-one game winning streak. Sports talk radio was abuzz with debate about whether a win would place the Tribe in sole possession of the longest winning streak. Either they would pass up the 21 win streak of the 1935 Cubs. Or they would still be chasing the 1916 Giants, who went 26 games without losing. The Giant’s streak included a tie. 

Josh Tomlin was matched up with Jacob Junis for this run at history. The Tribe got behind early as the Royals got to Tomin in the top of the second inning. He walked Eric Hosmer to lead off the inning, and then Salvador Perez lined a single into right field that advanced Hosmer to third. Mike Moustakis grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, but Hosmer came home to score. 

Abe Almonte lead off the Indians’ half of the third with a line drive double down the right field line. With two outs, Lonnie Chisenhall looped a double into right. Almonte dug for home and came around to score. Chisenhall attempted to stretch the play into a double, but was thrown out at second to end the inning. 

In the top of the sixth, Tomlin gave up a double to Whit Merrifield. Lorenzo Cain hit into a fielders choice that put Merrifield out at third. Melky Cabrera grounded one weakly down the first base line. Carlos Santana charged the ball and flipped it to second to get Cain at second. Eric Hosmer slapped a double down the left field line that scored Melky from first. 

Andrew Miller returned from the injured list to pitch the top of the seventh. He allowed two hits, but got Alex Gordon to hit into an inning-ending double play to get out of trouble. One of the more incredible facts about the streak is that the Tribe won 21 games straight without their best relief pitcher. 

The Indians offense could not get anything going against Royals reliever Mike Minor in the seventh. They loaded the bases against Ryan Butcher in the bottom of the eighth, but consecutive pop-foul outs by Jay Bruce and Carlos Santana ended the threat. 

Kelvin Herrera got Yandy Diaz to ground out to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Tyler Naquin slapped a single through the left side of the infield. Francisco Mejia grounded to second and Naquin was forced out. Erik Gonzalez came on to pinch run for Mejia. The Indians were down to their final out, and Francisco Lindor was hitless on the day so far. Lindor came to the plate looking to keep the Indians’ hopes–and the streak–alive. 

Lindor worked Herrera into a 2-2 count. Down to his final strike, Lindor laced one into deep left field. Alex Gordon raced to the base of the 19-foot wall and made a leaping attempt, but was unable to make the catch. Gonzalez raced around to score the tying run, and Lindor ended up on second. Austin Jackson grounded out to end the inning and send the game to extras tied at 2-2. 

Cody Allen needed only eighteen pitches to retire the Royals in the top of the tenth. Over the course of the streak Cody Allen did not allow a single run. His ERA was perfect from August 12th through this game. 

Jose Ramirez lined Brandon Maurer’s 1-1 pitch into right-center and never hesitated in pushing for second. He narrowly beat the throw and was safe with a double to get things started in the bottom of the tenth. Maurer had Edwin Encarnacion behind in the count 0-2, but EE hung in and drew a seven-pitch walk.

Jay Bruce stepped to the plate and laced one into the right field corner. Ramirez raced around from second to score the winning run and give the 2017 Indians a place in history. 

During the streak, the Tribe outscored their opponents by a combined score of 140–36 in an unprecedented run of dominance. 

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Game 144

October 1, 1995

October 1, 1995 – Indians Wrap-Up the Strike-Shortened Season with a .694 Winning Percentage

On the final day of the strike-shortened 1995 campaign the Indians’ historic offense was on full display. Their opponent was the second-place Royals, but this was hardly a pennant race as the Tribe had clinched the division crown back in Game 123. Mathematically, KC was 30 games back coming into this final game. 

After Chuck Nagy got out of a runners-at-the-corners jam in the top of the first, the lineup went to work against Tom Gordon of the Royals. Kenny Lofton led off the game with a single to first. He stole second with Omar Vizquel at bat. Omar drew a walk, and then he and Lofton executed a double-steal with Carlos Baerga at the plate. Carlos lined a single into center to score Lofton. 

Alvero Espinoza came on to run for Baerga, and Albert Belle drew a walk. With the bases loaded, Eddie Murray, Jim Thome, and Manny Ramirez hit consecutive singles and the score was quickly 5-0.

Paul Sorrento drew a walk to load the bases once again. Gordon finally got the Royals first out when he retired Sandy Alomar on a fly out to center. Kenny Lofton struck out before Omar punched a two-out single through the left side of the infield to score one more. 

The bottom of the second was just as rough for Gordon. Belle, Murray, and Thome hit three quick singles to chase Gordon from the game. Mike Magnante came on to pitch for KC and struck out Paul Sorrento. Next up, Sandy Alomar slapped a single into short right field. Pinch-running Brian Giles scored and Thome dug for home. An error by Royals catcher Brent Mayne allowed Ramirez to score and put Alomar on third. Kenny Lofton drove in Sandy with a grounder to first base, making the score 11-0 after two innings. 

At this point, many of the All-Stars and veterans got the afternoon off. The rest of the Tribe’s cruise to an eventual 17-7 victory was marked by highlights such as a leadoff homerun by Billy Ripken in the bottom of the fifth, and an RBI single by Brian Giles. 

The 1995 season is often described as “magical.” The nucleus of players that had been building since the final years of Municipal Stadium all hit their peak. With the Browns moved to Baltimore, the team had the City’s full attention–even on a Sunday afternoon in early October. 

The team delivered a dozen walkoff wins, including the 9-run comeback over the Jays in Game 34, Manny’s “WOW” homer in Game 71, and Albert Belle’s game-winning grand slam in Game 73. It was truly a magical time and a lineup that may never be surpassed. 

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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.

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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.

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Game 104

August 1, 1990 – Alex Cole Steals Five Bases

By the first of August 1990, the Indians were eight games back of the frontrunning Blue Jays in the American League East. The the visiting Royals were dead last in the AL West, sixteen games behind Oakland, making this game…pretty much irrelevant except for the arrival of Alex Cole. 

Cole made his first appearance with the Indians on July 27th, 1990. Cultivated as an outfielder with blinding speed on the basepaths, Cole was eager to prove himself at the big league level. 

The Royals jumped out to an early lead against Greg Swindell when Bill Pecota doubled and then was driven home by Gerald Perry’s line drive single to center. 

Alex Cole led off the bottom of the first by drawing a walk. With left fielder Mitch Webster at the plate, Cole stole second. Webster flied out, and Jerry Browne came to bat. Cole stole third. Browne knocked a double into left field, and Cole’s run tied the game. 

In the bottom of the third, Cole was hit by Mark Davis’ pitch. MItch Webster popped out, and again with Jerry Browne at the plate, Cole stole second. By the third inning, he had three stolen bases without yet recording a hit. 

In the bottom of the fifth, the Tribe offense got going. Tom Brookens doubled into center field to get things started. Alex Cole poked a single through the right side of the infield to score Brookens. Cole stole second and then was driven home by Mitch Webster’s double into center field. Not to be outdone, Webster stole third with Jerry Browne at the plate. Browne’s sacrifice fly plated Webster to make the score 4-1 Indians. 

Cole singled to left in the bottom of the seventh, stayed put on a Webster fly-out, and then stole second with Browne at the plate. Swindell and closer Doug Jones made the 4-1 lead stand up.

Twenty-seven players have stolen five or more bases in a single game under the modern rules.  Eddie Collins stole six bases for the Athletics twice in the 1916 season–a feat which was unmatched until Carl Crawford stole six for the Rays in 2009. Cole stole five bases again in Game 26 of 1992. Kenny Lofton is the only other Indian to complete the feat, in Game 133 of 2000. 

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Game 95

July 14, 2015 – Fan Catches Four Foul Balls in One Game

Only 15,400 fans spun the turnstiles for this Sunday afternoon matchup with the Royals, despite the Indians being just one game back from the Central Division lead. That left plenty of room for Greg Van Niel to snag foul balls. 

Van Niel caught four foul balls over the course the game–numbers 1, 2, and 4 on the fly, directly to his seat. He retrieved number 3 off the ground a few seats away. 

“Three of them were catches and one was a ball I picked up off the ground,” said Van Niel. “The third one, I think was the hardest one … I ended up sprawled across a few rows, and I got some cheese on myself. But the other ones were just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.”

He kept three of the balls for the young family members who were at the game with him, and tossed the fourth to a child in his section. 

Van Neil said that he had never caught a Major League foul ball before, despite being a season ticket holder just one section over from the lucky spot. 

In on-the-field action, Jason Kipnis put the Indians up early with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first that scored Michael Bourn. 

The Royals chased starter Ubaldo Jimenez from the game after scoring two runs in the top of the second and another two in the top of the fourth. 

Down 4-3 with runners on second and third in the bottom of the sixth, Asdrubal Cabrera delivered a two run double into the right field gap. Jason Kipnis drive in Cabrera to add an insurance run later in the inning. 

The bullpen combination of Bryan Shaw, Joe Smith, and Chris Perez held off the Royals through the final third of the game to seal the 6-4 victory. 

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Honorable Mention: July 25, 1928 – First Indians Radio Broadcast Airs

The original WTAM Transmitter

Owner Alva Bradley had agonized over the decision whether to allow radio broadcast of Indians games for years. Some owners thought that broadcasts boosted interest in their club, others maintained that free access to real-time baseball would depress attendance. By mid-summer of 1928 Bradley elected to let WTAM broadcast all games live from League Park except for Sunday. 

Billy Evans and Tom Manning called the first game, a 10-2 win over the Red Sox featuring left fielder Charlie Jamieson going 3-5 with two RBI. 

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Game 84

July 3, 2018 – Game-Winning Grand Slam Second Day in a Row

On July 2nd 2018, Francisco Lindor hit a grand slam in the top of the fourth to break a 2-2 tie against the Royals. These would go on to be the game-winning runs. 

On the next night in Kansas City, the Indians got out to an early lead, scoring two runs off Danny Duffy in the top of the first. 

The Royals answered in the bottom of the first when Lucas Duda sent a home run over bullpen in right field to tie the game at 2-2. 

In the bottom of the second with Adalberto Mondesi on second, Whit Merrifield blooped a hit just out of reach for Rajai Davis who was charging in from center. Mondesi scored after the ball dropped and rolled past Davis. Then, Merrifield scores from first on line drive over third base by Rosell Herrera putting KC up 4-2. 

Edwin Encarnacion walked to lead off the top of the sixth. Brandon Guyer was hit by Danny Duffy’s fourth pitch. Yonder Alonso loaded the bases with a single. Catcher Yan Gomes stepped in and took Duffy’s 1-0 pitch into the Indians bullpen in left field. This put the Tribe ahead 6-4, but the lead was far from safe. 

Royals had tying run at second in both the 8th and 9th. In the 8th, Royals catcher Salvador Perez was on second with Hunter Dozier at the plate. Dozier sent a ground ball through the left side of the Infield, which was run down by Rajai Davis. Perez hesitated rounding third base as Davis threw to the cutoff man Francisco Lindor. Lindor spun and threw a strike to Gomes at the plate. Perez was initially called safe, but the play was reviewed and the out was confirmed. 

In the bottom of the ninth, Mondesi and Merrifield were aboard for the Royals with only one out. Cody Allen struck out Rosell Herrera and got Salvador Perez to fly out to deep left to end the game and record the four-out save. 

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