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Game 126

August 24, 2017 – The Streak Begins

Indians were 5.5 games ahead of Minnesota in the Division. Their 70-56 record was 6.5 games back of Houston for the best in the League. However, they had just suffered two tough losses in which the bats could not get going. The Tribe lost the two previous games to the Red Sox 1-9 and 1-6. 

\(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Trevor Bauer was matched up with Sox’ ace Chris Sale. The Tribe got to Sale early and often. Jay Bruce and Brandon Guyer led off the bottom of the second with consecutive singles. Yandy Diaz drew a walk to load the bases. Roberto Perez scored Bruce on a line-drive single. Gio Urshela followed, and broke his bat bat on a grounder to short. Sale made a matrix-like move to avoid the biggest shard of bat as it whizzed by his head. Guyer scored and Diaz reached third, while Perez was forced out at second while Urshela hustled to first to avoid the double-play. 

Francisco Lindor drove in Yandy with a line drive to left. Then, Austin Jackson stepped in and grounded one into the hole between second and third. Rafael Devers ranged over to catch it, but could not complete the throw to first. Jackson reached on the throwing error and Urshela scored the unearned run to put the Tribe up 4-0. 

Mitch Moreland took Bauer deep to lead off the top of the third, but a greater Red Sox threat did not materialize. 

In the bottom of the third, Yandy Diaz had an RBI double that scored Encarnacion. Two batters later, Gio Urshella drove in two with a timely single to center. Although Sale struck out Lindor to end the inning, his day was done. 

Bauer gave up three runs in the bottom of the fourth, when Xander Bogarts lined a triple into left field and Mitch Moreland singled him home. With those highlights, the Sox closed the gap to 4-7. 

The bottom of the order combination struck again in the bottom of the fifth, when Yandy Diaz singled, Roberto Perez walked, and Gio Urshella dropped a single into left to extend the Indians lead to four runs. 

Jay Bruce uncorked the game’s first home run in the bottom of the sixth, followed by a Yandy Diaz triple. Roberto Perez doubled to score Diaz. 

Blaine Boyer began the seventh inning pitching for the Red Sox. After a leadoff home run by Francisco Lindor, Boyer loaded the bases. Fernando Abad came in from the bullpen. During the pitching change, Boston made some changes in the field including brining Rajai Davis off the bench and into left field. 

Davis, who had just been acquired by Boston a few days earlier, received a standing ovation from the Progressive Field crowd. Later in the inning, Yandy Diaz scored Jose Ramirez on a line drive to right field, but was thrown out to end the inning trying to stretch the hit into another triple. 

Despite a 8th inning Sox home run by Mitch Moreland, the Indians cruised to an 13-6 victory. This was the first in the record-setting win streak of late 2017. We will visit the streak several times in the remainder of the project. Suffice to say that this win turned the momentum from those bad beats at the hands of the Red Sox and ignited the team–especially the bottom of the order. 

Yandy Diaz finished the game with two doubles, a triple, and four runs scored. Gio Urshella had four RBI on two hits. Roberto Perez was 3 for 4 with two RBI. 

On beating up the MLB strikeout-leader Francona said, “I guarantee you our guys aren’t like, ‘Oh, good, Sale is pitching.’ He’s had his way with us as all good pitchers do. We have probably done better than most teams against him, but boy, he’s good. We’ve just done a fairly good job against him.”

Baseball Reference Box Score

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Game 120

August 19, 2016 – Naquin Walkoff Inside-the-Park Home Run

After a walkoff win the night before, the Blue Jays came to town for a weekend series. The Indians matched up Trevor Bauer with Francisco Liriano. The Jays were hanging to a fractional game lead in the east with a formidable hitting lineup, while the Indians were out ahead of the Tigers by seven games going into the weekend. 

Bauer got in trouble early, walking Michael Saunders in the top of the first. With two outs, Russel Martin sent a line-drive home run over the left field wall. The Indians found themselves in an early 2-0 hole. 

Liriano allowed only two hits through five innings. In the bottom of the sixth, Jason Kipnis got aboard with a line drive single to right field. With Lindor at the plate, Kipnis advanced to third on a passed ball that skipped away from Russel Martin. Mike Napoli drove Kipnis home with a single to left to cut the lead in half. 

The Jays bullpen showed up in a big way. For the second straight night, Naquin entered the game as a pinch hitter. He replaced  Brandon Guyer in the 7th inning for the matchup, as Joaquin Benoit came on to pitch for Liriano. Benoit pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, and Jason Grilli faced only four batters in the eighth to hold on to the 2-1 lead. 

After Jeff Manship retired the Jays side in order in the top of the ninth, Roberto Osuna came on to pitch for the Jays. 

After Carlos Santana popped out, Jose Ramirez stepped in. He took Osuna’s 0-2 pitch deep down the right field line and over the wall to tie the game at 2-2. 

Naquin battled through a series of fastballs and nearly struck out on Osuna’s fourth pitch–which he barely tipped. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Osuna lost one out over the plate, which Naquin squared and drove to deep center. 

For a moment it was unclear if the ball would be a home run, off the wall, or caught by a leaping Michael Saunders. 

As Saunders was leaping at the wall, Melvin Upton Jr. had slipped hustling over from second. Upton eventually ended up with the ball, but not before doing the splits and facing away from home plate. 

Greg Grant captured this moment in a legendary tweet

As Upton attempted to hit the cutoff man from the seat of his pants in right, Naquin was rounding third. Mike Sarbaugh gave him the green light, and Tyler dug for home. It was clear that there would be a play at the plate, but nearly as clear that he would be successful. The Indians bench had cleared well before  Naquin touched home and struck his now-iconic pose. 

The victory put the Indians 20 games over .500 for the season and set the tone for one of the great post-season runs in team history. It also put Naquin firmly into the Rookie of the Year discussion. He went on to finish third in the voting behind Michael Fulmer of the Tigers and Gary Sanchez of the Yankees

This was the first time in MLB history that a game-tying home run was followed by a game-winning inside-the-park home run.

Baseball Reference Box Score

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