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Game 155

September 23, 1997 – Comeback Win Against the Yankees Clinches the Central

The Indians began the day 7.5 games up on the White Sox with seven games left to play. They had left Kansas City with a bad taste in their mouths after a walkoff single by Rod Myers, but had regrouped over the Monday off-day. The Yankees were 4 games back, but still alive in the East as Kenny Rogers took the mound against Charles Nagy. 

Nagy threw a 1-2-3 first inning, but things went downhill from there. He walked Bernie Williams to lead off the second. Cecil Fielder touched him up for an RBI double, and then Homer Bush dropped a two-run single into left field to put the pinstripes up 3-0. 

Sandy Alomar closed the gap momentarily with a two-run homer in the bottom of the second, but New York answered with a two-run shot by Tino Martinez in the next frame. 

Nagy gave up two runs on four singles in the top of the fifth and left the game with the Yankees up 7-2. Reliever David Weathers did not fare much better. He gave up RBI singles to Rey Sanchez and Bernie Williams that put New York up 9-2. 

Manny Ramirez kicked off the comeback with a leadoff single to right. Matt Williams doubled into center, scoring Manny from first. David Justice grounded out, but moved Williams over to third. Sandy Alomar likewise grounded out, but Williams scored on the play. Kevin Seitzer got aboard with a single before Tony Fernandez put a laser-shot home run into the left field bleachers. 9-6 Indians after six. 

Hideki Irabu put the Tribe out in order in the bottom of the seventh, but David Justice took Irabu’s first pitch over the left field wall. After Sandy Alomar doubled to left, Mike Stanton took over for Irabu on the mound. Tony Fernandez singled in Alomar to make the score 9-8 New York. 

Jeff Nelson came out to pitch for the Yankees in the ninth. He walked Bip Roberts on six pitches to lead off the inning. Omar Vizquel laid down a sacrifice bunt that put Roberts in scoring position. After Manny Ramirez struck out, Matt Williams drew a five pitch walk. David Justice singled in Bip Roberts to tie the game. Sandy Alomar smacked a line drive single into center that pushed Williams across the plate for the biggest comeback win of the season. 

The night then turned to scoreboard watching. Ten minutes after Alomar’s single, the White Sox fell to the Twins and gave the Indians the Central Division crown for the third straight year. 

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Game 151

September 27, 1914 (Game 1) – Nap Lajoie Notches His 3000th Hit

Honus Wagner became the first player in modern baseball history to record 3,000 hits on June 9, 1914 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Some historians also recognize Cap Anson of the Chicago Colts as a member of the 3,000 hit club, but all of his hits came in the nineteenth century under significantly different rules. 

Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie’s star power helped to make the early American League a success. When he signed with the Cleveland club in 1902, his former team disputed the validity of the contract. As a result, Lajoie did not travel to Pennsylvania for two years (missing all away games against the Athletics). In 1902, his .378 average led the American League. To start the 1903 season, local media held a poll to rename the team that had been the Blues and the Bronchos in its first two campaigns. “Naps” was the runaway favorite. 

1902 was the first of 10 years LaJoie would hit above .300 for Cleveland. He led the league in hits in 1904 (208 hits), 1906 (214), and 1910 (227 hits). All of those hits piled up into quite a career.

The Yankees were visiting League Park on the second-to-last weekend of the baseball year. In Game 1, Guy Morton and his abysmal 1 and 13 win-loss record was on the mound for Cleveland. He was facing off with Marty McHale.

The play-by-play account of this game has been lost to history, but we know that one of Cleveland’s seven hits on the day was Lajoie’s 3000th. The Cleveland Press reported that, “Lajoie, of Cleveland, made his three-thousandth big league hit in the first game. It being a two-base hit, the ball being taken out of play and presented to Lajoie as soon as he reached second.”

The Cleveland club went on to win 5-3. However, they would finish the season with only 51 wins–dead last in the American League. 

Twenty-nine players have joined the 3,000 hit club since Wagner and Lajoie reached the milestone in 1914. However, none have been so dominant or so beloved that the team was re-named in their honor. Lajoie finished his career with 3,243 hits, 2,052 of those came with the Naps. He remains the all-time franchise hits leader, 87 ahead of Tris Speaker. Modern, long-tenured stars like Omar Vizquel and Kenny Lofton are more than 400 hits behind Lajoie. The Indians active hits leader is Carlos Santana 1,143.

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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 145

September 19, 1917 – Stan Coveleski, Ace of the Deadball Era, Throws a One-Hitter

The Indians were visiting the Yankees at the Polo grounds as the end of the 1917 campaign was approaching. Sophomore spitballer Stan Coveleski took the hill against Slim Love and the Yankees. 

The play-by-play details of this game have been lost to history, but Coveleski mowed through the Yankee lineup. The pinstripes managed only one hit–a single by third baseman Fritz Maisel. He walked two and struck out five on the way to a league-leading ninth shutout of the season. 

Tris speaker drove in Ray Chapman with a double and catcher Steve O’Neill drove in Bill Wambsganss to score the only two runs that the Indians would need. 

He once explained, “I wouldn’t throw all spitballs. I’d go maybe two or three innings without throwing a spitter, but I always had them looking for it.” Sounds familiar to a another doctored-ball Indians great–Gaylord Perry

Coveleski was an anchor of the Indians rotation throughout the late teens and twenties. His biggest moment came in the 1920 World Series. He recorded three wins in the best-of-nine format, including a complete game shutout in Game 7 that earned the Indians the title. His ERA for the World Series was 0.67.

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Game 137

September 5, 1969 (Game 1) – Rare Walkoff Win From One of the All-Time Worst Tribe Teams

The 1969 Cleveland Indians are regarded by many as the worst Indians team of all time. At this point in September, they were 39 games off the pace behind division-leading Baltimore. They weren’t re-building per-se. The last time the Tribe had finished within striking distance of a playoff spot was a second-place finish in 1959 and the next time they would finish in second was 1994. Although other teams lost more games in total, the 1969 team was almost entirely forgettable. 

The Yankees came to town for a weekend series that included a Friday double-header to make up for an earlier game that was cancelled by rain. The pitching matchup for game one was quite promising for two bad teams–Sam McDowell would face Mel Stottlemyre of the Yankees. 

Indians catcher Duke Sims drove in centerfielder Russ Snyder for an RBI single in the bottom of the first to give the Tribe the early lead. 

Sam McDowell

Frank Fernandez plated Horace clark with a sacrifice fly in the top of the sixth to tie things up 1-1.

McDowell scattered nine hits, almost evenly throughout the game. He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the eighth by getting a key groundout from Joe Pepitone. He struck out five and walked only two. 

Likewise, Stottlemyer gave up ten hits and four walks, but the Indians were not able to take advantage of most of those opportunities until first baseman Russ Nagelson singled to center in the bottom of the ninth. Steve Hargan came in to pinch run for Nagelson. Eddie Leon laid down a solid sacrifice bunt to move Hargan over to second. Third baseman Lou Camilli grounded out to first, and Hargan was safe on third with two outs. So far, the Indians were 2 for 7 with runners in scoring position, and the few fans that scattered Muni Stadium probably thought that Hargan would be stranded like the nine Indians baserunners before him. 

Ken Harrelson came on to pinch hit for McDowell and was intentionally walked by Stottlemyer. That brought up Jose Cardenal who had replaced Snyder in center field. Cardenal slapped a single into right field to bring home Hargan and win the game. 

They would go on to lose the second half of the double-header and 99 games on the season, but this walkoff win was a bright spot for the home crowd. The Indians would finish with a worse record than both of the League’s brand-new expansion teams. The Kansas City Royals finished 69-93 while the Seattle Pilots edged out the Tribe with a record of 64-98.

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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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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. 

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