Game 129

August 26, 2005 – Grady Sizemore Straight-Steals Home

The Indians were north of the border and C.C. Sebathia was on the mound against the Blue Jays and rookie starter Dustin McGowan. 

Grady Sizemore led off the game with a line drive single to center. Coco Crisp tapped one back to the mound and was put out at first, but Sizemore was safe at second. Sizemore advanced to third on a wild pitch before Jhonny Peralta struck out swinging. 

Sizemore noticed that McGowan was barely looking at him, let alone checking him back to the base. Pitch by pitch, he took a larger and larger lead as Travis Hafner worked against McGowan.

“Throughout the at-bat, I just kept going farther and farther,” Sizemore said. “I wanted to see how much they would let me have before they stopped me. They never did, and I told Skins [Third Base Coach Joel Skinner], ‘I can take this.’ “

Despite the two-strike count, Sizemore took a broad walking lead and turned it into a sprint to the plate. McGowan finally saw Grady break out of the corner of his eye, and rushed his pitch, which ended up coming in high. Catcher Guillermo Quiroz did not even attempt to apply a tag as Sizemore slid into home. 

Travis Hafner was as surprised as anyone that Grady would attempt the steal on a two-strike count, “If I had swung and hit Grady in the face, I would have had every woman in America mad at me.” 

Two pitches later, Hafner sent a home run over the Roger’s Center wall. He later jokes with Sizemore, “If I end up with 99 RBIs this year, you’re off my Christmas list.'”

Later in the inning, Ben Broussard notched an RBI with a line drive to left that scored Victor Martinez. The first inning came to a close with the Tribe up 3-0. 

Victor Martinez homered off McGowan in the top of the third. In the top of the ninth, Travis Hafner cracked his second home run of the game–a two-run shot off Justin Speier that drove in Coco Crisp. Victor Martinez followed with a single to right and then Ronnie Belliard took Speier deep as well. 

Sabathia went six innings giving up three runs on six hits. It was not his best outing, but the Indians offense more than covered for any mistakes. Bob Howry faced only seven batters in his two innings of work out of the bullpen, and David Riske closed things out with a scoreless ninth to preserve the 9-3 victory. 

The Indians were on a roll, with an 18-6 record since the end of July. However, they would eventually miss the playoffs after getting swept by the White Sox in the final weekend of the season. 

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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.

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Game 92

July 11, 2013 – Danny Salazar Defeats Cy Young Winner R.A. Dickey in MLB Debut

Danny Salazar started the 2013 season in Akron, moved up to Columbus and was called up to make spot start in the Thursday afternoon businessman’s special as the Indians were limping into the All-Star break with a 47-44 record. 

The Blue Jays were wrapping up a mid-week series in Cleveland and would throw reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey against Salazar in his major league debut. Manager Terry Francona has said that he prefers to have new players make their debut in day games, so that they don’t have all day to become anxious. The noon start certainly seemed to benefit Salazar. 

Salazar came out firing and struck out Blue Jays leadoff man Jose Reyes on five pitches to start the game. After a 1-2-3 inning, Asdrubal Cabrera staked Salazar to a lead with a solo home run in the bottom of the first. 

Salazar had the home crowd behind him as he struck out the side against the heart of the Jays order in the top of the second, getting Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus, and Maicer Izturis all swinging. His fastball routinely reached 97 to 99 MPH on the radar gun. 

The veteran knuckleballer and the rookie battled back and forth until the sixth inning. Jays catcher Josh Thole singled to left to lead off the sixth. Salazar got an ovation from the crowd for holding the Jays hitless to that point. After getting the next two outs, Jose Bautista tied the game with an RBI double down the left field line. 

Dickey’s knuckleball lost some of its movement around the sixth inning as well. He hit Michael Brantley and walked Ryan Rayburn to lead off the inning. After Brantley stole second, he walked Mark Reynolds to load the bases. Lonnie Chisenhall singled to left, which scored Brantley easily. Rajai Davis’ throw in from left missed the mark, allowing Rayburn to score as well. 

Rich Hill replaced Salazar in the top of the seventh and tossed a 1-2-3 inning. Likewise, Cody Allen retired the Jays with no damage in the eighth. 

After a Ryan Rayburn walk to leadoff the bottom of the eighth, Carlos Santana knocked a fly ball to deep right that got past a diving Jose Bautista for an RBI triple that put the Tribe up 4-2. 

Closer Chris Perez came on to pitch the ninth inning. Perez was an effective closer, but his saves rarely came without drama. After recording the first two outs, Adam Lind doubled to right. Colby Rasmus then singled through the right side of the infield, scoring lind and cutting the Indians lead to one run. After a passed ball and a walk, Perez got Rajai Davis to fly out to left to record his save and give Salazar the win. 

Salazar struck out seven Blue Jays on 89 pitches. This was the  the most strikeouts for an Indians pitcher in his MLB debut since Luis Tiant struck out 11 Yankees in  Game 91 of the 1964 Season

With his quality spot start, Salazar took some pressure off the overworked Indians bullpen, but also got himself an entry in the history books as only the fourth pitcher to defeat the reigning Cy Young winner in his MLB debut. 

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Honorable Mention: July 18th, 2010 – Jhonny Peralta Inside the Park Home Run


Game 75

June 28, 1992 – Indians Comeback Win After Jacobs Field Groundbreaking

The corner of Carnegie and Ontario did not always look like it does today. This 1927 map from the Cleveland Public Library archive shows the tangle of eastside streetcar lines converging on the Central Market before heading north to Public Square.

This 1951 aerial photograph shows the dense neighborhood of offices and warehouses that formerly stood where the ballpark is now.

For a more detailed look, check out this interactive map from the Cleveland Public Library.

In May 1990, Cuyahoga County voters narrowly approved the “Sin Tax” which charged 1.9 cents on a can of beer and 4.5 cents on a pack of cigarettes for 15 years. This revenue stream opened the door for the creation of the Gateway Economic Development Corporation and the construction of both Jacobs Field and Gund Arena.

On June 28, 1992, the Indians invited Mel Harder who had thrown the first pitch in Municipal Stadium to throw a ceremonial first pitch at the Jacobs Field construction site. Charles Nagy and Sandy Alomar Jr. were the battery representing the new Indians that would move into the new stadium at the start of 1994.

After the speeches and photo opportunities at the construction site, Dennis Cook started against Jack Morris and the Blue Jays back down on the Lakefront at Municipal Stadium.

It was a high-scoring affair. Joe Carter and John Olerud both homered off Cook in the first inning, giving the Jays a 3-0 advantage out of the gate.

The Tribe answered by sending all nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the first and plating four runs. Carlos Baerga extended the lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the second with an RBI single.

Joe Carter tied things up in the top of the seventh with a two run single into short left field. Jeff Kent put the Jays on top in the top of the 8th with a solo home run off Steve Olin.

With leadoff man Alex Cole on second, Paul Sorrento socked a home run over the center field wall in the bottom of the eighth to put the Tribe up 7-6.

Eric Plunk pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn a save and close out a celebratory day in Indians history.

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Honorable Mention: June 28, 2010 – Travis Hafner Scores Winning Run on Jayson Nix Squeeze Bunt

Nix said. “I think I’ve done it in the minors, but this definitely was the first time in the majors for me. I needed to make sure I didn’t square too early to tell them it was coming, and I needed to get it down. He threw a fastball, which made it easier.”

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Game 54

May 31, 1998 – Jose Mesa’s Last Save as an Indian

Indians fans have always had a complex relationship with their closers. This is probably true for most teams, but the Jose Mesa era was possibly the purest distillation of closer angst. Mesa’s career 4.36 ERA is the highest of any pitcher with at least 150 saves.

What can we derive from this statistic? Some of that average is from his early days as a starting pitcher. Most of it comes from giving Cleveland fans heartburn by giving up a run or two on his way to recording the save.

The Indians were north of the border, with Chuck Nagy facing Pat Hentgen in Toronto. Carlos Delgado led off the scoring with a two-run home run off Nagy in the bottom of the first.

Bars and vendors facing the playing field have become commonplace throughout the MLB. But In 1998, the Sight Lines restaurant inside the SkyDome was one of the first of its kind. That made it all the more surprising when Jim Thome cranked a home run deep into center field  It not only cleared the wall, but entered the open air bar 60 feet above the playing field, cleared three rows of tables, and came to rest next to the dessert buffet.

View from the Sight Lines Bar

Two batters later, Mark Whiten followed with a solo home run. David Bell and Omar Vizquel would wrap up the inning with RBI singles, bringing the score to 4-2 Indians.

With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 5th, Carlos Delgado touched up Nagy once again, with a ground ball that scored Alex Gonzalez.

Manny Ramirez made the score 5-3 in the top of the 8th with a single to short that scored David Justice from third base.

Jose Mesa entered the game in the bottom of the 8th. Earlier in the year he had been essentially replaced in the closer role by Mike Jackson. Mesa retired the heart of the Blue Jays lineup–Jose Canseco, Carlos Delgado, and Mike Stanley–in order on eleven pitches.

The Tribe added three more runs in the top of the ninth. With that added insurance, manager Mike Hargrove sent Mesa back out to close the game. Mesa recorded the final three outs and booked his 104th and last save as an Indian. This figure places him 5th on the current list of franchise leaders.

Due to simmering resentments and faltering confidence, Mesa needed a change of scenery. He was dealt to the Giants in July along with Shawon Dunston and Alvin Morman for Steve Reed and Jacob Cruz.

Mesa would go on to pitch for another nine years and carry on a long-running feud with Omar Vizquel throughout both players journeyman days.  

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Game 40

May 14, 2014 – Lonnie Chisenhall and David Murphy Combine for 10 Hits, 6 RBI

May 14, 2014 was a banner hitting day for the Indians, but particularly for two players in the bottom of the lineup. Everyone in the batting order, except for first baseman Nick Swisher, had at least one hit, and even Swisher walked twice.

In the top of the 2nd, David Murphy had an RBI single, sending Carlos Santana in to score. Lonnie Chisenhall singled to left field with two outs, but both Murphy and Chis were stranded on base by a Mike Aviles pop-out.

Murphy led off the 4th with a double to right field. Chisenhall drove him in with an RBI single to right.

In the top of the 5th, Murphy flied out to center, while Chisenhall beat out the throw on a dribbler in front of home plate.

Murphy drove home Asdrubal Cabrera  in the top of the 7th, who had reached on a leadoff double. After a Yan Gomes ground out, Chisenhall reached on a single to left field.

At the end of the 7th, the score sat at 6-2 Indians. Corey Kluber had quietly pitched a very solid start, giving up two runs on four hits using only 108 pitches. Kluber retired the first 13 batters before giving up a hit, which was a double by Adam Lind.

With runners on first and second in the top of the eighth, Murphy smacked a line drive double into right field, scoring Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera. Lonnie Chisenhall ended the inning with a line-drive out to deep center field. Manager Terry Francona later said, “Lonnie probably could’ve had another one. His out was hard hit.”

The Tribe sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the ninth. Again with two outs, Murphy got his fifth hit of the day with an RBI double. Then Yan Gomes battled through a 12-pitch at bat, finally rocking a line drive three-run home run into right field. After Gomes had cleared the bases, Jays backup infielder Steve Tolleson was brought in to pitch.

Chisenhall doubled down the right field line off one of Tolleson’s knuckleballs for his fifth hit of the day. Tolleson got Mike Aviles to pop out to end the inning.

Carlos Carrasco pitched the ninth inning, giving up two runs, but securing the Indians 15-4 victory.

Two Indians had not had five hits in a nine-inning game since Johnny Hodapp and Luke Sewell had five each in Game 101 of 1928 against the Yankees.

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Game 34

June 4, 1995 – Paul Sorrento Completes 9-run Comeback

The Blue Jays (still considered the defending Champions, since there were no playoffs in 1994) were wrapping up a weekend series in Cleveland. The pitching match up did not set up favorably, with reigning Cy Young winner David Cone pitching for the Jays against Jason Grimsley. Grimsley was making his second start of the year in the fifth starter role recently vacated by Mark Clark.

Grimsley got off to a dismal start by walking the first three batters he faced. Joe Carter then plated two runs with a single to left field and John Olerud knocked in another. Roberto Alomar bunted to advance the runners, and was followed by a three-run home run by Shawn Green. Grimsley walked Ed Sprague while Chad Ogea was getting warm in the bullpen.

Sprague scored on a Devon White sacrifice fly before Ogea was able to right the ship. At the end of the first, the Tribe found themselves in a 7-0 hole.

Cone mowed through the Indians, facing only seven batters in the first two innings, and the Jays added an insurance run on a sacrifice hit by Devon White in the top of the third.

The Tribe began the long climb back in the bottom of the third, when Omar Vizquel scored Wayne Kirby on a two-out single to left field. Ogea found his footing and retired the Jays in order in both the 4th and 5th innings.

Eddie Murray cut the lead to three with a two-run home run in the bottom of the 5th. After Albert Belle singled in backup catcher Eddie Tucker (in his 17 game cup of coffee with the Tribe) David Cone’s day was done.

Jay’s reliever Tony Castillo held on to the 8-6 lead until the bottom of the 9th. After Carlos Baerga was thrown out attempting to bunt, Castillo was pulled for Darren Hall. Albert Belle dropped a single into short center field, starting the late night rally. Eddie Murray singled to right, advancing Belle to third. Alvaro Espinoza was brought in to pinch-run for Murray. Espinoza was forced out at second when Jim Thome grounded out to short. However, Belle scored on the groundout, cutting the Jay’s lead to one.

Paul Sorrento rocked the first pitch he faced to right field. The breeze was blowing in, and appeared to knock it down a bit. However, it cleared the right field wall and set off the first walkoff celebration of the 1995 season.

In a post-game interview, Sorrento commented on the homer,

“The wind was blowing in. I got a good pitch and I just killed it.  “I thought I may have celebrated too early because it barely went out—it was only like the first or second row. …I just remember thinking, ‘Please go out, because I’m going to look like an idiot if it doesn’t.’ It ended up just capping off a great team win. We never gave up.”

Sorrento’s contributions to the 1995 World Series run are often overlooked. Over the first six weeks of the season he slashed  .303/.394/.775. Over 104 appearances, he hit .235 with 25 home runs for the season providing solid protection for the likes of Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez hitting in the 5 and 6 holes.

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