September 2, 2006 – Kevin Kouzmanoff Hits Grand Slam on First Pitch in the Show
Both the Indians and Rangers were playing out the string by September of 2006. Cliff Lee was matched up with Edison Volquez for this Saturday night contest. Despite the lack of playoff implications, the 40,000+ at Ameriquest Field in Arlington were treated to something that had never happened before in MLB history.
Grady Sizemore led off the game with a home run. Left fielder Jason Michaels singled to left. After a fly-out by Victor Martinez and a Ryan Garko strikeout, MIchaels stole second with Casey Blake at the plate. Blake eventually walked. Volquez then walked Jhonny Perralta to load the bases.
This brought up Kevin Kouzmanoff. He had been hitting nearly .380 at AA Akron and AAA Buffalo throughout 2006. The Indians top prospect had been called up to the big league team approximately 10PM the night before. Kouzmanoff’s family had scrambled to make it to Texas from his hometown in Colorado.
Kouzmanoff stepped in against Volquez and crushed his very first pitch to center field into the batter’s eye lawn. He was the first player ever to hit a grand slam on his first swing.
He later told reporters, “I’m walking up to the plate, I figured, ‘Great, I’m a rookie, bases loaded, here we go. I’m nervous, everyone is here to watch, my family. But then I thought, ‘Hey, I’ve got nothing to lose.’ Just be aggressive and swing the bat if I get a good pitch.”
Only two players had hit grand slams in their first at-bat: Bill Duggleby for the Phillies in 1898, and Jeremy Hermida for the Marlins in 2005.
Second baseman Hector Luna popped out to end the frame with the Indians up 5-0.
In the top of the second, Grady Sizemore scored on a sac fly by Victor Martinez. From this point on, the game would be in the hands of the Tribe pitching staff.
Cliff Lee gave up two runs on two hits in the bottom of the second, and another two runs on three hits in the bottom of the sixth. Overall, Lee pitched seven strong innings, giving up only those four runs on seven hits and striking out four.
The Rangers threatened to spoil Kouzmanoff’s record-setting night in the bottom of the ninth. Gerald Laird got aboard with a bunt single against reliever Tom Mastny. Mastny gave up a double to Ian Kinsler that put Laird on third. Nelson Cruz grounded out for the first out of the inning. Gary Matthews hit a line drive single into the right field that scored Laird easily. Kinsler attempted to score from second to tie the game, but was punched out on a great throw from Casey Blake to Victor Martinez. MIchael Young lined one back to Mastny who caught it to seal the final out and the victory.
In 2010, Daniel Nava joined Kouz in the first-pitch grand slam record book. Kouzmanoff played 16 games for the Indians before being traded to San Diego after the 2006 season.