Game 134

September 2, 2006Kevin 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. 

Baseball Reference Box Score


Game 89

July 16, 2004 – 50 Total Bases, Back-to-Back-to-Back Home Runs

The Indians entered this game against the Mariners with a 43-46 record and 4.5 games back of the division-leading White Sox. Cliff Lee was on the mound in the Emerald City against Travis Blackley. 

Blackley got off to a rough start, loading the bases in the top of the first and forcing in a run on a five-pitch walk of Travis Hafner. He then retired first baseman Lou Merloni, but the Tribe had the early 1-0 lead. 

In the bottom of the third, Omar Vizquel led off with a line drive single to center. Matt Lawton took Blackley’s 1-1 pitch deep to make the score 3-0. Victor Martinez followed him with a home run of his own. Not to be outdone, Casey Blake stepped in and sent the 2-1 pitch up and out for back-to-back-to-back home runs! 

Clearly struggling with control, Blackley hit the next batter, sending Travis Hafner to first. Lou Merloni knocked a ground-ball single into left center. Then Jody Gerut doubled to right field, scoring Hafner. Mariner’s skipper Bob Melvin had finally seen enough of Blackley and brought J.J. Putz in to face Coco Crisp with no outs and Merloni on third. Crisp popped out, but Ronnie Belliard was able to push across the sixth run of the inning before Putz retired the side. 

Cliff Lee pitched effectively, until the bottom of the fourth, when he gave up a three-run home run to Mariners third baseman Justin Leone.

Ron Villone replaced Putz on the mound for the Mariners in the top of the sixth, and immediately got himself into a bind. He walked Vizquel to lead off the inning, and then hit Matt Lawton. With those two on base, Victor Martinez crushed the 0-1 pitch for a three-run home run which extended the Tribe lead to 10-3. 

Victor eventually accounted for fourteen of the Indians’ 50 total bases, including a two run single in the top of the seventh and a third homer–this one a solo shot off Justin Mateo–in the top of the ninth. 

In all, the Indians scored 18 runs on 21 hits, including eight home runs. The Indians would not hit back-to-back-to-back homers again until Game 72 of the 2019 Season.

Baseball Reference Box Score


Game 74

June 20, 2008 – Borowski Blows Save, Credited with Win

The Indians were visiting the Dodgers in Chavez Ravine for an interleague game with a most compelling pitching matchup. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw would go on to win three Cy Youngs and an MVP award. The Indians were throwing Cliff Lee would go on to win the AL Cy Young in the 2008 season. However, neither accomplished pitcher would end up with the win this evening.

Indians took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth courtesy of a two-run homer by catcher Kelly Shoppach in the top of the third and RBI hits by Casey Blake and Jhonny Perralta.

After a groundout by Juan Pierre to lead off the first, Cliff Lee gave up a line drive single to Matt Kemp. Lee’s pitch count was at 104, so manager Eric Wedge made the call to the bullpen.

Things unravelled quickly as Rafael Betancourt gave up an RBI double to Jeff Kent. Rafi was replaced on the mound by Rafael Perez, who gave up a single to James Loney scoring Kent. Perez was able to get out of the 8th with the score 4-2.

Dodgers reliever Cory Wade quickly shut down the Indians in the ninth, using only eleven pitches to retire Shoppach, Delucci, and Sizemore.

Indians closer Joe Borowski came in to pitch the Dodgers half of the ninth. Angel Berroa sent Borowski’s second pitch into right field for a single and Russel Martin followed with a double. Borowski struck out pinch hitter Blake DeWitt, but then gave up and RBI single to Juan Pierre.

Pierre stole second, and Borowski intentionally walked Matt Kemp to load the bases and set up the double play. Jeff Kent grounded one to the shortstop and was put out, but not before Martin crossed the plate for the tying run. Because he entered the game with a two-run lead and gave up the tying run, Borowski was charged statistically with a blown save.

With two outs in the top of the tenth, Jhonny Perralta knocked a double into right field, scoring Ryan Garko and Franklin Guttierez.

Masahide Kobayashi came to the mound to try and hold on to the Indians lead. Kobayashi was one of three players to record 200+ saves in Japanese professional baseball. In 2008, the Indians brought Kobayashi to Cleveland to convert him to an MLB closer.

Kobayashi retired the Dodgers side, giving up only one hit to Russell Martin. He was awarded the save. This was his fourth of six saves in his MLB career. Selfishly, I wish that he had worked out, because I loved hearing Tom Hamilton say “Kobayashi.”

After blowing the initial save opportunity, Borowski was awarded the win because the Indians scored the winning run while he was the pitcher of record. This is an interesting statistical twist–wins are generally considered a negative statistic for closers, because it generally indicates that they blew a save. For more on Blown Save Wins and a modest proposal to fix them, visit Wendy Thurm’s piece for FanGraphs.

Borowski led the American League in saves in 2007 and contributed greatly to the Indians playoff run, but clearly did not have his best stuff in 2008. He was designated for assignment a few weeks later on July 4th.

Baseball Reference Box Score

Honorable Mention: July 6, 1956 – Jim Busby Hits Grand Slams in Consecutive Games

The first came in an 7-13 loss to the Tigers. The second came in a 6-4 win against the KC Athletics. He is one of 23 MLB players in history to hit grand slams in consecutive games–and the only Indian.

Baseball Reference Box Score


Game 33

May 14, 1994 – Paul Shuey Strikes Out Four in the 9th Inning

The Indians selected Paul Shuey as the second overall pick in the 1992 amatuer draft. He was projected to be the Indians closer as the 1990s dynasty began to gel together.

About a month after moving into Jacobs Field, the Indians were 16-17 and facing the Tigers in a weekend divisional series. Jack Morris started for the Tribe against Bill Gullickson.

Eddie Murray put the Indians in the lead on the bottom of the first with a line drive triple to deep right field, scoring Carlos Baerga and Albert Belle.

In the bottom of the fifth with two outs, Manny Ramirez launched a three-run home run to deep right field. The Indians would continue to cruise through the rest of the game, eventually bringing a 9-3 lead into the top of the ninth.

Paul Shuey came on to replace setup man Jose Mesa who had given up one run on three hits in the 7th and 8th. Shuey got Chad Kreuter to strike out looking on six pitches. Next up was Chris Gomez, who struck out looking in a seven pitch at-bat. Then, Shuey issued two consecutive walks to Tony Philips and Milt Cuyler.

With two outs, Travis Fryman came to the plate. On the 0-2 pitch, Fryman struck out swinging, but the ball got away from Sandy Alomar. Fryman took first base on the wild pitch, and the other runners advanced to load the bases. Undeterred, Shuey headed back to the mound and struck out Cecil Fielder to end the game.

He became the 24th MLBer to record four strikeouts in an inning, and the first to do so in the ninth to end the game. 88 different pitchers have pitched four-strikeout innings to date.

In addition to Shuey, five Indians have pitched four strikeout innings:

Honorable Mention:

May 7, 2008 – Cliff Lee starts the season 6 – 0 will go on to win Cy Young.


Game 10

April 16, 2009 –
Indians Spoil Opening of New Yankee Stadium

Pomp and circumstance were the order of the day at the opening of New Yankee Stadium in 2009. Yogi Berra threw out the first pitch, Hall of Famers patrolled the pre-game warmups in letterman jackets, and Babe Ruth’s bat was laid across the plate as Derek Jeter approached the batter’s box to lead off the bottom of the first.

(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy M. Call)

After being traded by the Indians to the Brewers in July 2008, CC Sabathia signed with the Yankees in the off-season and became their Opening Day starter for 2009. CC came into this game already 1-1 on the season and delivered the first pitch in the new ballpark to former teammate Grady Sizemore.

In the top of the 3rd, Mark DeRosa was thrown out at first on an egregious baserunning blunder that ended an Indians threat early.

Ben Francisco scored the first run of the game, driven in by a Kelley Shoppach double off the wall in the top of the 4th.

Cliff Lee struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the 5th, but gave up the historic first home run in the stadium to Jorge Posada.

The top of the 7th would see reliever Joe Veres take the mound for New York. Veres would walk DeRosa, and give up consecutive doubles to Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta. Damaso Marte replaced Veres, but fared even worse.

He hit Shin-Soo Choo with his second pitch, and then Ben Francisco moved Peralta to third and Choo to second with a sacrifice bunt. Kelly Shoppach knocked a single into right field, scoring Peralta and loading the bases. Tony Graffanino popped out weakly to first, but the bases remained loaded. Demaso walked Trevor Crowe on five pitches to force in a run.

On the third pitch of the at-bat, Grady Sizemore sent a home run over the iconic W.B. Mason sign in right-field, putting the game entirely out of reach and recording the first grand-slam in the new ballpark. Victor Martinez would homer two batters later to put the icing on this 9-run inning.

The Yankees were a frightful 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position, resulting in audible boos from the Opening Day crowd by the later innings.

Although they played the spoiler on Opening Day, the Indians have had a fairly dismal record at New Yankee Stadium, going 13 and 21 in the regular season over the ten years since the Yankees moved across the street. Factoring in the playoffs–especially the ALCS collapse of 2017–maybe all of that superstition did work for the pinstripes after all.

Honorable Mention: April 30, 1946 – Bob Feller throws No-Hitter after returning from service in WWII.