Game 141

September 28, 1995 – Dennis Martinez Breaks Kirby Puckett’s Jaw with Curveball

Dennis Martinez signed with the Indians prior to the 1994 season with 18 years of major league experience under his belt. He was the first Nicaraguan native in the MLB, had found lasting success with both the Orioles and Expos, pitched a perfect game, and overcome alcoholism.

El Presidente was already only the seventh pitcher to record 100 wins in both the American and National Leagues.He had taken the mound for the Tribe on Opening Day both in 1994 against Randy Johnson in Game 1 at Jacobs Field  and in 1995. 

The Indians had clinched their first playoff berth in a generation in Game 123 of 1995 and were tuning for the ALDS as the strike-shortened season was coming to a close. 

Martinez took the mound for a getaway Thursday game in Minneapolis against Frankie Rodriguez. The start of the game was rocky for El Presidente. He hit Chuck Knoblauch with the game’s second pitch. 

Two batters later, a second wild pitch broke future Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett’s jaw. Puckett had played 12 seasons for the Twins without ever spending time on the DL. In the offseason he was diagnosed with glaucoma. The rapid degradation of his eyesight ended his major league career. Although the hit-by-pitch injury was unrelated, this episode was a somewhat unfitting end for one of the beloved figures of 90s baseball. 

Knoblauch later said, “He did his leg kick and then he just froze. It’s almost like he didn’t see it or something. He didn’t really turn his head.”

After Puckett was taken off the field, Marty Cordova drove in Knoblauch to give the Twins a 1-0 lead. 

Rodriguez plunked Albert Belle with the first pitch of the second inning. Eddie Murray then singled to left to put runners at the corners for Jim Thome. Thome doubled in Belle and Murray advanced to third. Manny Ramirez followed with a line drive single up the gap that scored two. 

A two-run home run by Matt Lawton tied things up at 3-3 for a time, but the Indians would pull ahead in the top of the fifth and not look back. They rode homers by Alvaro Espinoza and Eddie Murray to a 12-4 win. 

After the game, Martinez remarked that he had considered asking Manager Mike Hargrove to take him out of the game.  “It’s the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. Because when I knocked him down, it did not hit him in the helmet, it hit him right in the face. I felt like the lowest man in baseball when I was on the mound.”

Despite the unfortunate outcome in the first inning, Martinez had pitched quite a year. In his age 40 season, he recorded a 3.08 ERA. That figure has not been matched by an Indians starting pitcher save for Cliff Lee’s Cy Young season in 2008. His 245 career wins held the mark for most by a Latin-born pitcher until he was surpassed by Bartolo Colon in 2018. 

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Game 132

August 29, 2007 – Sabathia vs Santana – Indians Beat Reigning Cy Young for 4th Time in Season

This Wednesday night matchup was billed as a faceoff between two pitching titans. CC Sabathia was at the peak of his pitching prowess. Johan Santana was the 2016 Cy Young winner and had mowed down major league lineups for years. However, the Indians had beat him three times already in 2007, mostly by hitting a lot of home runs. 

Santana came into Progressive Field with a 14-10 record. Sabathia entered the game with a 15-7 record. Both were on the AL All-Star squad earlier in the summer. 

Sabathia struggled a bit in the early going. He faced six Twins in the first inning, but managed to get out of the inning with the score still 0-0. 

Grady Sizemore led off the Indians half of the first with a single. Hitting second, the rookie Asdrubal Cabrera deposited Santana’s 3-1 pitch just over the 19 foot wall in left for his second ever major league home run. After a Travis Hafner groundout, Victor Martinez put one on the home run porch in left field. After a Ryan Garko groundout, Franklin Gutierrez doubled, and then was driven in by a Kenny Lofton single. Casey Blake grounded out to end the inning, but it was quickly 4-0 Tribe.  

Although Santana struggled with his velocity, he did not allow more than one hit per inning until he was pulled in the sixth after 104 pitches. He did record his 200th strikeout of the season. 

CC held the Twins scoreless until the top of the fifth, when Torii Hunter drove in Jason Tyner to erase the shutout. Sabathia went six innings giving up two runs on seven hits and two walks. Jensen Lewis came on to pitch the seventh and retired the Twins in order.

Rafael Betancourt pitched the eighth for the Indians. Mike Redmond touched him up for one run, driving in Rondell white who had previously doubled. Closer Joe Borowski put the tying run on base when Jason Tyner knocked a single through the right side of the infield, but a pop-foul and a game-ending double play took care of the Twins. 

This was the fourth time in the season that the Tribe had handed Santana a loss. The following Monday in Minnesota, Sabathia and Santana would face off again. The Indians had Johan’s number again with a 5-0 victory in Game 137. Overall on the season, the Tribe were 14-4 against the Twins and 5-0 against the reigning Cy Young winner.

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Game 122

August 14, 2003 – Travis Hafner Hits for Cycle Just Before Widespread Blackout

The Indians were wrapping up a mid-week series in Minneapolis with a Thursday-afternoon getaway game. Even for dedicated fans, most people are not engaged with the game in real-time. Despite the history-making moments in this game–not many Clevelanders remember it–likely because not many of them even saw the highlights. 

Brian Anderson was matched up with Brad Radke of the Twins in the Metrodome. Travis Hafner opened up the scoring with a solo home run on Radke’s first pitch of the at-bat. It was a towering drive to right that landed somewhere in the “baggy” covering the collapsible seating sections used for Vikings games. At the middle of the second inning the Tribe were up 1-0. 

In the top of the third, Casey Blake bounced one into the seats and scored Jhonny Perralta with the ground-rule double. 

With two outs in the top of the fourth, Hafner slapped a bouncer over Brad Radke on a check swing. The ball found its way between the second baseman and shortstop. As it dribbled into the outfield, Pronk raced around first, and slid into second for a double.

Anderson scattered just five hits through the first six innings and the Twins never really threatened.

The Tribe broke things open in the top of the seventh when Hafner chopped one in front of the plate and beat Matt LeCroy’s throw to first. The catchers throw sailed past the first baseman and Hafner took second on the throwing error–but was credited with a single. 

Josh Bard bunted Hafner over to third. He then scored on a ground-rule double by Jhonny Perralta. The Tribe would add three additional runs in the seventh to bring the lead to 6-0. 

After another 1-2-3 inning by Anderson, Ben Broussard led off the Indians half of the eighth with a single. Ryan Ludwick struck out swinging and brought Hafnet up with a shot at the record books. Not known for his speed–clearly a triple would be a tall order for Hafner. He sent a line drive into the right-center gap, perfectly placed between the outfielders. It skipped to the wall on the Metrodome turf. Torii Hunter fielded the ball up against the wall and double-clutched before hitting his cutoff man. By the time the relay came to third, Hafner was in safely with a head-first slide. 

Anderson eventually gave up a home run to Matt LeCroy and was chased from the game. Reliever David Cortes gave up two additional runs while closing out the bottom of the ninth, but was more than serviceable in getting the Tribe to the 8-3 victory. 

Hafner’s final line was 4 hits, 2 RBI in 5 plate appearances. His mother, Bev had driven 400 miles from Sykeston North Dakota to see her son at the nearest ballpark. Hafner was the seventh Indian to hit for the cycle to date. Rajai Davis and Jake Bauers have done it since. 

The game in Minnesota ended when it was 3:36 p.m. in Cleveland. Around 3:10, various transmission lines and substations in the First Energy system began tripping off. At 4:09 all Cleveland Public Power customers were completely in the dark. Eventually, over fifty-million people in eight states and parts of Canada would be without power.

With Clevelanders scrambling to empty fridges, locate flashlights, procure generators, or drink beers with their neighbors under the stars few were paying attention to the sports day’s highlight reel and so Hafner’s cycle became a bit of trivia that escaped the memory of many.  

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Game 121

August 20, 1992 – Indians Spoil Tapani’s 3-Hitter with Sorrento Walkoff

The Indians started Rod Nichols against Twins workhorse Kevin Tapani on this Thursday night. The Twins were 6 games back in the AL West, but had a talented core. The Tribe were out of contention in the AL East, but young players like Albert Belle, Sandy Alomar, Paul Sorrento, and Jim Thome were beginning to make some noise. 

Tapani pitched masterfully, holding the Indians hitless through six innings. The only Cleveland baserunner was Paul Sorrento who drew a walk in the bottom of the second. 

Nichols scattered a hit or two in nearly every inning, but managed to escape too much damage. The Twins only run came in the top of the fifth when Chuck Knoblauch drove a double into right field. After Randy Bush advanced Knoblauch to third on a groundout, Kirby Puckett sent him home with a double down the right field line.

Tapani continued to guard the 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the seventh “Hard Hittin’” Mark Whiten took the first pitch of the inning deep over the Muni Stadium wall to tie the game 1-1. Tapani then retired the next nine Indians to send the game to extra innings. 

Eric Plunk took over on the mound for the Tribe with two out in the eighth and gave up only two hits in 2 ⅓ innings of work. He held on to the tie and gave the Indians a shot in the bottom of the tenth. 

Carlos Baerga flied out for the first out of the inning. Tapani issued a six-pitch walk to Albert Belle to give the Indians their first baserunner since the top of the fifth. Paul Sorrento stepped in and slapped a line drive down the left field line. Belle motored around from first to score the winning run. 

Tapani was the ultimate hard-luck loser. He went 10 innings, gave up only three hits and two walks. The Twins supported him with eleven hits, but could not push them across the plate. The Twins left eight men on base and were a miserable 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position. 

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Game 100

July 27, 2014 – Indians Take Advantage of Egregious TOOTBLAN, Defeat Twins

One of the best developments to come from sports blogging and sports Twitter has been the invention of increasingly specific and weird statistics. In 2008, Tony Jewell coined the term TOOTBLAN in his now defunct Cubs blog Wrigleyville23. Short for Thrown Out On the Basepaths Like a Nincompoop.

More precisely “In short, it is any out a runner makes on the basepaths while attempting to take an extra base – whether advancing from second to third on a ground out (with no runner on first); attempting to stretch a single into a double, a double into a triple, and so on; or getting thrown out while advancing on a flyball. It also applies to base runners who are picked off or who are doubled out on a line drive.”

Jewell was using this measure to feed further statistical analysis that adjusted on-base percentage to account for errors on the basepaths. However, in the intervening years, it has become popularized as a hashtag for the sort of videos that would make Sportscenter’s “Not Top 10.”

Danny Salazar started for the Tribe against Yohan Pino of the Twins at Target Field in Minneapolis. Pino retired the first three Indians he faced, but began to get in trouble in the top of the second. Carlos Santana led off the inning with a line drive down the right field line. Then Pino hit Lonnie Chisenhall with his 0-2 pitch. Nick Swisher poked a hit into center to load the bases. After a Yan Gomes strikeout, David Murphy drove a line drive into right scoring Santana and Chisenhall. A Mike Aviles sacrifice fly put the Tribe up 3-0. 

The Twins challenged Salazar in the bottom of the fourth. With runners at the corners, Sam Fuld drove in Oswaldo Arcia with a grounder to first, but Salazar struck out Brian Dozier to quell the threat. 

In the bottom of the seventh, Dozier scored the Twins only other run with a line drive home run that cleared the wall near the left foul pole. After a Trevor Plouffe strikeout, Kendrys Morales stepped in against Indians reliever Scott Atchison. 

Morales blooped a single near the left field line. He made a wide turn at first and dug for second as Indians cup-of-coffee outfielder Chris Dickerson fielded the ball on one hop, wheeled and threw to second. The throw was a bit low, sending Jason Kipnis sprawling into the dirt. However, Morales slide brought him about four feet short of the base. He popped up and attempted to hopscotch over and around Kipnis’ tag, but Kip managed to tag his cleat. Morales confidently called himself safe, but umpire Brian O’Nora did not agree. 

The TOOTBLAN ended the Inning, and the Indians four hit, four run ninth inning iced the game, along with a non-save ninth inning appearance by Carlos Carrasco. 

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Game 82

July 3, 1968 – Luis Tiant 19Ks in 10-Inning Complete Game

The Indians were hosting the Twins for a four-game series leading up to the Fourth of July holiday. After splitting the first two games, Luis Tiant was on the mound against the Twins Jim Merritt. 

Tiant pitched brilliantly, but was challenged early. With Twins on first and second in the top of the second he struck out Minnesota shortstop Jackie Hernandez looking to end the inning. 

Although he scattered six hits, no Twins baserunner made it past first again until the top of the tenth. 

Although not generating as many strikeouts, Merritt had an outstanding night as well. He struck out seven Indians, gave up only four hits and a walk. The pitching duel lasted into extra innings. 

In the top of the tenth, Rich Reese doubled to left field. Frank Quilici followed with a well-executed bunt that advanced Reese to third. With runners at the corners and no outs, Tiant struck out John Roseboro, Rich Rollins, and Merritt in quick succession to end the threat. 

Joe Azcue

Indians left fielder Lou Johnson led off the bottom of the tenth with a single, and advanced to second on an error. With Johnson in scoring position as a result of the miscue by Jackie Hernandez, Tribe catcher Joe Azcue stepped to the plate. Azcue knocked a single into right field, easily scoring Johnson and sending the Indians into the holiday on a winning note. 

Tiant would finish 1968 with a league-leading 1.60 ERA, and a 21-9 record. Seven of his 21 wins were shutouts. 

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Game 63

June 22, 1980 – Joe Charboneau HR – Goes on to Win Rookie of the Year

Soon after his call-up after Andre Thornton went down with a knee injury at the end of spring training Terry Pluto gave Joe Charboneau the moniker “Super Joe.” After crushing a home run against the Angels on Opening Day, Cleveland was captivated with the rookie slugger.

By mid-June, he was slugging homers and tall tales were growing among the fanbase. He broke rocks against his chest. He opened beer bottles with his eye socket. He was a bareknuckle boxer before taking up baseball. He fixed a broken nose with plenty of whiskey and a pair of pliers. Joe never confirmed or denied most of the legends.

Joe Charboneau, Cleveland Indians left fielder who was American League rookie of 1980 and was plagued with back injuries last season, looks for a comeback this season with the Indians. Carboneau, batted., 210 last season. Here he gets jammed in the batting cage at Cleveland’s spring training camp in Tucson, March 5, 1982. (AP Photo/Sal Veder)

On June 22nd, the Indians were in Minneapolis to face the Twins. Bo Diaz and Miguel Dilone got the Tribe out to an early 2-0 lead. The Twins tied it up in the bottom of the second with a two-run single by Dave Edwards.

In the top of the third, Super Joe singled to center to load the bases. After a flyball out by Toby Harrah, Jack Brohamer pushed Orta and Hargrove across with a two-run double. Rick Manning then drove in Charboneau to give the Tribe a 5-2 lead.

In the top of the 4th, Charboneau singled to left in an inning that saw the Tribe score one run on three hits but strand two runners on base.

In the top of the 6th, Tom Veryzer led off with a double to left field. Dilone singled to move him over to third. Dilone then stole second to move into scoring position. Dell Alston knocked a triple into the left field corner, scoring Veryzer and Dilone. Mike Hargrove then drove in Alston with and RBI single. After a pitching change, Charboneau sent Fernando Arroyo’s pitch into the stands for a two-run home run.

The Twins would scatter a few more runs, but Super Joe’s Home Run turned out to be the icing on the cake.

A week later on June 28th, Charboneau would become one of only three players to ever hit a home run into the third deck of Yankee Stadium. However, the Indians would go on to lose 11-10.

Super Joe finished the 1980 campaign with 23 home runs, and 87 RBIs. He became Cleveland’s third AL rookie of the year. A local punk band had recorded Go Joe Charboneau and reached No. 3 on the local charts.

The sophomore slump hits many major leaguers, but none fell off as dramatically as Super Joe. After hitting poorly in the early part of 1981, Charboneau  injured his back sliding into head-first into second base while playing for the AAA Charleston Charlies. He played only 70 more major-league games and has the fewest MLB appearances for any Rookie of the Year winner.

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Game 36

May 15, 2012 – Derek Lowe Throws Complete Game Shutout without Recording a Strikeout

Derek Lowe had long been known as a ground-ball pitcher who relied on his strong sinker. That sinker carried him through a 16-year MLB career and ensured that he would never buy a drink in Boston after a 3-0 playoff record in the Red Sox’s historic 2004 World Series run.

Game 36 of 2013 was perhaps the purest distillation of Lowe’s style. Against a Twins team that was scuffling on offense and had been particularly inept against ground-ball pitchers, Lowe induced 20 ground-ball outs including four double-plays.

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

He was supported with RBI singles in the second and third by Casey Kotchman and Asdrubal Cabrera, respectively. Things got out of hand for Twins starter Jason Marquis in the top of the 5th. He gave up solo home runs to Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Carlos Santana to bring the score to 5-0.

Lowe cruised through the Twins lineup. In the 5th, 6th, and 9th all three outs came on ground balls. He threw 127 pitches, 76 of which were strikes.

Other pitchers have made the transition from starter to closer, but few have done it as seamlessly as Lowe. Only John Smoltz, Dennis Eckersley, and Derek Lowe have more than 160 wins and more than 80 saves.

In a post-game interview, a reporter observed that his season strikeout total (13) was nearly matched by his double-play count (10). Lowe quipped, “If all goes well, I should get to 40 [strikeouts] by the end of the year.”

Later in the 2012 season, Lowe was designated for assignment in order to make a roster spot for a young ground-ball pitcher with a wicked sinker–Corey Kluber.


Game 15

April 17, 2018 – Lindor Home Town Home Run in Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico has history as an MLB venue, but rarely has there been more hype on the island than the April 2018 series between the Indians and Twins.

San Juan’s Estadio Hiram Bithorn is named after the first Puerto Rican MLBer Cubs pitcher Hiram Bithorn. It served as a second home stadium for the Montreal Expos for 22 games in the 2002 and 2003 campaigns. The dimensions of the stadium were expanded in 2002 to match Stade Olympique in Montreal due to an MLB rule that a teams home stadium dimensions must remain the same throughout the season (thank you, Bill Veeck and the 1947 Indians).

Estadio Hiram Bithorn

Although the Twins were technically the home team for the series, Francisco Lindor was by far the hometown favorite in Game 1. After an emotional introduction in front of his family, Lindor led off the game with a long fly-out to the warning track. After this initial scare, Jake Odorizzi settled in for the Twins. He held the Indians scoreless until the top of the 5th.

Twins left-fielder Eddie Rosario–also a Puerto Rican with family in the stands–led off the 4th with a single off Corey Kluber. This would be one of only five hits given up by Kluber over 6 ⅔ innings. However, Rosario was left on base and the game remained scoreless into the top of the 5th.

After striking out Yan Gomes and Tyler Naquin Odorizzi was set to face Bradley Zimmer. The rookie center fielder drove a line drive into deep right field and ended up on second. The 0-2 pitch to Lindor escaped the glove of Twins catcher Jason Castro and Zimmer advanced to 3rd on the passed ball.

Lindor worked himself into a full count, and on the 6th pitch launched a homer to deep right field. The shortstop known for his smile and enthusiasm was in his element. Lindor rounded the bases waving to the crowd and was promptly summoned from the dugout for a curtain call.

Francisco later described the trip around the bases, “Unreal. Unreal. It’s a dream…definitely a dream playing in front of the crowd. How the crowd got up. The home run…it was special. Something I will never forget.”

After another quick-work inning by Kluber, Jose Ramirez and Michael Brantley led off the top of the 6th with back-to-back home runs.

Brian Dozier drove in Max Kepler to get the Twins on the board in the bottom of the 7th and chase Corey Kluber. Andrew Miller replaced Kluber and recorded two strikeouts in 1 ⅓.

Yonder Alonso added to the Tribe lead in the top of the 8th, making it a 6-1 game. Cody Allen walked Max Kepler to lead off the 9th, but secured the final three outs to give the Tribe their first win outside of the lower 48.

The next day, in Game 16 the tables would be turned as the crowd was behind Twins starter Jose Berrios who pitched seven scoreless innings to start off a 16-inning marathon that lasted over 5 hours and ended when Josh Tomlin gave up a single to backup center fielder Ryan LaMarre.

Despite supportive statements via social media, the Twins organization was reportedly unhappy to give up two “home” dates on their calendar to go to Puerto Rico. Personally, I would love to see more early-season games in neutral locations. Although the Caribbean stadiums generally have a lower capacity and less-than-Major League amenities, the energy of 18,000 plus in Hiram Bithorn is a welcome change from the sparse crowds in Cleveland, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Chicago, or any number of cold-weather cities for April baseball.

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