As the year reaches its final hours, here are my choices for the most enjoyable Tribe victories of 2012.
The hiring of Terry Francona, trade for Trevor Bauer, and signing of Nick Swisher have allowed most Indians fans to feel good about the off-season, which is good, seeing as how the Tribe was one of the very worst teams when games were actually being played. Still, the season wasn't without its pleasures. I've put together a list of my personal favorites. Some I enjoyed for their drama and tension, some for their lack of drama and tension. There were 68 wins to choose from in compiling this list, feel free to share your own choices in the comments.
Top Ten Indians Victories of 2012:
10) August 8th: 6-2 over the Minnesota Twins - Justin Masterson pitched well for 7 innings and Shin-Soo Choo had four hits, but what made this win memorable was that it ended the Indians awful 11-game losing streak. It brought more relief than satisfaction, but that relief was desperately needed.
09) May 24th: 2-1 over the Detroit Tigers - Masterson dueled with Justin Verlander and managed to get the best of him, allowing just one run in 7 innings. This was the high-water mark of the season, the Indians were 8 games above .500 and in 1st by 3.5 games heading into Memorial Day weekend.
08) September 30th: 15-3 over the Kansas City Royals - The Tribe exploded for ten runs in the 5th inning. Doubles by Choo, Jason Kipnis, and Jack Hannahan began the damage in that frame, a 3-run homer by Asdrubal Cabrera ended it. The 15 runs and 19 hits were both season highs, as was the 12-run margin of victory.
07) June 20th: 8-1 over the Cincinnati Reds - Home runs by Johnny Damon and Cabrera got things going in the 5th and a 3-run double by Lonnie Chisenhall expanded the lead in the 7th. Masterson pitched a complete game, allowing only an unearned run in the 8th as the Tribe swept Cincinnati and retained the Ohio Cup.
06) May 15th: 5-0 over the Minnesota Twins - Choo, Cabrera, and Carlos Santana all homered in the 5th inning, staking the Indians to a nice lead. Meanwhile, Derek Lowe pitched what would prove to be the Tribe's only complete game shutout of the year. His wheels soon fell off, but Lowe was 6-1 with a 2.05 ERA after this.
05) September 16th: 7-6 over the Detroit Tigers - The Indians lost a 5-3 lead in the 7th when Joe Smith gave up a 3-run blast to soon-to-be Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. Still behind in the 9th, Kipnis doubled, Santana tripled, and after a pair of intentional walks, Chisenhall singled in the winning run.
04) April 8th: 4-3 over the Toronto Blue Jays - The Indians first win of the year (after two losses). Lowe picked up the win after pitching 7 innings and allowing only two unearned runs. Carlos Santana hit two home runs, driving in three runs, and Chris Perez loaded the bases before getting a weak pop-up and completing the save.
03) October 2nd: 4-3 over the Chicago White Sox - The Tribe's final win of 2012. Perez allowed a two-run HR to turn a tie into a deficit in the top of the 9th, but Travis Hafner struck back with a two-run HR of his own in the bottom half, tying things back up. With two outs in the 11th, Jason Donald singled in the game winner.
02) July 26th: 5-3 over the Detroit Tigers - The Indians had one run on three hits through 6 innings against Verlander and the 3-1 deficit seemed unlikely to shrink. Then Santana and Hafner hit the first two pitches of the 7th inning over the fence and suddenly the game was tied. Two more scored that inning and Perez pulled off another tightrope walk in the 9th to close down the win. It was the last time the Indians ended a game in 2012 with a winning record.
01) June 19th: 3-2 over the Cincinnati Reds - Josh Tomlin and three relievers combined to allow only one run through nine innings. Alas, the Indians also scored just one. In the top of the 10th, a wild pitch by Nick Hagadone allowed a second Reds' run to score. Cincinnati flamethrower Aroldis Chapman entered the game with an ERA of just 1.06 and the game appeared lost. Choo managed a one-out single and Cabrera worked the count into his favor and then deposited a long fly ball over the wall in right field as the crowd went crazy and the Indians moved back into 1st place.
A very happy New Year, good readers. Be safe out there tonight as you ring in 2013, a year which I hope will provide more than 68 victories to us all.