The staff at Let's Go Tribe looks back at the games that stand out as personal favorites from 2013, presented in chronological order and split into three posts (because 3,000 words is far too many for one!).
On Monday, May 20th, the Indians hosted the Seattle Mariners in a getaway afternoon game. The Tribe was on fire, winners of 4 in a row and 17 of their last 21. They had already defeated Felix Hernandez, and were looking for a rare four-game sweep of the Mariners. Hisashi Iwakuma, one of the league's best pitchers, was on the mound for Seattle, but the Indians had had no trouble beating the league's best pitchers of late, and they would score five runs off Iwakuma.
But that is not why I selected this game as my favorite of 2013. It wasn't how the game began, but how it ended.
In recent seasons the Indians had treated the Mariners like the Harlem Globetrotters treat the Washington Generals. And it's not often that any Cleveland team has used another team as its personal highlight reel. The Indians had won on walkoffs on both Friday and Saturday, and while those were exciting finishes, neither would come close to how this game would end.
The two teams were tied 5-5 by the fourth inning, as Scott Kazmir had a poor start as well. The Indians would take the lead in the seventh without a base hit, as Michael Bourn would walk, go to second on a passed ball, to third on a groundout, and score on a sacrifice fly by Asdrubal Cabrera. But the back end of the bullpen, which had been excellent over the last couple of weeks, let the team down. Vinnie Pestano gave up a home run to Kyle Seager that tied the game in the eighth. In the ninth, Chris Perez gave up the lead thanks to an Endy-Freaking-Chavez home run, and Joe Smith gave up another go-ahead run in the tenth on a home run off the bat of Justin Smoak.
But no matter how badly the Indians tried to give away the game, the Mariners refused to win. In the bottom of the ninth, with closer Tom Wilhelmsen in, the Indians got two singles, but it looked like the rally would fall short when Justin Smoak dove to grab Carlos Santana's sharp grounder. All that stood between the Mariners and victory was a simple toss from Smoak to Wilhelmsen at first. Unbelievably, Wilhelmsen dropped the ball, the tying run scored, and the game went into extra innings.
After Smith game up the lead in the tenth, the Indians again were down to their last at-bat. Michael Brantley led off the inning with a bloop single, so Drew Stubbs laid down a bunt to get Brantley to second. Mariners pitcher Charlie Furbush glanced at second, saw that there was no chance at a force there, then threw an accurate throw to first base. But Smoak dropped the ball, and now the Indians were really in business. Up to the plate stepped Yan Gomes, who to this point wasn't playing all that often, even though he was making good on most of his opportunities. Earlier in the game he had taken Iwakuma deep, but now he was asked to bunt. But Furbush got behind in the count 2-1, and Terry Francona took the bunt off.
And a couple pitches later this happened.
Needless to say, we all were rather pleased.
On Friday, June 28, I woke up in Ashland, Oregon at 4:00 AM, caught a ride to the airport, jumped on a plane for Salt Lake City, caught a connection home to Chicago, landed at O'Hare at 2:30 PM, jumped on the Blue Line back to my neighborhood, ran the mile from the train to my apartment, dropped my bags off, changed clothes, kissed my girlfriend, and ran back to the train to head to US Cellular Field for a doubleheader between the Indians and White Sox. It was a few minutes after the scheduled 4:10 starting time of the first game when I exited the train 3 blocks from the stadium, and a Sox-fan friend of mine texted me to (somewhat gleefully) let me know I'd already missed Trevor Bauer, who'd given up 5 runs before being pulled in the 1st inning.
The joke was on my friend though, because by the time I got to me seat, the Tribe had tied the game at 5-5 in the top of the 2nd. I was happy for the tie, but bummed that I'd probably missed most of the game's action. Boy was I wrong.
The Indians scored 6 in the 4th, 3 in the 5th, 2 in the 7th, and 3 in the 8th, and while they allowed a handful more too, they won handily, 19-10, hitting 8 doubles in the game (which they hadn't done in more than 9 years), including 3 by Jason Kipnis, who also walked 3 times, become the only player in MLB history with 3 2B and 3 BB in the same game.
There was a delay of more than an hour between the games, due to rain. I met up with a couple LGT readers during the delay (did you guys end up making it to better seats???). it was 9:15 when the first pitch of the second game was thrown, and the Tribe picked up where they left off, scoring 4 runs that inning. Fans poured out of the stadium, because it was already late and they didn't want to witness the Sox getting thrashed again. The Tribe bats cooled though, and Carlos Carrasco was left in an inning too long, allowing the White Sox to take a 6-5 lead after 6 innings.
Meanwhile, a middle-aged woman sitting 30 feet to our left and a 20-something guy a few rows behind her had been yelling at one another about who-knows-what for a while, and around the time Chicago pulled ahead, things came to a head. The woman stood up and walked back to where the guy and his friend were sitting. When the friend tried to get between the two of them, the woman (quite calmly, as it turns out) proceeded to bite the friend, and remained clamped to his forearm for a good 7 or 8 seconds. At this point the woman's companion finally roused himself, got up from his seat, and went to get her. Security was called and as they escorted her up the aisle, she turned to anyone who would listen and explained, "I had to do it... he's a Cubs fan!"
Chicago added 2 more runs in the 8th, and entered the 9th ahead 8-5. At that point it was approaching 1:00 AM, I'd had an awfully long day, and it now appeared that the fruit of so many hours at the ballpark would be a split with the lowly White Sox.
Ryan lead off the 9th with a base hit, followed by singles from Asdrubal Cabrera, and Michael Bourn, scoring a run. A wild pitch then scored another. When Jason Giambi made the first out of the inning with a long fly ball, Bourn moved to third, and when Kipnis then hit another long fly ball, Bourn scampered home to tie the game. That brought Nick Swisher to the plate, and this happened:
Vinnie Pestano struck out the side in the bottom half of the inning, giving the Indians a sweep of both games, and giving me my favorite baseball day (and night) of the season.