I have been to hundreds and hundreds of baseball games in my 37 years on this earth. I don’t think I have ever witnessed a game like this one. The beauty of baseball is that every time out, you may see something you have never seen before. Today was one of those days.
Like the great Mr. Skin says, “Let us fast forward right to the good parts.”
The Indians carried a 6-5 lead into the eighth inning and turned it over to resident set up man Vinnie Pestano, who was activated off the DL Friday. Vinnie is still trying to work himself back into a groove and showed some immediate signs of rust. Kyle Seager hit a rocket shot, no-doubter to the seats in right field to tie the game before Pestano could record an out. The 19,390 fans in attendance sat in stunned silence. However, the Indians still had two more shots to finish off the sweep.
“With this lineup, you can go back in the dugout look guys in the eyes and say, ‘Come on, boys pick me up,’ ” said Pestano. “And they’re all in. It’s not deflating by any means. It’s like, ‘OK, let’s go back to work.’ “
After Oliver Perez and Carter Capps disposed of the Indians in order in the bottom half of the frame, manager Terry Francona called on his closer Chris Perez to pitch the ninth.
The last time we saw CP, he had given up back to back homers in a blown save Saturday, which the Indians eventually came back and won. It seemed like just a blip on the radar. Mariners skipper Eric Wedge called for pinch hitter Endy Chavez, a slap hitter with 26 homers in 999 career at-bats coming in. Naturally, Chavez took a 0-1 93 MPH fastball over the wall in right-center to put the Mariners on top 7-6. Perez’s long weekend turned longer. The boos didn’t cascade down on him the way he did Saturday, but later we would learn how vicious some so called “fans” can be towards the embattled closer. Perez would walk two before retiring the side.
“It’s a slump — a little slump, mini-slump,” said Perez. “It happens once or twice a year and you just have to keep grinding, keep trying to make good pitches and get through it.”
The Tribe needed to get to Tom Wilhelmsen if they were going to continue their winning streak. The Seattle closer carried a sparkling 0.50 ERA into the game and hadn’t blown a save in 11 chances. With one out, Jason Kipnis beat out an infield single. After Asdrubal Cabrera struck out, Nick Swisher hit a flair into right field which got down for a hit, moving Kipnis to third. It would be up to Carlos Santana, who has quietly dropped in production over the past three weeks. The Tribe’s catcher/DH/1B has hit just .190 in May with three RBIs. His roller to first base looked like the end, but Justin Smoak’s flip to Wilhelmsen covering the bag was dropped. When I tell you it was an easy play, I mean it was a play that is made 999 out of 1,000 times. The Indians are just that hot. Everything seems to go their way these days.
With new life, they moved onto extra innings. The Tribe bullpen, which had already seen two scoreless innings from Matt Albers in relief of Scott Kazmir, two more from Bryan Shaw, and an inning apiece from Pestano and Perez, turned to their last top tier bullet, Joe Smith. Smitty easily retired the first two men he face but then out of nowhere, Smoak, who had just two homers on the season, tattooed a pitch into the mezzanine seats in right, again putting Seattle on top by a run.
So let me get this straight, the Indians three-headed monster, which has been dominant for close to two and a half years now, was touched up for solo homers in the eighth, ninth, and tenth innings? This was the first time that this has ever happened to them in the same game. And the offense was supposed to come back from this again? I mean, how unlikely would this comeback win be?
“You don’t look up very often and see your opponent score in three straight innings and you win,” Francona said. “That was interesting.”
That is why baseball is the best.
Wedge had already used his closer Wilhelmsen, so he turned to lefty Charlie Furbush for the third time in the series to face the bottom of the Indians order. He started by falling behind in the count against Michael Brantley and watched as Dr. Smooth delivered his second hit of the game. Drew Stubbs, brought into the game as a defensive replacement for Ryan Raburn (who hit a three-run homer in the second), was sent up to the plate to bunt. He did so, dropping one in front of home plate where Furbush fielded it, bobbled, and fired to first in an attempt to get the speedy Stubbs. Stubbs may have beaten the throw, but it didn’t matter, because Smoak dropped the ball.
It was the umpteenth time the Mariners defense let them down over the four games in Cleveland.
So up to the plate stepped Yan Gomes, the Tribe’s backup catcher and newly minted cult hero. The Yanimal already was 2-4 with a homer in the game while gunning out two Mariner baserunners on steal attempts. With men on first and second and nobody out, Gomes was up there to bunt. He tried not once, but twice. Both times, he failed. He eventually worked the count full. And then, this happened.
The Yanimal’s three-run walk-off homer finished off a game that nobody who was there will ever forget. Just when the Mariners thought they finally had the Indians beaten, the Progressive Field magic took over.
“Moments like that, you just want to get back to your teammates,” said Gomes, “just run around and make sure you don’t miss a base. It was exciting. You just don’t know what to do with your hands. I was like, `Wow, this game’s done.”
Gomes finished the day with three hits and four RBIs. Someone is going to have to explain to me how the organization is going to keep him off this roster in favor of Lou Marson. The Yanimal is here to stay folks, and is a huge part of the deepest Tribe bench in years.
The Indians swept the Mariners in a four-game series which featured three walk-off winners. Three. That is pretty amazing when you think about it and extremely deflating for the Mariners. The Grinder must have been thinking to himself “this had to happen here of all places? ”
“Best game I’ve ever been a part of,” said Perez. “It was the craziest, most fun … obviously, it stunk to give up a home run, but it was still fun.”
It was the Tribe’s fifth straight win and their 18th in 22 games, extending their first place lead over Detroit to two and a half games as they welcome the Tigers to town for a quick two-game set beginning Tuesday night. They have won 13 of their last 15 home games and have outscored their opponents 85-45. Tribe fans would love to see more of that against the Tigers, who have their two best pitchers lined up, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. The Indians will counter with Corey Kluber and Ubaldo Jimenez.
( photo via Chuck Crow/PD)