Live blogging the big series
In 1997 the Tribe began wearing their socks high in honor of Jim Thome's 27th birthday. It became a good-luck thing as the Indians grinded their way to the World Series despite a less-than-stellar record. In 1998 it was The Year of the Dye Job as Jaret Wright, Charles Nagy, Richie Sexson, and a few others went blonde to get the Indians rolling. It inspiried a trend in Cleveland and inspired the metrosexual in then-GM John Hart, who said Nagy didn't need to dye his hair because, "He's a good-looking guy. He looks like he just stepped off the cover of GQ."
Now it's The Year of the Pie Face, as Blake gets blasted by Victor Martinez after tonight's game in one has become an Indians tradition. Trot Nixon probably preserved his spot on the roster by bringing his pie-in-the-face act from Boston, and now if you're the hero of the game, you're getting a pie in the face.
Your 2007 Indians are now a team with an identity. And it won't be much longer before they're also a team with a playoff spot.
(10:44 p.m.) OWNER'S SON!!! OWNER'S SON!!! OWNER'S SON!!! OWNER'S SON!!! Casey Blake sheds the moniker as he goes deep to left and the Tribe has put an extra game of distance between themselves and the Tigers with a 6-5, 11-inning win.
(10:42 p.m.) More on Tribe relievers Bobby Howry holds the record for most games with 79. But he only pitched 73 innings that year (2005) with a 2.47 ERA. Betancourt is up to 62 games and 73 innings pitched. Sid Monge threw in 76 games in 1979 to set the record for most games for a left-handed reliever, and he went 131 innings with a 2.40 ERA and 12-10 record and 19 saves. That might very well be the best relief season by a Tribe pitcher (the 12 wins in relief is also a record), but Betancourt's not far behind. Of course we've got Jose Mesa's 1995 season on the short list, as he saved 46 games and compiled a 1.13 ERA in 64 IP.
(10:34 p.m.) Is Rafael Betancourt turning in the best season by a reliever in Indians history? His ERA before tonight was 1.52, and here's two more scoreless innings in a very clutch situation. He's up to 73 innings pitched now. He's only walked eight guys. He doesn't get the saves, but the Indians wouldn't be where they are right now without him. On to the bottom of the 11th in a tie game!
(10:31 p.m.) Yesterday we had a Madden '08-like football game between the Browns and Indians that thrilled us to the very end. Tonight we've got extra innings in a battle for first between the Tribe and Tigers. If the Cavs trade for Kobe Bryant tomorrow, God Hates Cleveland Sports is going to have to change its name.
(10:28 p.m.) Full count to Gutierrez. Might as well start Barfield here. After all, he's about ready to transfer to Northern Illinois ... And it's a strike-em-out, throw-em-out. More free baseball!
(10:26 p.m.) Zach Miner's all over the place to every hitter. Soon enough he's going to groove one ...
(10:23 p.m.) And Peralta makes it to first again with his third walk. And Josh Barfield lives? The new Herb Washington takes Peralta's spot, and they better not have put him in to stand on first, even with Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate.
(10:20 p.m.) It's Victor, perfect Jhonny P, and Gutierrez due up in the 10th. If Jhonny P lets it get that far.
(10:17 p.m.) Another long Betancourt inning, and another good result. Ordonez flies out to right and the Tribe has another chance to walk off.
(10:11 p.m.) Betancourt whiffs Granderson to start the 10th, but that stinking Placido Polanco doubles to left. This is getting scary.
(10:08 p.m.) Rick Manning tells us that this is the fourth extra-inning game between the Tigers and Indians, with the road team winning all three previous. The Tribe has come out on top twice. And now the Indians have Betancourt and Perez lined up, so they're looking good.
(10:06 p.m.) Who wants some free baseball? We're getting it tonight as playoff baseball seems to have come early to the Jake. Hafner grounds out to end the ninth as Leyland looks like a genius.
(10:05 p.m.) Perhaps Leyland's looking for a cigarette instead of a left-handed reliever.
(10:04 p.m.) Did the Tigers really throw four balls to Asdrubal so they could bring the lefty in to face Hafner? It's either the biggest screwup in baseball history or the most ballsy call ever. Leyland's frozen in the dugout and he lets his Miner leaguer face Hafner!
(10:02 p.m.) Grady goes the other way, but it's a can of corn. Asdrubal now primed to get his first head pounding with a walkoff single ...
(9:59 p.m.) Blake gets the walk, Shoppach the bunt, and now the Tribe has two shots to score the winning run from the top of the lineup. Zach Miner, would you like to play a game? Grady Sizemore or Asdrubal Cabrera -- make your choice!
(9:53 p.m.) Borowski goes the distance with Inge before getting the flyout to left. We're heading to the bottom of the ninth in a tie game with The Owner's Son due up to start it. Can he get his second walkoff of the homestand?
(9:50 p.m.) Peralta turning into Cal Ripken! A one-hopper right at him deep in the hole turns into an out at third as the pinch-runner Maybin thinks he can beat the throw to third. You can feel the Jacobs Field energy through the television. The only question now is who gets the walkoff in the bottom of the ninth.
(9:48 p.m.) Asdrubal takes an elbow to the Chief Wahoo logo on Maybin's stolen base. Josh Barfield seen putting his uniform back on!
(9:45 p.m.) Casey singles and is pinch-run for by Cameron Maybin. Leyland with a tip of the cap to expanded rosters, as Marcus Thames comes up to hit for Santiago. This looks like a homer or strikeout situation.
(9:44 p.m.) Joe Borowski inspires as much confidence as a waitress at IHOP, but at least he's facing that bottom third of the Tigers lineup. And Leyland no longer needs his defensive replacement, so Clevlan doesn't get to bat in Cleveland. Sean Casey does instead.
(9:42 p.m.) Zumaya, my Lord, Zumaya .... Zumaya, my Lord, Zumaya ... Zumaya, my Lord, Zumaya ... O, Lord, Zumaya ... Someone's laughing, Lord, at Zumaya ... Someone's laughing, Lord, at Zumaya ... Someone's laughing, Lord, at Zumaya ... O, Lord, at Zumaya ... Someone's crying, Lord, it's Zumaya ... Someone's crying, Lord, it's Zumaya ... Someone's crying, Lord, it's Zumaya ... O, Lord, it's Zumaya
(9:39 p.m.) We're basically in extra innings now, sports fans. The Tribe ties it up in the ninth on JP's second homer of the game, as he has more than made up for his early error. It's a battle of the bullpens now, and the Tribe still has almost all of its bullets in the gun. Should the Tigers lose this one, they might just pack it in for the rest of the series.
(9:37 p.m.) It must feel like the old days to Lofton, as the fans stand and chant, "Kenny, Kenny, Kenny, Kenny" with the Indians in a tie game in the late innings. No, Kenny Rogers, they're not talking to you!!
(9:34 p.m.) And we remember back to Aug. 23 when Zumaya gave up three runs in an inning against the Tribe to take the loss against the Tribe in a 10-9 game. Zumaya has given up six runs in 2 innings of work against the Indians this season. Apparently they should have left Kenny Rogers in. Tribe still not done as Franklin Gutierrez pinch-singles with two outs. Can Lofton rip one into the right field corner to give the Tribe the lead?
(9:32 p.m.) Peralta's been perfect tonight, and he stays perfect as he bombs Leyland's bomb with a jack to right. We have a tie game!!! No win for you, Kenny Rogers!!
(9:30 p.m.) Hafner might like to have that one back, as it was in his wheelhouse down and in. It's a groundout to second to advance the runners, so not a total disaster as Victor comes up to bat. Do they give him anything to hit?
(9: 28 p.m.) Hopefully Ivan Rodriguez wasn't planning on having any more kids anytime soon. Travis Hafner's foul tip just took care of any intentions Pudge might have had for the next few weeks.
(9:27 p.m.) Two on and no one out as Asdrubal slaps one through the left side! Tying run is up in Hafner, and it's going to be hard to shift him with two on and none out. Is it time for that Jacobs Field magic once again?? Here comes Leyland to tell Zumaya to quit screwing up the game.
(9:26 p.m.) Has Grady Sizemore already earned the same respect as some of the game's best? For a guy who strikes out a lot he sure has a good eye. He takes a very close 1-2 pitch from Zumaya that is called a ball, and winds up with a walk. Sizemore did the same thing in the comeback victory against the Kansas City Royals a few weeks ago that really got the Tribe rolling to where they are now.
(9:25 p.m.) Some guy names Clevlen comes in to play left; presumably he can catch a fly ball or two. But the real move is Leyland pushes the button and brings in Zumaya to face the Tribe's top three.
(9:20 p.m.) Looked like Sheffield was safe at third as The Owner's Son tagged him on the back of the calf on a steal attempt. But it goes down as a caught stealing for Shoppach since the ball beat Sheff by a mile. And the crowd gets itself into the game -- keep "Hang on Sloopy" in Columbus where it belongs!!
(9:16 p.m.) And the Tribe pulls one out of the Browns' playbook, blasting "Hang on Sloopy" over the loudspeakers to try to generate some excitement from the crowd. It works for about five seconds.
(9:14 p.m.) Remember this?
"(7:34 p.m.) Byrd must dominate the bottom three of the Tigers lineup."Well, Timo Perez is 1-for-3 with an RBI and Ramon Santiago is 2-for-3 with two RBI. This is worse than walking the last guy in a softball lineup. And now Byrd gets himself into eighth-inning trouble and won't even make it through this inning. Aaron Fultz is in to save what he can from the burning building.
(9:12 p.m.) Wow, Paul Byrd's out for the eighth inning. He's tossed two complete games so far this year and went into the ninth in another, so you have to wonder if he's going to come back out for the ninth should he cruise here.
(9:07 p.m.) Meanwhile the Tribe's Kelly waves at a big slow bender to end the seventh, and Kenny Rogers has gone seven innings for the first time this season. Leyland's still got his nuclear weapons waiting in the bullpen.
(9:05 p.m.) STO advertises "Prelude to a Championship" next Monday night, causing a collective dropping of the stomach in Greater Cleveland. Relax -- it's not about the Indians, who haven't won anything yet. It's about Youngstown boxer Kelly Pavlik, who's going for the middleweight championship of the world on Sept. 29.
(9:02 p.m.) Lofton flies out as Mark Shapiro thanks his maker that he didn't give up anything of value for him. Lofton's hitting just .280 with a .350 OBP and .350 SLG for the Tribe. He's been caught stealing three of five times since coming over from Texas and has scored only 21 runs in 143 ABs. He had three times as many runs in just over double the ABs with the Rangers.
(9:00 p.m.) Another amazing play at second base by lanky Asdrubal Cabrera makes it eight in a row set down by Byrd. We're to stretch time as Josh Barfield has PR permanently etched by his name.
(8:56 p.m.) And Kenny Rogers has just tied Mark Langston for the all-time lead in pickoffs with 91 by nailing Jason Michaels to end the sixth inning. Michaels is left complaining that Rogers balked, just like the last 90 Kenny's picked off said.
(8:55 p.m.) Wedge is already planning his postgame remarks. "We just have to keep grinding." "Detroit is a good team." "The season's not over and we're going one game at a time." "These guys know what's at stake." "I don't know why I played Jason Michaels and didn't bunt with Casey Blake."
(8:44 p.m.) Byrd gets a couple nice plays from Lofton in left and gets the Tigers in order to finish the sixth. But the Tribe IS RUNNING OUT OF TIME!! to steal a line from Jack Bauer and Tri-C. Do you really want the Tigers to get to Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya with this lead? Something's gotta happen pretty fast if the Indians don't want this lead to drop to 3.5 ...
(8:43 p.m.) Remember when Carlos Guillen was an Indian for about a day and a half? Everyone forgets, but the Indians did trade Omar Vizquel for Guillen before the 2003 season, only to have Omar fail a physical, negating the trade. The Tigers then swooped in and acquired Guillen for Ramon Santiago -- and guess who's playing short for the Tigers tonight? What a trade for the Tigers. The Mariners have a thing about giving away shortstops. They traded Omar to the Indians way back when for Felix Fermin, and gave the Tribe Asdrubal Cabrera for Eduardo Perez last season.
(8:41 p.m.) Yep, things still look a bit bleak from the Panini's Cam as well. Still 5-2 Tigers as we enter the sixth.
(8:38) And the shift burns Hafner in the fifth as the Tribe goes punchless in the fifth. I think by now Hafner would love to take the shift into a back alley and beat the crap out of it. He sure isn't doing anything against it on the field this season.
(8:36 p.m.) The Owner's Son turns a double play to get the Tribe through the fifth with no damage. That might buy Paul Byrd another inning. Believe it or not, Byrd has the most playoff experience of anyone on the Tribe roster. He pitched in two games with the Braves in the 2004 NLDS against Houston, taking a loss in 5.2 IP. He returned to the playoffs with the Angels the next season, getting hammered by the Yankees in one 3.2 inning start in the ALDS, then pitching 10.2 innings over two starts in the ALCS against the White Sox, going 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA. Only C.C. Sabathia, with one start in the 2000 playoffs, Joe Borowski, with a save in 7.2 innings with the Cubs in 2003, and Aaron Fultz (4 IP, 6.75 ERA with the Giants) have pitched in the playoffs besides Byrd.
(8:30 p.m.) The howls over Wedge's decision to not bunt with Blake have begun in earnest. But come on -- you don't expect The Owner's Son to do anything but swing for the fences, do you??
(8:27 p.m.) Blake flies out to right and then Shoppach hits into the double play. Thousands of fantasy football players look at the clock to see if Monday Night Football has started yet, especially with Byrd still on the mound.
(8:23 p.m.) Lofton gets a lucky break as Timo Perez misplays his second ball of the game. Tying run is now up as The Owner's Son steps in!
(8:20 p.m.) Peralta goes deep to center to start the fifth! He buys back the run he gave away by letting Ivan Rodriguez on base. Even Zydrunas Ilgauskas wouldn't have caught that one. Michaels follows with a rip to left, and maybe it's the Tribe's turn to tee off on Rogers.
(8:15 p.m.) You'd think Derek Anderson just showed up. Brandon Inge bunts his way into an improbable 2-5-3 double play while trying to sacrifice, and the Tribe might just escape this inning without half the fans leaving the Jake.
(8:15 p.m.) Unbelievable. Detroit's minor-league shortstop gets a bunt hit to score Rodriguez and it's 5-1 Tigers. Still two on, still two out, still a Cleveland team doing whatever it can do to give away a game when the pressure's on.
(8:13 p.m.) Wow. Timo Perez rips it to right, Jason Michaels boots to let Rodriguez go to third, another run in, it's 4-1 Tigers. Two on, none out. And that noose is being fitted for Tribe necks once again.
(8:10 p.m.) Oh, boy, the wheels on this cart are getting wobbly. Peralta boots Ivan Rodriguez's slow grounder and the Tribe doesn't even trade the run for the out. First and third with no one out and it's now 3-1.
(8:07 p.m.) Another double for Guillen as he croquet-shots one down the third base line. Guillen couldn't have rolled the ball down third with his bare hands and got better results. Byrd quickly losing his chances at sticking as the Tribe's third starter in the playoffs. He's throwing strikes and the Tigers are hitting them.
(8:05 p.m.) That's two liners right over Peralta's glove as Ordonez scorches one to left. Maybe the Tribe should sign Zydrunas Ilgauskas to play shortstop. Cal Ripken proved that tall shortstops can get it done. Heck, most people want Ja-honny off short anyway.
(8:02 p.m.) Inge gobbles it up at third to end the inning. Tigers leading 2-1. Rogers knowing when to fold 'em so far.
(8:00 p.m.) Hafner does what he couldn't do in the first inning with a man on third, smacking a single to center. That breaks a string of six straight retired by Rogers. Now team MVP Victor Martinez is up ...
(7:55 p.m.) YOU ARE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!! First Jack Bauer's catch phrase, now Tri-C's.
(7:53 p.m.) Byrd's through three innings in less pitches than it took Rogers to get through two. But Rogers has the lead, thanks mostly to Hafner's first-inning whiff with a runner at third. Kennnnnnnnny, you're my laaddddddy!!
(7:50 p.m.) Placido Polanco is the first one to go deep tonight? Note to Paul Byrd -- QUIT THROWING PITCHES DOWN THE MIDDLE TO SLAPPIES!! First he hung one to Santiago, now a floater to Polanco.
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(7:40 p.m.) The Owner's Son steps in and takes a strike. No, Casey Blake's last name isn't Dolan, but why else do you think he's in the lineup every single day? He's second on the team in games and at-bats! This despite being 110th in baseball in OPS, out of 164 regulars. He's fourth among AL third basemen in OPS, which sounds pretty good until you hear there's only nine AL third basemen who are everyday players. Apparently just being able to suit up makes you valuable. Just ask Nick Punto!
(7:37 p.m.) Santiago turns back into a pumpkin when Byrd picks him off to end the inning. Just the second time Byrd's picked anyone off this season. Santiago certainly earned it.
(7:35 p.m.) And Santiago bloops one into left just over Peralta to tie the game. It's like getting burnt by the last girl in the order in your co-ed softball league.
(7:34 p.m.) Byrd must dominate the bottom three of the Tigers lineup. Timo Perez and Ramon Santiago simply aren't major leaguers, and the Tigers should be ashamed of using both of them in this must-win game. Perez is already out on a shot to Cabrera. Santiago looks like the kid who plays right field on your Little League team so far ...
(7:33 p.m.) The early Byrd grabs the wormburner!
(7:27 p.m.) Jason Michaels gets the start over Franklin Gutierrez today. Perhaps its a Wedgie but feeling, as J-Mike is a career .300 hitter against the gambler. Tough decision to make, as Gutierrez has been the everyday right fielder since the beginning of August. And the gut decision makes us sick as Michaels grounds out to short to end the first.
(7:25 p.m.) Here comes Astroball with the first run of the series! Ivan Rodriguez forgets to catch Rogers pitch and it goes to the backstop. Rodriguez, thinking he's back playing kickball in gym class, nails Cabrera in the stomach with his throw to the plate. Unlike in kickball, Astroball is safe.
(7:23 p.m.) Kenny Rogers forgot to shave this morning. And yesterday morning. Either that or he's trying to look more like the other Kenny Rogers. Don't expect to see Rogers replacing Keith Hernandez or Walt Frazier in those Just For Men commercials anytime soon. He defines greybeard.
(7:22 p.m.) Man, Hafner's down season continues. Infield in and he can't even put wood to leather. Amazing this team's won 90 games with his rather pedestrian numbers.
(7:20 p.m.) Is Cabrera wearing one of those candy necklaces that fifth-grade girls like? That thing should be half gone by the sixth inning.
(7:15 p.m.) And Astroball Cabrera brings the excitement to the Jake, jacking one off the wall in left and racing around to third! Triple-A outfielder Timo Perez turned a fly ball into the triple by leaping a foot away from the wall. Somewhere Josh Barfield silently weeps.
(7:12 p.m.) And Grady puts away the long can of corn from Ordonez to end the scoreless top of the first. Over to The Point After, and we see a smiling Romeo Crennel!! Romeo Crennel DOES change facial expressions.
(7:10 p.m.) Byrd throws nothing but strikes, which is scary sometimes. These Tigers hit the ball hard! Granderson drilled one foul deep to right, Sheffield rips one in the hole to left. As long as they keep hitting at-em balls...
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(6:56 p.m.) WOW! Optimistic Tribe fans. STO's pregame poll shows that 65% pick the Indians to win two games in the series and only 15% say the Tigers will win the series. Where have all the pessimistic Cleveland fans gone? Next you'll say the Browns are going to score 51 points in one game.
(6:53 p.m.) Tough choice at 7 p.m. Do we watch Angry Tony and the boys not be angry as they discuss the Browns on WKYC's The Point After, or do we watch the Tribe from first pitch? This is a football town -- can't wait to see the ratings for these broadcasts when it's all over.
(6:47 p.m.) Ah, new pregame "cohost" Ryan Garko alludes to Shoppach being Byrd's personal catcher. That's why Garko sits.
(6:42 p.m.) Well, Garko's hand doesn't hurt so much that he can't hold an STO microphone. Can't tell if it's swollen or not, since he's a beefy dude to begin with. How can Pawlowski not even ask Garko why he's not in the lineup, especially against a lefty??
(6:36 p.m.) STO's Al Pawlowski just said the Tigers are the hottest team in baseball right now -- 10-2 in their last 12. Boy, can the Tribe hope just to take one game??
This is it, sports fans. Tonight the Indians face the Detroit Tigers in a three-game set that goes a long way toward deciding the Tribe's postseson fate. No, even if the Tigers sweep the Tribe won't be knocked out. They won't even be knocked out of first. With a 4.5 game lead, the Indians will still be a game and a half ahead if the Tigers take all three at the Jake. But it will sure make for some queasy stomachs in Cleveland, as we'll start thinking here we go again ...
Tonight's starting lineups:
DETROIT: CF Granderson (the new Grady Sizemore?), 2B Polanco, DH Sheffield, RF Ordonez, 1B Guillen, C Rodgriguez, LF Timo Perez, SS Santiago, 3B Inge; P Rogers
CLEVELAND: CF Sizemore, 2B Cabrera, DH Hafner, 1B Martinez, SS Peralta, RF Michaels, LF Lofton, 3B Blake, C Shoppach; P Byrd
The Tigers have some problems at the bottom of their order what with career minor leaguers Timo Perez (just 98 big-league ABs the last two seasons), and Ramon Santiago (no more than 100 big-league ABs in any of the last four seasons) in front of Brandon Inge. All three are free swingers with a combined OBP of under .310. That bodes well for a strikethrower like Byrd.