My dad wasn’t always an Indians fan or even much of a sports fan as I was growing up. But when we moved to the Cleveland area when I was ten-year-old in the fall of 1995 he (along with the rest of us) really got himself wrapped up in Indians Fever. Now he’s one of the biggest Tribe fans I know. He used to really embarrass me and my brothers with how overly excited he got about big plays in the field and big hits in clutch situations. Maybe it’s because he grew up on a farm and didn’t watch sports growing up like we all did, but baseball really brings out the inner child in my dad.
So when the oldest player on the Indians roster turned on a hanging slider and sent a game-winning homer sailing into the night, my dad was the first person I thought of. Yesterday was his 60th birthday and I’m sure he’s thrilled that I’m sharing that information with the ten people who will read this. It seemed poetic that Jason Giambi—while 42 isn’t quite 60—as the “old man” on the team, was the hero on my dad’s birthday. Late last night after he got off work my dad went to facebook to thank Giambi saying “He made my day have a happy ending.”
And I think that’s how all Cleveland fans felt last night. We’re at that intense, pivotal time of a baseball season that you don’t get with other sports where every day and every game is so important. With the Indians clinging to a one-game wild card lead over the Rangers who are playing the hapless Astros, we all knew that the Tribe couldn’t afford a loss. The game was close the whole way and definitely had the feel of a playoff contest. Then with a 3-2 lead in the ninth Chris Perez in all his all fat, sloppy, unkempt glory came out and promptly gave up two home runs and the lead.
How Perez keeps his job, as Terry Francona affirmed he would last night, is beyond me. I don’t know how you can possibly trust this guy in big situations anymore when he continues to let the team down. Check out his numbers from his last 20 appearances that Jordan Bastian shared last night:
In my opinion the Indians have far too many other reliable arms available to keep throwing Perez out there to save games. If they make the playoffs I’d seriously consider either Danny Salazar or even Justin Masterson in that role over Perez. I get that there’s a different mentality that comes with being a closer and that’s why a guy who was great in a set-up role won’t necessarily be a great closer. But right now it doesn’t seem like Perez is in the right frame of mind be closing games either. I get sick to my stomach when he comes in to close and the Indians have anything less than a three run lead. It just feels like it’s going to end badly. Which is what I felt last night, and it’s what happened.
Over the span of about 15 minutes Twitter didn’t cease to tear into Perez with many lamenting that he may have blown not just one save but the whole season. It was such a crappy feeling. A gut-punch to all Cleveland fans. It just sucked really.
Then the “happy ending” happened.
If you don’t think there’s something special going on with this Indians team then you’re either not paying attention or you have no pulse. When it seems lost and things are down, they keep rallying and coming up with these walk-off victories. It might not be quite ’95 and “Wahoo What a Finish” (I probably watched that movie a hundred times) but it’s getting pretty close. You’ve probably already seen the stat but Tuesday night was the Tribe’s 11th walk-off win of the season and those wins have come at the hand of nine different players with only Giambi and Jason Kipnis doubling up. Everyone contributes and seemingly everyone has come through in a big spot this season. Even Mark Reynolds and Matt Carson have had walk-offs. And it’s actually a little weird that one of the guys without a walk-off has also been probably the Indians most clutch hitter: Michael Brantley, who had three huge hits last night again including one in the ninth that ended up being the tying score on the Giambi winner.
This is what makes baseball so much fun and it’s so great to have it back. Giambi said last night “All this team really needs is that little heartbeat. That little, ‘We’ve got a chance.’ That’s what we’ve done so well this year.” He also said of the 2013 Indians “This is the ultimate team I’ve ever played on. It’s unbelievable how many people have helped us win games this season.”
After the game the man who might be the life-blood of this team, Nick Swisher, sent out the following tweet:
Maybe a little over the top for a dude who’s won a World Series but who’s gonna blame the guy for getting caught up in the moment?
I could go on and on with more tweets and comments like these ones but they all pretty much say the same thing. And that’s that this team really believes and is playing fantastic baseball down the stretch. They might have to win out to get in all the same but with how things are going of late they might just do that anyways.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the pitching, which has been spectacular—outside of Perez, of course. Ubaldo Jimenez had another great performance last night and continues to pitch like the Ace of the staff. Bastian last night also shared the following stats in his blog: “Jimenez has a 1.04 ERA in September (34.2 IP), 1.86 ERA in the second half (77.1 IP), 2.47 ERA since May 27 (131.1 IP) and 2.66 ERA since April 29 (159 IP).” Simply put, there might not be a pitcher in all of baseball who’s throwing better right now.
A year ago you would be crazy to think this, but right now I don’t think there’s an Indians fan out there who wouldn’t love to have Ubaldo on the hump for a must-win game.
As I sit at my computer right now it’s been almost ten hours since the Giambi blast and I’m still buzzing about it. Meaningful fall baseball…there ain’t nothing like it.
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