1995 Game Recap: Tribe Comes Back on Record-Setting Day for Mesa—Indians 8, Brewers 5
Steve Eby | On 20, Aug 2015
Throughout the 2015 season, Did the Tribe Win Last Night will take a look back at the 1995 Cleveland Indians for the 20th anniversary of their fourth pennant winning season. Included will be historic game recaps, headlining stories and a ranking of the team’s most influential players that truly made 1995 The Greatest Summer Ever. Today looks back August 20, 1995.
Voltaire, the French Enlightenment Philosopher, once said, “Perfection is attained by slow degrees; it requires the hand of time.”
For Tribe closer Jose Mesa, the amount of time to achieve a perfection record just happened to be 37 save opportunities.
Mesa broke the Major League record for consecutive saves to start a season by recording his 37th save in 37 tries as the Indians came from behind to defeat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-5 on Sunday afternoon. The previous record of 36 was set by Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley during his Cy Young and MVP season of 1992, a former starting pitcher who broke the record during his fifth full season as the Athletics stopper. Mesa—another former starting pitcher—bested Eck in his first season at the back end of the bullpen. On Sunday afternoon, however, the opportunity to get a save seemed very bleak until late.
Tribe starter Charles Nagy struggled early and allowed Milwaukee to grab a 5-3 lead by the time he exited the ballgame in the sixth inning. Kevin Seitzer and BJ Surhoff provided most of the damage for the Brewers, as the two hitters combined for five hits and two doubles off of the Tribe starter.
The Indians offense kept the game close thanks to Albert Belle, who clubbed a two-run homerun in the bottom of the first inning. The Tribe’s cleanup hitter has been on fire for the past month, as the blast was Belle’s 28th of the season and 14th since the All-Star break, equaling the total he hit in the entire first half of the season. Belle has now hit at least 28 homeruns in each of his first five full seasons in the Major Leagues. In addition to Belle’s blast, Manny Ramirez also chipped in his 28th homerun of the season to lead off the second inning.
After Ramirez’s blast, the Indians offense went stagnant against rookie knuckleballer Steve Sparks, who took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning. The Indians mighty bats then caught fire and were kick-started by a leadoff triple and some lucky baserunning from the American League’s top hitter.
Carlos Baerga smoked Sparks’ 2-1 pitch over the head of centerfielder David Hulse for his league-leading 143rd hit. Belle followed by smoking a grounder to shortstop and Baerga broke to the plate. Jose Valentin’s throw came home, and Baerga seemed dead in the water as he skidded to a stop about 70 feet down the baseline and then sprinted back toward third. Fortunately, Valentin’s throw to the plate was off line and by the time catcher Joe Oliver’s throw back to the hot corner had reached the bag, Baerga had flopped in safely to put runners at first and third with nobody out.
A strikeout of Eddie Murray gave Sparks the first out of the inning and then a walk to Jim Thome loaded the bases. Ramirez followed with a fly out that was not quite deep enough to score Baerga and suddenly the Indians were in danger of letting Sparks completely off the hook. First baseman Paul Sorrento, who was stuck in an 0-18 slump, then turned the tides by roping a double down the right field line to score both Baerga and Belle to tie the game at 5-5. This chased Sparks from the game and brought on former closer Rob Dibble to face the Tribe’s struggling pinch hitter, Wayne Kirby.
Kirby had been just 2-20 (.100) as a pinch hitter this season, but he smoked Dibble’s 1-1 fastball into centerfield for a single that brought home both Thome and Sorrento to give the Indians a 7-5 lead. After a Kirby stolen base and then a walk to Kenny Lofton, shortstop Omar Vizquel capped the five run rally by bringing home Kirby with an RBI single of his own. The 8-5 lead was then handed over to Mesa, who had to warm up in a hurry.
Mesa struck out Dave Nilsson and got Oliver to pop out before walking third baseman Jeff Cirillo. Jacobs Field took a collective gasp after that, as Mesa struck out Valentin that should have ended the game, but the ball got away from catcher Sandy Alomar to allow Valentin to reach safely at first. Alomar had been brought into the ballgame at the start of the inning to replace starter Tony Pena, whom Kirby had pinch hit for in the eighth. Mesa, as he has done all season, remained calm and picked up his teammate by getting Matt Mieske to ground out, securing the game and his save record.
“Mesa has just shut it down. It is incredible,” Lofton said. “When he comes into the game, we say, ‘It’s a wrap. Done deal.’ We put him in the position that he was able to do it and he always closes the door. He is Joe Table. He closes the door and there is nothing the other team could do about it. It’s fun to watch.”
The Indians (71-34) are now 45-1 when Mesa pitches and no other team in baseball has more saves than Mesa’s 37. In addition, Mesa has allowed just one earned run in his past 33 appearances, lowering his ERA to 1.12 in the process.
The Indians increased their lead in the Central Division to a commanding 17 games over the second-place Brewers on Sunday and recorded their 35th come-from-behind victory of the 1995 season. The Tribe has also won 21 games in their final at bat, including their last two against Milwaukee including Murray’s walk-off homerun on Saturday night.
Winners of three straight, the Indians will hit the road on Monday to head north of the border to face the struggling Toronto Blue Jays in the SkyDome. Veteran Orel Hershiser (10-5, 4.35) will get the ball for the Indians in Monday’s series opener at 7:35 against rookie Edwin Hurtado (5-1, 5.17). The game can be seen on WUAB-TV/43 or heard on WKNR AM/1220 of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.
Photo: Harry How/Getty Images