Last night’s 14-inning marathon in Chicago brought back memories of last Tuesday’s equally long marathon at Progressive Field with the Detroit Tigers. Friend and reader of DTTWLN, Cody Gunselman, was at the game and was nice enough to give us his first hand account of his evening.
By Cody Gunselman
When I left my house and ventured down I-71 on Tuesday evening, I expected to be attending an ordinary, yet pivotal game between the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers. While the game still obviously proved to be the most pivotal game of the season to that point, little did I know it would turn into a 14 inning, rain filled debacle between the two frontrunners of the AL Central.
Throughout the day at work, I had been discussing with my friend Kyle the home debut of the newly acquired ace Ubaldo Jimenez on Wednesday that we would both be attending. At one point during the day, we both decided why not try to get tickets for the game Tuesday since we had nothing going on. Before I made any purchases, I checked the radar. There seemed to be a good size wave of storms hanging over us in the early afternoon, but after that we appeared to be in great shape around game time and for the rest of the night. To say we were very wrong would prove to be a huge understatement.
On the way into Cleveland the weather was beautiful, not many clouds around and definitely no rain clouds. Kyle and I took our seats in the second row of the mezzanine around 6:30 and got ready to enjoy what was shaping up to be a great game. Much to my surprise, the Indians came ready to swing the sticks and jumped out early in the biggest game of their season. I figured after getting a few hits in the first inning, the offense was primed to keep it up for the rest of the night. And with Justin Masterson on the mound, we were in great shape to pick up a game on our rivals from the Motor City. The two run lead was short lived, though, as Masterson surrendered two runs in the top of the second and the Tribe bats went quiet in the bottom half.
However, in that bottom part of the inning the winds picked up and the clouds were swirling around the skyscrapers of downtown Cleveland. The storm was brewing as the clouds flew in from behind the scoreboard. As soon as the second inning ended, the grounds crew sprinted out and the tarp was on the infield in no time. Obviously the radar did not look promising, because this was before a drop of rain even fell on the field. I’m no meteorologist, but judging by the speed of clouds moving in, this storm looked like it would blow over quickly. As the flood gates finally opened on the field, we stayed right in the mezzanine but moved up to the concession area under the overhang of the upper deck. That didn’t stop us from being hit with the cold, stinging rain once it started flying it sideways. People around us were in amazement at the colors of the sky and how hard the rain was coming down. It seemed that every time it began to let up and everyone started talking about how long it would be before the game restarted, it would pour down on the field even harder.
There was a point at about an hour and a half into the rain delay that I thought there was no way this game was going to played, because rain was still hammering down on the field. However, having paid for the tickets and being dedicated fans of the hometown team, there was not one point where Kyle and I ever discussed leaving the game early. Finally, after two hours of standing around and waiting, we learned that the game would pick back up at 9:45 p.m.
Through the next 12 innings, we watched an absolute stalemate between the Indians and Tigers. There were so many times where I thought for sure either team was going to score, but runners were continuously left stranded. The entire time I kept thinking to myself that our pitching, even though it has been great all year, could only keep the Detroit offensive juggernaut at bay for so long. In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Tribe had what no doubt was its best chance to tack on a run and win this game. Manager Manny Acta called upon Jason Donald to pinch hit for rookie third basemen Lonnie Chisenhall and he came through in a huge way, pounding a double off the center field wall. Once Carrera moved him over to third with a ground ball to the right side, I knew we had a golden opportunity to take the lead in this pivotal game. However, Acta called for the squeeze play with leadoff hitter Michael Brantley. Brantley did everything he could to try and put the bat on the ball, but the curveball broke so far out of the zone that there was nothing he could do. Donald was dead duck. I know its easy to question the manager’s move from the stands, but in that game situation with one of your better contact hitters in the box, I would not have taken the bat out of his hands. I was absolutely livid that Acta called for the play. I know that if it works he’s a hero, but I felt that it was too important of a game to leave up to a chance like a squeeze play. Being a fan that had been there for five hours already made it even worse. On to extra innings we went.
Back and forth the two teams went, putting up zeros on the scoreboard. Both bullpens were truly spectacular in a pressure-packed game. Throughout the game I was very surprised by how many people stayed in hope of seeing an Indians victory. However, it seemed as if once the clock had hit midnight and the tenth inning had passed that it must have pushed past everyone’s limit. As fans continued filing out of the stands, the game rolled on. At that point I could not believe people would stay that long and leave, regardless of work in the morning. I felt that if you stayed that long you were in it for the long haul. There was no way Kyle and I were leaving. Finally, in the bottom of the 14th inning, the magic we have been witnessing all year started happening. A walk, a base hit and an intentional walk later, the bases were loaded with one out. Newly acquired Kosuke Fukudome was at the plate, just needing to slap one by the pulled in infield or hit a fly ball to win the game. Right when our hopes were dwindling after he got down in the count, Fukudome got hit in the elbow with a pitch and the fans celebrated. It was the most bizarre walk-off scenario I had ever been a part of. Normally there are tens of thousands of fans going crazy, but there honestly may have been less than one thousand people in that stadium when all was said and done. Even with people jumping up and down celebrating Kyle and I were still able to have a conversation easily without raising our voices at all. We were probably two of the less than fifteen people left in the entire mezzanine section of Progressive Field. I almost didn’t know how to react at first, since it was such a relief it was finally over. But naturally I joined in the celebration. It was 1:52 a.m.
If the Indians would not have pulled it out, I would have been so let down since it was such a tiring, long game. The whole way home Kyle and I continually brought up the wild game that we had just witnessed. Although we had to wait over seven hours to see it, the adrenaline rush of seeing a walk-off win in person stayed with us the whole way home. The minute I pulled in my driveway that rush was gone. The feeling of realizing that I had to wake up at 7 a.m. And that tomorrow would be an awful day at work had hit me. However, knowing that we won the 14 inning battle with the Tigers definitely made my time at work a little bit easier. The Tribe had won its biggest game of the year and the momentum for the rest of the series had now shifted its way. As agonizing as it was to watch and as ridiculous as it was to have stayed there the entire game, I wouldn’t trade the seven hours I spent that night in Progressive Field for anything.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images