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 June 7, 1995.
Tribe fans had to wait over 11 months between walk-off homeruns until Paul Sorrento hit his on Sunday, but they only had to wait three days to see the next one. In what turned out to be an outstanding pitcher’s duel until the very end, the Indians got the best of the Detroit Tigers in 10 innings on Wednesday night when Jim Thome took Brian Maxcy deep for a 3-2, walk-off victory.
Thome’s titanic blast marked the Indians 10th victory in their last at bat this season. Seven of those aforementioned wins have come at Jacobs Field—five on this homestand alone. Since Cleveland’s new ballpark opened 14 months ago, the Tribe has blasted seven walk-off homers and have won 19 times in their last at bat.
The homerun was set up by great pitching performances that had been turned in by both Tribe starter Charles Nagy (3-2, 3.40) and Detroit starter David Wells (2-3, 3.47). Nagy provided eight strong innings of work and held a 2-0 advantage until the top of the eighth. The only blemish on Nagy’s otherwise dominant evening was a two-run homerun by Tiger second baseman Lou Whitaker, who went 4-4 against the Indians right hander.
Unlike Nagy, Wells pitched from behind for the majority of the game, but like his counterpart, he did not factor in the decision. Wells worked nine innings and allowed single tallies in both the second and third frames. The first run came courtesy of an Eddie Murray solo homerun—a line drive deep down the left field line. The homer was Murray’s ninth of the season, 467th of his career and the fourth in his last nine games. In the bottom of the third, the Tribe tacked on their second run when Tony Pena, who had doubled, was brought home on a clutch, two-out double by second baseman Carlos Baerga. Wells pitched brilliantly through the end of his evening, although the Tribe had a chance to win the game off of him in the bottom of the ninth. The celebration was postponed, however, due to a strange double play.
With one out and the bases loaded, designated hitter Dave Winfield scorched a liner directly at third baseman Travis Fryman. The ball struck Fryman’s glove, but immediately fell out and put Baerga, the runner at third, in no-man’s-land as he was forced at the plate. The catcher John Flaherty fired to Whitaker at second to retire Manny Ramirez and complete the unconventional 5-2-4 double play as Manager Mike Hargrove came out to argue that Fryman had dropped the ball intentionally. The rules state that a double play cannot be intentionally created, but the umpires ruled that Fryman did not have the time to think about such a savvy move.
After Tribe reliever Eric Plunk (3-1, 1.61) had struck out the side in the top of the tenth and Wells had departed from the game in the bottom half, it took Maxcy (2-1, 1.80) just one batter to undo all of Wells’ good efforts. The rookie reliever ran the count to 3-0 on the Indians’ third baseman before Hargrove gave the green light and Thome planted a crushed line drive deep into the lower deck to win the game.
“You can’t be a great hitter without having good discipline at the plate,” Hargrove said of his young slugger. “Jimmy is a very disciplined hitter…when a pitcher makes a mistake, Jimmy can make them pay.”
The blast by Thome marked the second time in his career he has been a walk-off hero with the first coming against Toronto on June 15 of last season. Wednesday’s walk-off was the Indians fifth win in a row, the ninth in 10 games of the homestand and pushed the Indians record to 27-10, still the best in the game of baseball.
The red-hot Tribe will head to Milwaukee on Thursday to start a four game series with the Brewers. Dennis Martinez (5-0, 2.60) will get the ball for the visiting Indians in the first game against rookie knuckleballer Steve Sparks (1-1, 3.12) for the Brew Crew. The first pitch is scheduled for 8:07 from County Stadium and can be seen locally on WUAB-43 and heard on WKNR-AM/1220 on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.
Photo: Phil Long/Associated Press