1995 Game Recap: Belle Slam Shows California Who’s the AL’s Boss—Indians 7, Angels 5

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 July 18, 1995.

Another night at Jacobs Field, another walk-off homerun. This time, however, the feeling was so, so grand.

In a season filled with excitement and late-inning heroics, Albert Belle topped them all on Tuesday night with a walk-off grand slam off Angels closer Lee Smith to give the Indians a 7-5 victory over the California Angels. The heroic slam came two days after Manny Ramirez lit up another one of baseball’s best closers, Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley. The Tribe had trailed 5-3 entering the ninth inning on Tuesday, but got a spark from the top of their batting order and a little bit of help from Lady Luck.

The inning started against the man with a record 456 saves with Wayne Kirby pinch-hitting and then scorching a grounder toward Gold Glove candidate JT Snow at first base. The sure-handed Snow stopped the ball that then ricocheted into foul territory, but Kirby was safe at first with a single before Snow ever had full control of the ball. Two batters and a Kirby stolen base later, Omar Vizquel lined a single off the glove of a leaping Gary Disarcina at shortstop and the ball trickled into left field for another friendly-bounced base knock. Disarcina seemed to have a grasp of the line drive, but the ball squirted out of this glove at the last moment. A four-pitch Carlos Baerga walk then set the stage for Belle, as the All-Star second baseman tossed his bat and pumped his fists toward his longtime teammate in the on deck circle.

“I just said to him, come on, finish it off,” Baerga said.  “This is your time, right now.”

It took Belle just four pitches to appease Baerga, as Smith hung a 1-2 slider and Belle planted it 425 feet away into the picnic tables in dead centerfield. Belle raised his fist and screamed as the ball left the playing field and the Indians salvaged a two-game split from the red-hot Angels. California still sits in first place atop the AL West, had won five games in a row coming into Tuesday and all five of the victories had come on the road. Even after California’s win in the first game of the series on Monday, Belle’s grand slam served as a warning shot across the Angels’ bow, claiming that 1995 still belonged to Cleveland and their mighty Tribe.

The victory gave the Indians their league-best 51st win against just 22 losses. The Tribe has now won 14 games in their last at bat this season, 10 of which have come at Jacobs Field and five via the walk-off homerun.

The grand slam was the fourth of Belle’s career and second against the California Angels. Ironically, the second slam of his career was also a game winner in Cleveland against an Angels’ reliever in a game started by Mark Langston, who was the starting pitcher on Tuesday night. That grand slam off Joe Grahe won the game for the Indians on July 8, 1992 at Cleveland Stadium, but it was hit in the seventh inning, not the ninth.

Smith failed to add to his season total of 22 saves by being torched by a walk-off slam for the second time this year. The A’s Mark McGwire also burned Smith for baseball’s most exciting play on June 30 in Oakland. On Tuesday, Smith became just the third pitcher to allow two walk-off grand slams in the same season, as he joined former Indian Satchel Paige who did it with the St. Louis Browns in 1952 and the Cubs’ Lindy McDaniel in 1963.

The Angels had built up a 3-0 lead by the fifth inning, as Tony Phillips took Tribe starter Mark Clark out of the park for a solo homerun in the third inning and then Jim Edmonds blasted a two-run shot off Clark in the fifth. Clark has been struggling for most of this season after his breakout performance in 1994, but he pitched extremely well on Tuesday other than a few pitches.

The Tribe stormed back with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game 3-3, but California’s impressive rookie Garrett Anderson was able to grab the lead back as he launched his fourth homerun in his last five games. The towering homerun barely reached the seats in right field, but was enough to push the Angels’ lead to 5-3 in the top of the sixth.

The Indians got three perfect innings of relief from their bullpen to keep them within striking distance, as Eric Plunk worked the scoreless seventh and eighth innings and Paul Assenmacher had a perfect ninth. The victory for the evening went to Assenmacher, who pushed his record to 3-2 when Belle won the game for the Tribe.

After a 5-1 homestand to kick-start the second half of the season, the Indians will hit the road on Wednesday and will not return to Cleveland until August 1 against Minnesota. Wednesday’s contest in Texas against the Rangers will begin a 12-game road trip for the Tribe that will also feature stops in Oakland, Anaheim and Seattle. Wednesday’s contest will match up Tribe starter Charles Nagy (8-4, 3.86) against the veteran Kevin Gross (4-8, 6.89) of the Rangers. The game is scheduled to start at 8:35 and can be seen locally on WUAB-43 or listened to on WKNR/AM-1220.

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