Do you believe in magic? The magic was back again at Jacobs Field for the second time in three games, as Albert Belle’s grand slam off of All-Star reliever Lee Smith in the bottom of the ninth sends the Indians home with a 7-5 walk-off victory over the California Angels.
The Indians did all of their prior scoring in the fifth, tying the game at three when three straight two-out singles from Carlos Baerga, Belle, and Manny Ramirez knocked in Alvaro Espinoza and Ruben Amaro, both of whom singled earlier in the inning. The Angels responded the next half inning, as Garret Anderson’s two-run homer off of Mark Clark gave the Angels a 5-3 lead, one that lasted one out into the ninth.
Smith, a Hall of Fame-caliber closer and an All-Star for the last time earlier that month, took over for setup man Troy Percival in the bottom of the ninth. Pinch-hitting for Espinoza, Wayne Kirby singled and stole second as Jim Thome struck out. A single to short by Omar Vizquel moved Kirby to third and a walk to Baerga loaded the bases for the lethal Belle, who drove his 1-2 pitch into the trees in center field for the win.
Belle’s walk-off magic followed that of Ramirez just two days earlier. The young Tribe slugger dealt a deciding two-run blow off of a future Hall of Famer, Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley, in the 12th inning of what was a 4-3 game at the time.