The improbable occurs as the Cleveland Indians stage “The Comeback” on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball by scoring 13 unanswered runs to shock the Seattle Mariners, 15-14, in eleven innings.
Dave Burba, 9-8 with a 6.21 ERA coming in through 21 starts, matched up against Seattle’s Aaron Sele. After a quiet first inning against Burba, the Mariners plated four in the second, as a pair of RBI-doubles and a two-run single from Ichiro Suzuki gave Seattle the early lead. Burba was done three batters into the third, as three straight singles loaded the bases and brought on Mike Bacsik in relief. He would fare no better, giving up immediate RBI-hits to double the Seattle lead to 8-0. After reloading the bases, the M’s would tack on four more to the scoreboard.
The Indians did their first damage to Sele in the fourth, when Juan Gonzalez singled to left-center and Jim Thome sent him home with a two-run blast to right-center, cutting the Seattle lead to 12-2. The Mariners got it right back in the top of the next inning on an RBI-single and an RBI-groundout.
Russell Branyan led off the seventh with a solo home run. After a pair of outs, Einar Diaz singled and Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel drew back-to-back walks to load the bases and end the night for Sele. Three pitches into his outing, reliever John Halama gave up a two-run single to Jolbert Cabrera to make it a 14-5 game.
Still down nine in the bottom of the eighth, Thome hit his second shot of the night to lead off the inning. Two batters later, Marty Cordova followed suit with a two-run shot. With two on and one out later in the inning, Vizquel drove home Diaz with a double to right and the Indians were within five, but missed a chance when Lofton was thrown out in a close play at home trying to advance on a ball in the dirt.
Ed Taubensee singled to start the bottom of the ninth with the Tribe still trailing 14-9, but Thome and Branyan were retired quickly. A double from Cordova and a walk from Wil Cordero loaded the bases and Diaz delivered a two-run single to make it a 14-11 game. A single from Lofton loaded the bases again and Vizquel played the hero, tripling down the right field line on a 3-2 pitch to clear the bases and tie the game. Said Jon Miller of ESPN after the hit, “And they are delirious in downtown Cleveland.”
The Indians put two on in the tenth but could not score. Three straight singles in the bottom of the eleventh off of Jose Paniagua would end it, as Lofton and Vizquel singled with one out and Cabrera’s broken bat single to left scored Lofton from second with the winning run.
The Mariners scored 14 runs on 17 hits, but had just three hits after scoring their final run in the fifth. The Indians countered with 15 runs on 23 hits. It was just the third time in Major League history that a team had come back from a 12-run deficit to win and the first time in 76 years, when it happened against Cleveland.