05/25/09 11:59 PM ET
Indians score seven in ninth to stun Rays
Tribe rallies from 10-run deficit to pull out thrilling victory
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
The Indians became the first team to win after trailing by 10 runs since the Rangers rallied to beat the Tigers, 16-15, on May 8, 2004, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"It was a strange game," Ryan Garko said. "We were as low as you can get there [early on]. We felt as bad as you can feel as a team. And then we got to the highest of highs." They got there on the strength of Garko's two-run homer in the fourth and his three-run blast in the ninth. They got there on the brilliance of Jeremy Sowers' five scoreless innings of relief. And they got there on the patience that came with watching four Rays relievers used in a ninth inning in which five Tribe batters drew walks. "There was extreme fight," manager Eric Wedge said, "and that's what puts you in a position to win a game like this." This three-hour, 51-minute game was a wild one in every sense of the word. Given the emotional intensity of the last meeting between these two clubs on May 17, it was reasonable to wonder whether punches might be thrown in the opener of this four-game set. Instead, a bunch of balls -- 185 of the 421 pitches thrown were out of the strike zone -- were thrown, and 19 batters were walked. The Tribe's chief offender was starter Fausto Carmona. In one stretch in the second inning, 16 of his 19 pitches went for balls, as he walked four straight batters to bring in the game's first run. More runs followed on Reid Brignac's two-run single, B.J. Upton's RBI bunt single and Carl Crawford's RBI single. Just like that, it was 5-0, and Carmona's command woes had forced him out after 1 1/3 innings of work. "It was extreme with Fausto today," Wedge said. "He's been pitching for a while now. He has to be better than that." The bullpen, initially, wasn't much better. Jensen Lewis gave up a two-run homer to Gabe Gross in the third and an RBI single to Carlos Pena in the fourth. Rich Rundles relieved him and let two inherited runners score -- the latter coming in on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch -- and it was 10-zip. The spotless relief outing from Sowers (1-2) was the only thing that made this night salvageable for the pitching staff. Garko's first home run was initially viewed as a yawner in a game that had gotten woefully out of hand. The same goes for the two runs the Indians scored off Dale Thayer in the eighth. Heck, even the unearned run that came across in the ninth seemed to be too little, too late. With one out, Shin-Soo Choo hit into an apparent game-ending double play against Randy Choate, but Brignac threw the ball away, a run came in and the Indians (18-28) found themselves with two runners in scoring position. Grant Balfour was summoned to retire Mark DeRosa with the second out. But right about then was when it got interesting. Garko came up just looking to chip away at a deficit that now stood at 10-5. "We talked about just trying to get the tying run to the plate," Garko said. "We wanted to keep it moving. Nobody wanted to make the last out." On a 1-1 offering from Balfour, Garko officially made it a ballgame by smacking a three-run shot into the left-field bleachers. It was 10-8. Trouble was, the bases were now empty with two outs. So if the Indians were going to finish the rally, they'd have to essentially start from scratch. Enter pinch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera, who has gotten experience in the leadoff role the past week and took advantage of it here. "I wanted to make [Balfour] throw a strike," Cabrera said. "When he threw the first two pitches for balls, I said, 'I'm not going to do anything.'" Balfour threw ball four on his fourth pitch, and Cabrera was aboard. In came Jason Isringhausen, and up came Ben Francisco, who walked on four pitches. Next was Jamey Carroll, who worked the count full and also drew ball four. The bases, improbably, were loaded. Up came Grady Sizemore, and it became another 3-2 count, followed by another ball four to bring home a run and make it 10-9. "Obviously, that game shouldn't have gotten to that point," Balfour said. "We should have won that game hands-down." Instead, the Rays (23-24) had let the Indians' best hitter come to the plate with the game now firmly on the line. Martinez came up to bat in an 0-for-18 funk -- his first funk of any sort this season. But he delivered. Isringhausen's 2-2 pitch was a slider, and Martinez grounded it through the hole up the middle to bring home a pair. As Martinez said, you never know what's going to happen in this game. And what happened here was an Indians team 10 games under .500 getting the type of emotional catalyst it has been desperately searching for this season. "This," Martinez said, "was a big win for us." And one that won't soon be forgotten by those who witnessed it.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.