We continue our look back at the greatest playoff games in Cleveland Indians history. This one was Game 6 in the 1995 ALCS, the only playoff game I remember with a two-run passed ball.
After sweeping the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS, the Cleveland Indians waited to see who would win between the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners took the series in five games, with the fifth game going 11 innings before the Mariners won, 6-5.
This was good, in that the Yankees lost. It was also good, in that the Mariners had to use ace Randy Johnson in relief. But mostly it was good because the Yankees lost.
The Mariners had a three-man rotation in the playoffs: Andy Benes (who started Game 5 of the ALDS), Randy Johnson (bullpen in Game 5) and Chris Bosio (Games 1 and 4).cOutside of Johnson (18-2, 2.48 in the regular season) none of the Mariners starters were particularly good. Tim Belcher (10-12, 4.52) worked out of the bullpen against the Yankees.
Mariners manager Lou Piniella decided to start Bob Wolcott in Game 1 of the ALCS. As in 21-year-old Bob Wolcott, he of the seven career major league starts, and 4.42 career ERA.
Wolcott out-pitched Dennis Martinez. The Mariners won 3-2 and had a 1-0 lead.
The Indians, behind Orel Hershiser, took Game 2, 5-2, and headed back to Cleveland with the series tied at one.
Enter Randy Johnson.
Johnson and Charlie Nagy dueled to a 2-2 tie after eight innings. The Mariners wound up taking Game 3 in 11 innings, 5-2.
Ken Hill shut out the Mariners 7-0 in Game 4. Orel Hershiser won his second game in Game 5.
And just like that the Indians were on the brink of the promised land. A land I had often seen on TV, but only with teams like the Orioles, Reds, A’s, Royals, Tigers, Cardinals, Pirates, Dodgers, Mets…
Well, you get the idea.
One more win and my Tribe was in the World Series.
All they had to do was beat Randy Johnson.
One good thing: The Indians had Dennis Martinez on the hill.
That one good thing was enough. Martinez threw seven innings of shutout ball. Johnson gave up an unearned run in the fifth. Alvaro Espinoza reached second on an error and scored on a Kenny Lofton single.
The Mariners threatened in the sixth, putting runners on second and third with two outs. But (Dennis) Martinez struck out (Tino) Martinez while (Edgar) Martinez watched from second base.
Then we had the top of the eighth. The moment when I figured “Yeah, we’re going to the World Series baby!” Tony Pena doubled to start the inning. Ruben Amaro ran for Pena. Kenny Lofton bunted, and everyone was safe. First and third. Lofton stole second.
Johnson threw a 2-0 fastball a little outside. It bounced off catcher Dan Wilson‘s glove. Amaro came home. Kenny Lofton took off and never stopped running. Wilson, on the other hand, ran over to the ball, and nonchalantly bent over to pick it up.
Because if there’s one way to endear yourself to your team after a passed ball, it’s to jog over and let a second run score.
Johnson was also caught off guard by the whole thing.
Before the inning was over Carlos Baerga added a solo home run.
The final was Cleveland 4, Seattle 0. And the Tribe headed to the 1995 World Series.
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NOTE: There was a two-run wild pitch in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. I mention it here because there’s not a chance in hell that game makes the top ten best post season list.