Indians Take 3 of 4, Pull Even With Twins
The Indians did exactly what they needed to do this weekend in Minnesota. They went in, won three out of four games, pulled themselves even with the Twins, and managed to rip out the hearts of every Minnesotan through their butts in the process. It was nearly perfect.
Sure, it wasn’t easy and at times these four August games felt more like mid-October affairs, but that’s part of the fun of a pennant race. For myself, this involved flop sweating alone in my living room teetering on the brink of sanity while developing a potential alcohol problem. It’s what we live for as baseball fans. These are also the same thoughts and feelings that make us wonder why we become so emotionally involved in the first place.
And speaking of October baseball, I’m not ready. I’m not ready physically or emotionally for what’s on the horizon. If Thursday night and Sunday afternoon were the primers for what’s to come, I need to get myself into therapy now. I’ll never survive.
But that’s why we watch, right? Because hopefully, just beyond these brief moments of insanity, there will be moments of euphoria. We hope our dedication to the struggle of being emotionally invested in 25-grown men who play a child’s game for a living will be worth it. And maybe, just maybe, in the end we will be rewarded with a moment that will become one of those, “do you remember where you were when this happened?” kind of moments.
Well, on Sunday afternoon we got not one, but two of those moments over the span of about 30 minutes. And it was everything you want those moments to be – emotionally challenging and physically draining, but an adrenaline rush unlike anything else.
What makes this play so beautiful is the fact that it required so many variables to go exactly right. Tyler Naquin had to field the ball cleanly and make a perfect throw to Francisco Lindor. Not only was Naquin’s throw a lazer beam, but he had the presence of mind to bare hand the carom off the wall. This decision saved him precious seconds he didn’t have to waste and allowed Lindor the opportunity to throw out the would be winning run.
Meanwhile, Lindor had to cleanly field Naquin’s throw, turn, and fire to home all in one seamlessly fluid motion. He threw a strike. Lastly, Kevin Plawecki needed to catch Lindor’s throw while adhering to MLB’s rules related to blocking home plate and allowing a clear lane for the runner, and apply a tag. Even the instant replay review to determine whether or not Plawecki did or didn’t block the plate needed to swing the Indians way. With how replay works, that was no guarantee and perhaps the most strenuous part of the entire play.
Any one of these pieces goes wrong and it’s game over. But they didn’t. All three players performed their role to perfection in a way that would make Tom Emanski and Fred McGriff proud. This was the prefect relay throw. Download it. Save it for posterity. Show it to every little league team from now until the end of time when instructing how to perform a relay throw. So good… so, so good.
Not to be overlooked, we also have to point out one more key piece to the puzzle. That of course is the decision of the Twins third base coach, Tony Diaz, to send Ehire Adrianza home. This decision completely altered the state of the inning and to a certain extent even shifted the likely outcome. Runners on second and third with one out is a much more difficult situation to work out of than a runner on second with two outs.
Just take a look at the above win expectancy chart. After the Marwin Gonzalez double, the Twins had a 61.5% chance of winning the game with a runner on second and two outs. This percentage would have been even higher had the Twins not made the aforementioned base running blunder and we might be having a different discussion all together if it never happened. This play might also have swung the division race, but we’ll have to wait and see on that.
The Grand Slamtana
Of course, thanks to the Naquin-Lindor relay throw in the bottom of the ninth, that allowed the Indians the opportunity to win the game in the 10th. Carlos Santana did not disappoint, delivering yet another magical moment in a season full of magical moments for the veteran slugger.
Sitting dead red, Santana deposited Tyler Rogers‘ 2-1 offering, a 95 MPH fastball over the heart of the plate, into the bullpens in left center field. It was euphoric. It was unexpected. Honestly, it was the most beautiful way for Sunday’s game and this weekend’s four game marathon of a series to end. Twins fans are dejected, and rightfully so. Their team was bested three games to one in a pivotal series and if not for one night of frustratingly bad night of hitting with runners in score position, it could have been worse.
For us, as fans of the Indians, however, this may go down as one of the best moments of the season and possibly one of the best and most unexpected moments in team history, given the circumstances involved.
The Indians are the three-time kings of the American League Central. It should not have been assumed by anyone that they would simply roll over and die quietly in the night. This team also had something to prove. Not just to themselves, but to every fan, pundit, and naysayer who believed they were done back in May and that their rise to the top of the standings had less to do with them than with the quality of the talent they were facing.
“Let’s see what happens when they start facing real teams again,” they said. “The Twins have the easiest remaining schedule in all of baseball,” others cried. “This version of the Indians simply has had too many injuries and not enough offense to compete with the Twins,” thought a lot of people.
Well, the past four days should have gone a long way in disproving those notions. The Indians had a point to prove this weekend, and they did it. The division belongs to them and they aren’t about to let the Minnesota Twins cake walk their way to a banner. If the Twins want the AL Central crown, they’ll have to pry it from the Indians cold, dead hands.