I was cleaning out my closet last weekend and found an old stack of Sports Illustrated magazines. One of the issues I had saved was from August 2002, with a story on how to save baseball.
Baseball always seems to be in this uphill fight against the critics, against the pace of the game, against PEDs, against its place in the sports landscape. It always manages to escape from those shadows, however, and give us moments of joy and artistry and exhilaration that bring us together as fans, helping us escape, for nine innings and sometimes 10, everything else that is going on.
There was no way the Indians’ Jose Ramirez should have had that double there in the 10th inning Thursday night. How did he make it? It was the best double of the season. It required desire and hustle and, most importantly, the simple belief that you’re going to get there, the belief that you’re going to extend this winning streak to 22 games. He lined a ball in the right-center gap; 99.5 percent of the players in the majors take a wide turn at first base and turn around. With no outs, you don’t risk getting thrown out. Ramirez challenged Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain, beat the throw that went a little wide — Cain seemed a little surprised — and two batters later Jay Bruce sent the crowd and the Cleveland dugout into a frenzy with the game-winning hit down the right-field line.
A #walkoff for the win streak?
One of Bruce’s greatest hits, for sure. pic.twitter.com/po5DXhca4T
— MLB (@MLB) September 15, 2017
You don’t think the players wanted this? Oh, they wanted it.
“I didn’t think it was going to be a double, and then I saw the center fielder slow down,” Ramirez said on the postgame TV interview after the 3-2 victory. If Cain slowed down, it was maybe half a second of slow, but just long enough to let Ramirez make the instinctive decision to keep churning for second base.
“This guy … he plays the game with his hair on fire,” Bruce said of Ramirez. “He’s amazing.”
It was unlikely the Indians even got to the 10th. They were down to their final strike in the bottom of the ninth, trailing the Royals 2-1. With the crowd on its feet, stomping and clapping, and that drum banging and everyone basically acting like it was a playoff game, Kelvin Herrera threw a 2-2, 96 mph fastball to Francisco Lindor and Lindor lined a game-tying double off the wall in left, inches over the glove of a leaping Alex Gordon.
Back against the wall? Hit it off the wall! @Lindor12BC is SO CLUTCH. pic.twitter.com/Y3kC1roTcF
— MLB (@MLB) September 15, 2017
It was the first walk-off win of the streak for the Indians. As amazing as the streak has been, they’ve been so dominant they actually lacked a signature game, unlike the 2002 A’s who had the Scott Hatteberg Game and the Miguel Tejada Game. Now the Indians have that moment to remember for ages. The question: Is it the Francisco Lindor Game or the Jose Ramirez Game or the Jay Bruce Game?
I guess that’s how you win 22 in a row. It’s everyone’s game.
The Indians have been a model organization for a long time now. Whatever happens in October, they’ll always have this record. Fun to see.
— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) September 15, 2017