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Cleveland Rocks: Postseason memories covering the Tribe

By Mike Harrington

CLEVELAND -- I'm at Progressive Field for tonight's American League Wild Card Game between the Indians and Rays (8:07 first pitch on TBS). First postseason game here since the Tribe failed to close out the Terry Francona-led Red Sox in Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS. In the odd circle of life, Francona is now a first-year skipper here -- trying to will his team to a win that would send it to Fenway Park and a series against the Red Sox that opens Friday.

This is the 35th postseason game the Indians have played here since the park opened in 1994. I've been amazingly fortunate to be at every one.  Here's an off-the-top of my head list of the most memorable ones. The links are to my stories 

1995 World Series Game 3 (Indians 7, Braves 6 in 11) -- I was sitting in the right field auxiliary press box and I swear that when the Indians stormed on to the field it was like watching the same scene from the playoff game on "Major League." The movie was only six years earlier and was based on the absurd concept of the Indians winning. This was life imitating reality for the first World Series game in C-Town since 1954. Reality of the job soon set in as the game went extra innings past midnight and a guy who didn't talk to the media (Eddie Murray) got the game-winning hit. Read my story here.

1995 ALDS Game 1 (Indians 6, Red Sox 5 in 13) -- There were two rain delays, Albert Belle flexing his biceps at the Boston dugout after a game-tying home run in the 11th and, finally, a walk-off shot by Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Pena on a 3-0 pitch at 2:08 a.m. Read my story here.


1997 ALDS Game 4-5 (a horse racing-style entry of wins over the Yankees) --
Game Four was the famous Sandy Alomar tying home run off Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning and the pinball single by Omar Vizquel in the ninth to win it. Game Five was a taut thriller that ended on a fly ball to Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Brian Giles in left. You could hear the car horns honking downtown for hours.

Read the Game 4 story here.     Read the Game 5 story here. 

1998 ALCS Game 4: The Indians had the 114-win Yankees in trouble with a 2-1 lead before El Duque shut them down. Orlando Hernandez, just a few months removed from escaping Cuba, pitched a 4-0 victory that evened the series and sent the Yankees on their way to a six-game winning streak that included a World Series sweep of the Padres. Read my story here. 

1999 ALCS Game 2: The Indians blasted the Red Sox, 11-1,  in a sun-splashed late-afternoon affair to take a 2-0 lead and looked headed back to the ALCS. I can vividly recall walking down the stairs to the clubhouse with screaming fans and Springsteen's "Glory Days" pounding over the loudspeakers. It was a glory run that seemed like it would never end. But it really did when I found myself in the park four days later to see Pedro Martinez throw six no-hit innings of relief in a 12-8 Boston victory that cemented a stunning three-game comeback. 

Read my Game 2 story here.  Read my Game 5 story here. 

2007 ALDS Game 2: The midges struck from Lake Erie just as Joba Chamberlain came on to preserve a one-run lead for the Yankees in the eighth. He spit the bit on the lead and the Tribe won the game in the 11th. But all anyone remembers is the bugs. And they were everywhere. Read my buggy story here. 

Super Saturday afternoon slate in wild card races

By Mike Harrington

Today is game 161, the second-last day of the season. Here's our playoff update:

AL divisions/homefield: The Red Sox have a magic number of one to wrap up the top seed after Friday's 12-3 win over the Orioles and would thus meet the wild card winner in the division series. The Tigers would play the A's in the other series, with Oakland having home-field advantage.

AL wild card: Everyone is in action early this afternoon, with Texas hosting Los Angeles at noon, Cleveland at Minnesota at 1 and Tampa Bay at Toronto at 1. The Rays' 6-3 loss in Toronto Friday night dropped them into a tie with the Indians at 90-70, while the Rangers' win over the Angels pushed them to 89-71. Cleveland has won eight in a row, Texas has won five straight and Tampa Bay's loss Friday snapped a seven-game winning streak. All finishing very strong.

NL divisions/wild card: The Cardinals clinched the Central with Friday's win over the Cubs and are tied with the Braves at 95-65. The Dodgers (92-68) will be the No. 3 seed. The Pirates have a two-game lead on the Reds with two to play after Friday's 4-1 win in Cinci and need just one more win to clinch homefield against the Reds in the wild-card game. 

Pettitte's farewell: Nothing involving any of the races going on tonight, with the most significant game being the Yankees' 7:05 contest at Houston on YES. It will be the final start in the career of left-hander and suburban Houston resident Andy Pettitte, as John Harper sets the stage in today's New York Daily News and Ken Davidoff offers a similiar-scene setter in the Post. 

Quick thought: Doesn't Joe Girardi have to send Mariano Rivera out to pull Pettitte tonight?

Playoff scenarios for the final weekend of the season

By Mike Harrington

Games 160-161-162 will be played this weekend and there are plenty of things up for grabs. The quick list:

AL East -- The Red Sox have wrapped it up. Their magic number over Oakland to finish with the best record is 2 (Boston is at Baltimore this weekend while Oakland is at Seattle). The A's have the tiebreaker edge.

AL Central/AL West -- The Tigers and A's have already clinched divisions and will meet in the division series for the second straight year if the Red Sox finish with the best record.

AL wild cards -- Tampa Bay (90-69) leads Cleveland (89-70) by a game, with the Rays in Toronto and the Indians in Minnesota. Texas (88-71) is a game back and hosting the Angels. 

If Tampa Bay and Cleveland finish tied, the Rays would host the wild card game by virtue of their regular season record. MLB announced the following scenario today if all three teams finish tied: The Indians would host the Rays on Monday, with the winner getting one berth. The losing club would then play Tuesday in Texas, with the winner of that game getting the other wild card.

A big developing story from the Indians is that bedraggled Cleveland closer Chris Perez has apparently lost his job, with reporters in Minneapolis saying former staff ace Justin Masterson said before tonight's game he may be part of a closer-by-committee solution. Manager Terry Francona was non-commital to Perez after the Twins got four ninth-inning runs off him Thursday night. Perez is 1-1 with a 7.52 ERA and three blown saves since Aug. 1

NL divisions: The Braves (94-65) and Dodgers (91-68) have clinched while the Cardinals (94-65) have a magic number of 1 heading into tonight's home game against the Cubs. They would also clinch if the Pirates lose at home against the Reds. Atlanta owns a tiebreaker edge for homefield and it's a huge difference because the Braves enter tonight an MLB-best 54-24 at Turner Field.

NL wild card: The Pirates and Reds are meeting in Tuesday's NL one-game showdown. It's just a question if the game is at PNC Park or Great American Ballpark. The teams are meeting this weekend in Cincinnati and whoever takes two out of three games gets to host the playoff, which will be the Pirates' first postseason game since 1992.

In the throes of the 2013 pennant race, the 2014 MLB schedule is out

By Mike Harrington

Baseball released its tentative 2014 master schedule Tuesday, beginning with the previously announced two-game series between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks March 22-23 in Sydney, Australia. The annual Sunday night opener will be played March 30 with the teams yet to be determined (my guess might be Red Sox at Orioles unless the Tigers win the World Series, which could make Royals-Tigers the ESPN target. Or it could be the Cubs at Pirates).

Here's a look at how things open up and other notes on the teams I hear the most about from WNY fans: 

Yankees: They begin next season just as this one will end -- with a series in Houston, a three-gamer that opens April 1. They play in Toronto April 4-5-6, June 23-24-25,  and Aug. 29-30-31, and in Cleveland on July 7-8-9-10. The season ends with a three-gamer in Fenway Park (Sept. 26-27-28)

Blue Jays: They open on the road March 31 at Tampa Bay, part of a four-game series. The home opener will be a big one on Friday, April 4 against the Yankees. The interleague visitors to Toronto next season will be the Phillies (May 7-8), the Cardinals (June 6-7-8), Brewers (June 1-2) and Cubs (Sept. 8-9-10). Bad for stretch-drive drama: Neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox come to Toronto in September. 

Red Sox: the Fenway opener is April 4 against the Brewers. In the spirit of 1975, the Reds come to town for an interleague visit May 6-7. 

Mets: They open at home March 31 against the Nationals. The games against the Yankees are May 12-13 in the Bronx and May 14-15 in Citi Field. 

Indians: They open March 31 in Oakland, which is an easy trip from their spring base in Arizona and cuts off one long jaunt to the West. The home opener is Friday, April 4 against the Twins. The Red Sox visit June 2-3-4 while the Yankees have the aforementioned July 7-10 series. Interleague visitors are the Rockies, Reds and Diamondbacks.

Pirates: Will they be raising a banner of some sort for that home opener? We'll see. The Blue Jays come in May 2-3-4, while the Mets are in June 26-27-28-29, and the Tigers visit Aug. 11-12.  The biggest interleague series is (a potential World Series rematch?) with the Red Sox at PNC Park on Sept. 16-17-18.

Wacky video: Miggy doesn't need the help

By Mike Harrington

You probably didn't see Miguel Cabrera's 13th home run of the season, since it came around midnight during the Tigers' rain-delayed, 11-7 win at Cleveland. But it's worth multiple looks. Quite an assist from Tribe center fielder Michael Bourne.

(Remember to click the square at the bottom right of the video box for a full-screen look)

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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