It was Jim Thome's night in Cleveland, both before and during the game. The Indians held a pre-game ceremony celebrating both his 600th home run as well as his career with the Indians. A steady rain couldn't dampen the mood of the ceremony; Thome, surrounded by family and former teammates, was presented with a plaque, and in a surprise to everyone in the stadium, a preview of a Heritage Park statue depicting his famous batting stance. The Indians' playoff hopes were dashed weeks ago, but Thome's return to Cleveland has made these last weeks of the season as memorable as any this year.
Watching the video montage of his career highlights, I was struck at how Thome playing with this group of Indians represents a rare juxtaposition of Indians generations. When he started his career in 1991, his teammates were Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle, Greg Swindell, and Charles Nagy. Now he's playing with Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Justin Masterson, and Asdrubal Cabrera. It's been 21 seasons since he first appeared in an Indians uniform, and now he's back playing with a new group of Indians that weren't yet in kindergarten when he hit his first home run.
After a brief rain delay, the game started, and it would be just as memorable as what took place before it.
The Twins jumped on Justin Masterson early, taking a 2-0 lead thanks mostly to wildness. Justin couldn't throw strikes all game, and had already thrown over 100 pitches when he was pulled in the fifth inning. He would be scheduled to pitch the last day of the season in Detroit, but it might be prudent to just shut him down; he's now thrown 216 innings, 30 more than last season.
Masterson gave up four runs in 4.2 innings on 5 hits and 6 walks, but he left the game with a 4-4 score thanks in large to Jim Thome. #25 doubled down the left field line to plate the Tribe's first run of the game, and homered in almost exactly the same spot where his statue will be placed in the third to tied the game at 4. The Indians took a brief 5-4 lead on Matt LaPorta's single, only to lose it a half-inning later when Rafael Perez gave up a run-scoring Rene Tosoni double. Joe Smith would get out of the subsequent jam, and Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez would toss scoreless innings to preserve the tie until the ninth inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, Manny Acta sent Carlos Santana to the plate for Lou Marson, and on the first pitch, Santana hit one into the seats beyond the left field wall to end to add one more memory to an already memorable evening.
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