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Retro Recap: August 31, 2004 (Indians 22, Yankees 0)

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If the Cleveland Museum of Art has a Modern Photography exhibit, this should be in it.
If the Cleveland Museum of Art has a Modern Photography exhibit, this should be in it.

This is a series of Game Recaps from past Indians contests, written from the perspective of one who had just witnessed the game. Notes in italics indicate present (as in 2012) perspective.

Box Score

New York Times recap

For 29 Major-League clubs, nothing is as exhilarating as beating the Yankees, with the possible exception of winning the World Series. So how do you describe a game in which your team not only shut out the Bronx Bombers, but shut them out 22-0?

The Yankees are coasting towards another postseason appearance, with the only drama remaining whether they will be the AL East champions, or perhaps the Wild Card. The Indians obviously are playing for next year, having had just a taste of a pennant race. That high point was just a couple weeks ago (On August 14th, the Indians were 1.0 game behind the Twins), but all the losses since then make it seem like it was two months ago that Rick White gave up that home run.

But baseball, with its 162-game schedule, allows even the dogs to have their day, and what it a glorious game it was. The Indians jumped on Javier Vazquez early, with Travis Hafner clearing the bases with a triple deep into the center field gap. Vazquez was out of the game by the end of the second inning, a Matt Lawton single the decisive blow. Vazquez has been shaky of late, but usually he'd get the Yankees into the sixth inning or so, and that would be more than enough for the offense. But not tonight, as Joe Torre would have to bring in Tanyon Sturtze to soak up some innings. Sturtze couldn't stop the bleeding, as the Tribe bats, dormant for just about the entire month of August, kept piling up the runs as if impersonating a runaway train barreling down a steep hill. Gravity (or in this case, the score differential) seemed to increase the offense.There were three more runs in the third, and then six runs in the fourth. By the time the fourth ended, the Indians were up 15-0 and the Yankees were already on their third pitcher.

But this historic score had another component to it. Jake Westbrook, who is having a career season, spun seven scoreless innings against a lineup that had been terrorizing the AL, in a part that encourages offense. Jake started the game unconventionally, retiring the first six Yankees with four fly outs and two strikeouts, but settled in his usual routine after that. Eric Wedge pulled him after the seventh, partly because he had reached his normal pitch count, but also because by that time the Indians were up 16-0. It also must be added that Westbrook pitched this gem having to deal with C.B. Bucknor's Schroedingeresque strike zone.

Now a 16-0 lead is a massive rout, but the Indians were not content to stop there. They scored six more runs in the ninth off of Esteban Loiaza, those six runs coming on two three-run homers. The first came off the bat of Jody Gerut (his only hit on the night), and the second off Victor Martinez This record-setting inning could have been seen another incredible record tied had Omar Vizquel got another hit. If Omar could have slapped a single to right instead of flying out to right, he would have joined Wilbert Robinson and Rennie Stennett as the only players to ever have collected seven hits in a nine-inning game.

But that near-miss shouldn't dampen the glee that Tribe fans will take from this incredible victory. There's still a month of meaningless baseball to go, and perhaps this will end up being a footnote in another New York championship season. But in both cases it will be remembered; the 22-0 victory is the largest margin of victory for a shutout in modern baseball history. If ever I have a long wall to decorate, foremost in my mind will be a framed picture of the Yankee Stadium scoreboard on August 31, 2004. For tonight, Tribe baseball reached the regular season pinnacle of perfection.