The staff at Let's Go Tribe looks back at the games that stand out as personal favorites from 2013, presented in chronological order and split into three posts (because 3,000 words is far too many for one!).
You'll learn, as I write more on this site, that I am a lover of all things statistical. I love breaking down the nuances of the game, looking at this batter's line drive rate vs. lefties or that pitcher's K% on his slider, and using that data to try to better understand the game. But when I sit down to watch a game, I am all about the narrative. This is where I want to see the numbers break down. Show me the journeyman pitcher throwing a no-hitter, the weak-hitting SS with the grand slam, the impossible comeback.
So for me, no game stands out in 2013 more than the September 19 one, the Matt Carson Game. You probably remember the game better than you remember Carson himself, and that is totally understandable. Carson has toiled in professional baseball for more than a decade, and has amassed only 92 big league games and 187 big league plate appearances.
But for one warm late summer night, Matt Carson was king.
As a resident of the fine city of Seattle, I often miss Indians games. I follow from work, but by the time I get home, the game is either officially over or I've missed most of the crucial action. On this night, Ubaldo pitched masterfully, allowing only 1 run over 7 IP, but was matched pitch-for-pitch by Houston's Dallas Keuchel.
When I got home, the game was dragging on, scoreless frame after scoreless frame, until the Indians finally built a scoring chance in the 11th. My wife was begrudgingly watching with me and wondered why I groaned as Mike Aviles took a walk, loading the bases with two outs.
And, as is my nature, I turned to the numbers to explain that the man coming up, Matt Carson, was barely a Major Leaguer. Were it not mid-September, he likely wouldn't be on the roster. He has been a bad hitter in his limited career, and has been brutal against righties - like the one he was about to face. Mathematically, we were headed to the 12th already.
As you already know, the numbers broke down. Carson, a guy with a career .237 AVG and .257 OBP, who at 32 years old had never seen 100 MLB plate appearances in a season, drove a ground ball just out of the reach of Jose Altuve and into right-field.
I've never been so happy to be wrong.
It was a radiant Sunday in Minnesota, the 29th of September, and the Indians were playing their final game of the regular season against the Twins. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky and the sunshine graced gorgeous Target Field all afternoon; a perfect day for baseball.
I had gotten home from work just in time for the first pitch. Living in England makes watching live Indians games a bit tricky. A midday game for most of you in the States means an early evening game for me in the UK. When this happens, as it does most Sundays, its perfect for me as I don't have to fight against my tired eyes late into the night (and often into the early hours of the morning).
I logged into MLB TV on my laptop, grabbed my Indians cap (I wear it every time I watch the Tribe live), and settled down to what I hoped would be an enjoyable and memorable game. The Indians were looking for their 10th straight win and the series-sweeping victory against the Twins. A win meant the Tribe would capture the top Wild Card spot in the AL and guarantee postseason baseball for the first time since 2007.
This was a pretty big deal for me. I've been a fan of the team since 2007, but I came pretty late to the party. I'd only just gotten interested in baseball back then and was still learning the basics, so I never fully appreciated how magical that season was. Six years later I knew exactly what was going on.
It didn't take very long for the party to get started. Michael Bourn laced a single into center field, then Nick Swisher crushed his 22nd home run of the year into the left-field stands. The Twins' Scott Diamond had barely begun and he was already down 2-0. The Indians never looked back.
Ubaldo Jimenez, enjoying an unprecedented renaissance in the second half of the season, toed the mound for the Tribe. If it turns out that Jimenez's final appearance as a Cleveland player was that glorious afternoon, then he couldn't have done much better. 13 strikeouts spread over 6.2 dominant innings, Jimenez carried the team on his back, pitching one of his finest games of the year.
The Indians emerged as 5-1 victors, securing their return to October baseball. After the final out was made, the players came roaring out of the dugout, celebrating wildly. The jubilation on every player's face was a sight to behold; a whole season of hard work rewarded, against all odds.
And then there was me, sitting in front of my laptop, going absolutely ballistic in celebration. Exactly what I hoped for, way back at the beginning of the season. It's a memory I'll treasure for a long, long time.