Ever since the official MLB YouTube channel uploaded a clip of the Rajai Davis’ home run in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, it can’t seem to stop trying to get me to watch. I’ve succumbed, multiple times, and yet it keeps being recommended.
Sometimes I’ll watch the whole thing, to put myself back in the mindset of that series, to remember what it felt like to actually be watching the Indians on the verge of winning it all in just my first full year running Let’s Go Tribe. I remember feeling kind of guilty that it wasn’t Jason Lukehart before me, or even Ryan before him that got to experience this as the editor of a community as great as Let’s Go Tribe. I also remember the exact moment I realized the ball was gone, and how hard I tried not to either cry, scream, or some mixture of the two that would wake my kids up. Whatever I did was enough to take up my wife, though, who went to bed early to get ready for work at six the next morning. She came down to ask me what happened, and I explained before she sat just as glued to the TV as I was.
Sometimes I’ll just watch the clip of the massive shot to left field hitting the camera just to hear Progressive Field erupt and see Aroldis Chapman stare dead-eyed as he watched the lead he was gifted slip away. Unfortunately, the recommended clip has the Fox broadcast with Joe Buck quietly calling the game, so when this video comes along I also, by law, have to look up the Hammy call. Which then leads to watching Jason Kipnis’ near home run in extras, which leads to more sadness and goddamn why did it have to rain in Cleveland that night.
I remember that I’ve never felt more excited about baseball in that exact moment — Rajai Davis choking halfway up the bat and flying around the bases with his tongue out and arm raised high in excitement. Everything great about the sport of baseball boiled down to 20 seconds of drama.
But you know what I don’t remember? This fuckin’ guy.
Look at this guy, I love him. Whatever juju he was trying to conjure with those wizard hands worked. Maybe it’s no coincidence that the very next pitch after he was seen transmitting his brainwaves left Progressive Field.
I also didn’t remember many specifics of the at-bat leading up to Rajai hitting the home run. In all honesty, I was pretty emotionally drained at this point after watching the Indians fumble away a 3-1 lead and play as flat as they did at the start of game seven. I wasn’t checked out yet, but fully prepared for disappointment.
I’ve been mulling over a time and place to post about remembering Rajai’s home run, because there are a lot of fun little details about it. But no time seemed right with spring training in full swing and some stories starting to develop. Then suddenly it’s St. Patrick’s Day and everyone wants an excuse to drink anyway. So here you go.
Here are some things you might have forgotten about Rajai Davis’ epic game seven home run.
Brandon Guyer helped wear Aroldis Chapman down
Everyone remembers Rajai home run, but no one seems to give Brandon Guyer any credit. The outfielder was the first batter that Chapman faced in the game, and he took him seven pitches deep to a full count before doubling on a pitch that many a weaker man would have just taken and probably been called out on strikes.
Rajai followed up with his own seven pitch at bat, but he was much more aggressive than Guyer. With his hands choked up like a Little Leaguer mad that his coach didn’t bring any oranges for after the game and swinging at everything. Davis fouled off
Rajai Davis was pretty bad in the World Series before this at-bat
If the Indians win the World Series that year, Rajai Davis goes down in history as a hero in Cleveland, there’s zero doubt of that in my mind. Even if it’s Jason Kipnis’ ball that wins the World Series, we would all remember Rajai as the one bringing us out of the despair of the series slipping away as it was before he took Chapman deep.
We’d all forget — as we probably have, anyway — that Davis had a pretty rough series up to that point. As the FOX graphic so rudely says right in front Rajai’s face, the Tribe’s centerfielder went 0-for-3 in the game, and 3-for-20 in the entire series before the eighth inning of game seven.
Progressive Field was dead silent before the home run
One thing that has always slipped my mind about this home run is just how quiet Progressive Field was right before it, down to the second before Davis’ bat hit the ball.
The crowd just watched Guyer and Davis combined to take 13 pitches off Chapman and were anxious as all hell. Fox’s broadcast continually cut to fans in the crowd, including this Sam Darnold lookalike.
Here’s a fun game to play. Try and find the exact moment the home run happened by the video’s waveform:
I bet you can.
Bonus round — check out a waveform of Tom Hamilton’s call. The cool thing about this is you can tell when the home run happens (about 44 seconds), when Tom pauses to take it all in and let the crowd tell the story (from 46 seconds to 78 seconds), and when he can’t help it anymore and just has to join in the elation.
The hit didn’t technically qualify as a “barrel” by Statcasts’s standards
The home run is always a mammoth blast in my head, just because it’s built up to such lofty standards. But the cold, hard numbers of Statcast say it wasn’t even technically barrelled.
With an exit velocity of 101.5 (which, by the way, wasn’t even one of the 10 hardest-hit balls this game) and a launch angle of 22 degrees, Rajai’s potentially franchise-altering dinger went 369 feet and just barely cleared the short wall in left. Six Cubs batters hit balls that went further than that, and three of those weren’t even home runs.
It was, however, hit off the fourth-hardest pitch of the night (of the ones recorded by Statcast), a 97.1 mile-per-hour burner from Chapman’s rocket arm.
Rajai had a chance to do it again
In the bottom of the tenth, a very familiar situation played out for the Tribe. Two outs were on the board, they were down by two, Brandon Guyer was on base, and there was Rajai Davis again, ready to be a hero.
It only took him two pitches to put a ball in play this time, taking a 94.5 Carl Edwards Jr. fastball to center field for a single. Not the same game-tying heroics we had seen earlier in a much drier Progressive Field, but it set up another player to be a hero this time.
Michael Martinez walked to the plate with everything on the line.
I still have not intentionally watched a second of video past Kris Bryant scooping up the weak dribbler, but I know it didn’t end well.