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'We got the roar'

Indians, Mariners still stunned by impossible comeback

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Posted: Monday August 06, 2001 5:15 PM
Updated: Monday August 06, 2001 7:20 PM
  Eddie Taubensee/Kenny Lofton Kenny Lofton gets carried away by Eddie Taubensee after scoring winning run. AP

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Cleveland Indians were done, finished, kaput.

Trailing the best team in the majors by 12 runs with only nine outs to go, the Indians had no hope, right?

But then the rally started, and this was not just any old comeback. None has been bigger, wilder or perhaps more unexpected in history.

"It felt like winning the seventh game of the World Series," Indians reliever Bob Wickman said.

With the score 12-0 after three innings and 14-2 in the seventh, the Indians -- down to their final strike three times in the ninth -- rallied Sunday night to beat the Seattle Mariners 15-14 in 11 innings on Jolbert Cabrera's broken-bat, RBI single.

It was only the third time in history a team had overcome a 12-run deficit to win. The 2001 Indians join the 1925 Philadelphia Athletics and 1911 Detroit Tigers in an exclusive comeback club.

Kenny Lofton's headfirst slide into the plate and record book at 12:19 a.m., ended a 4-hour, 11-minute game that provided many with memories for a lifetime.

"When we got within 14-9," Lofton said, "I thought, 'Hey, wait a minute, we've got a chance.' I guess it shows that anything can happen. Incredible."

The hit that shattered Cabrera's bat was only one of several magical moments for the Indians, whose season was beginning to slip away.

Rally Caps

Baseball's 12-run comebacks:

June 18, 1911
The Detroit Tigers were losing to the Chicago White Sox 13-1 after five innings but won 16-15.

June 15, 1925
The Cleveland Indians blew a 15-3 seventh-inning lead, losing 17-15 to the Philadelphia Athletics, who scored 13 times in the eighth.

Aug. 5, 2001
Down 14-2 in the seventh inning, the Cleveland Indians scored 13 unanswered runs to beat the Seattle Mariners 15-14 in 11 innings.

Note: Five teams have come back from 11-run deficits. 
 
 

Cleveland was in danger of falling to .500 at home this year and 1-5 on a crucial homestand. There were also whispers that manager Charlie Manuel's job might be on the line.

Simply put, the Indians needed a spark. They got a 50,000-volt electrical charge instead.

"This can be the turning point to the season," said Cabrera, who replaced Roberto Alomar in the sixth.

Down by 12, Jim Thome hit two homers and Marty Cordova and Russell Branyan had one apiece as Cleveland chipped away to pull within 14-9 after eight.

Einar Diaz and Lofton hit two-out singles in the ninth, setting the stage for Omar Vizquel's triple into the right-field corner that cleared the bases and tied it at 14.

Vizquel's shot off Kazuhiro Sasaki, which found the hole between diving first baseman Ed Sprague's glove and the bag, had been predicted by Manuel.

"I told him he'd hit a triple," Manuel said. "Go ask him."

"He did," Vizquel said.

Things like that never happen in Cleveland. It's usually the other way around with guys like Edgar Renteria (Game 7, '97 World Series), John Elway ('86 AFC championship) or Michael Jordan ('89 NBA playoffs) crashing Cleveland's party.

Not this time. The Indians, who are celebrating their 100th season, had played 15,547 games before Sunday. But never one like this.

They scored two runs in the fourth, three in the seventh, four in the eighth and five in the ninth.

If nothing else, Cleveland's remarkable comeback should be a lesson to those channel surfing during a blowout or leaving before the final out is made or the clock shows 0:00.

Yogi was right, it's never over until it's over.

After Lofton slid home safely, he jumped into the waiting arms of Indians catcher Eddie Taubensee, who threw the center fielder over his right shoulder like a sack of potatoes.

"I caught him and I wasn't going to let him go," Taubensee said.

And neither were the 20,000 remaining fans whose loyalty was rewarded and some of whom danced on top of the dugouts and in the streets around Jacobs Field afterward.

"Back in 1994, '95 and '96, there was a roar in this park," said Manuel. "You couldn't hear voices, just a roar. Like when you walk on a beach by the ocean. We get that roar every once in a while now.

"We got the roar."

Improbable? Think of the odds.

Not only were the Indians losing 12-0 and being humiliated on televisions across the nation, but they were facing Seattle's vaunted bullpen, which hadn't given up many runs let alone games this season.

"I bet you money that won't happen again. I don't think it's going to happen to our bullpen," said Norm Charlton, one of six Mariners relievers pounded for 10 runs and 16 hits over the final 3 2/3 innings.

"Unbelievable. Every ball they hit fell in."

Manuel had seemingly given up himself, resting All-Stars Alomar and Juan Gonzalez along with Ellis Burks and Travis Fryman in the early innings when the game had gotten out of hand.

Seattle's Lou Piniella benched Ichiro Suzuki, Edgar Martinez and John Olerud thinking win No. 81 was in the bag.

"It was a fluke, a freak thing," Seattle's Bret Boone said. "You never see a game like this. Never. No matter how good your offense is, you don't come back from 12 down. But they did it."

History will show Cleveland's comeback began with an innocent leadoff single in the fourth inning by Gonzalez, which was followed by Thome's first homer.

It made the score 12-2.

"Who knew?" Taubensee said.


 
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