How do you squirt all the wacky things that happend in Tuesday night's Indians game into one mold? Well, I'm going to try.
Last night was a night when Ben Broussard had power and Jacobs Field didn't. Last night was a night when Eric Wedge got ejected for arguing, Bob Wickman got dirty and bloodied, and Ronnie Belliard made himself a serious candidate for a Gold Glove Award.
Last night was a night when the Indians committed three errors and still managed to turn a five double plays, their most in 10 years. Last night, they stayed atop the AL wild card standings with a 5-2 come-from-behind win over Oakland.
As I stood in a sub shop waiting for dinner Tuesday night, I watched as Broussard quickly made the first out of the fifth inning. The Indians were trailiong 2-0 at the time, and appeared to be going through another oneof those phases were they look lost at the plate. Broussard somehow becomes one ofthe poster children when Cleveland's offense goes comatose. His .250-ish batting avearge has something to do with it.
I, as many other Cleveland fans, largely have viewed Brossard as a weak link in the lineup. Most of the time, he just doesn't look like an adequate major league first baseman. He appears overmatched at the plate a lot, and his defense is average at best (last night, he was charged with two errors).
"Man, the first thing the Indians have to do this winter is find a better first baseman," I said to myself as I watched the sub shop TV.
Broussard must be telepathic. Because from that point on, he had one of those games he has every so often that makes Indians management think twice about dumping him.
Afer Broussard's out, the game changed. First, Wedge, about to boil over with his team's inability to do anything at the plate, sprung out of the dugout and quibbled with the home plate umpire over a called third strike on Grady Sizemore. Wedge was tossed. Almost immediately afterward, many of the lights at Jacobs Field went out. It took about 20 minutes to get the lights back up and running.
In the seventh, A's manager Ken Macha pulled starter Kirk Saarloos and went to his bullpen. No sooner had Jay Witasick stepped on the mound than he gave up a single to Belliard, bringing Broussard to the plate. He promptly connected on a two-run line-drive homer over the center field fence.
It was like the old days at Jacobs Field. Once the Indians start a comeback, they become hellbent on winning.
In the eighth, A's reliever Justin Duchscherer gave up singles to Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez. With one out, Broussard came up again.
He hit a slow-pitch softball drive about a mile in the air. By the reaction of A's right fielder Nick Swisher, it looked like a warning-track fly out. Then Swisher edged closer to the right-field wall. And closer. And then he jumped. And came down empty.
The crowd gasped for a split-second, then erupted. 5-2, Indians. Five RBI for Broussard.
Broussard's homer was only the co-climax to our story, however. Wickman came on for the save in the ninth. As we all know, nothing is ever cut-and-dried with a Wickman save.
Wickman gave up a leadoff single to Jay Payton on the first pitch. He then got Dan Johnson to beat a ball into the ground. Broussard picked it and threw to shortstop Jhonny Perlta covering second to force Payton.
Peralta took a flier and tried to get the lumbering Johnson at first. Both he and the portly Wickman were huffing to the bag when Wickman stumbled and fell. Wickman skidded across the baseline like a bowling ball, tripping up Johnson and causing Peralta's throw to ricochet off Wickman's thigh and roll into the first-base coach's box.
Wickman's presence of mind is incredible. As Johnson was limping off the effect of his run-in with Wickman, every person in the stadium thought Johnson had clipped first base going by and was safe. Every person except Wickman and the first-base umpire.
Wickman got up, his unform uncharacteristcally dirty and his right arm bleeding from an abrasion, calmly picked up the ball, trotted to first base and stepped on it. The umpire's right arm went up.
Macha argued, to no avail. One out later,Wickman secured his career-high 40th save.
And we get to do it all again tonight. Welcome back to playoff race baseball.