Wednesday May 10, 2000
In 1995 the unthinkable happened: the Cleveland Indians won the pennant. It had been more than 40 years since Cleveland fans had seen anything like it. By 2000, the Indians’ had five consecutive division titles under their belts, but the fans were getting restless due to one number: zero World Series Championships.
During that same time span (1995-1999), the Minnesota Twins finished near the bottom of the AL Central every year. The team’s winning percentage was just .424 over the five seasons. The beginning of 2000 had suggested that this team may just be on the verge of success, but a 15-19 start suggested that 2000 may turn out like the seasons before.
The Twins had a three-game series with the defending champs in the Metrodome to finish a 12-game home stand. Tom Kelly’s crew had taken just three games in the first nine against Oakland, Seattle, and Detroit. They lost the first game in ten innings, and took game two 6-5 on the strength of a six-run fifth inning. 9,505 fans gathered in the Metrodome on a Wednesday night to see game three of the series.
Cleveland Indians Minnesota Twins 1. R Alomar 2B 1. C Guzman SS 2. E Wilson SS 2. D Hocking 2B 3. D Justice DH 3. M Lawton RF 4. M Ramirez RF 4. R Coomer 1B 5. J Thome 1B 5. C Koskie 3B 6. R Sexson LF 6. D Ortiz DH 7. T Fryman 3B 7. M Jensen C 8. S Alomar C 8. J Jones LF 9. J Cabrera CF 9. T Hunter CF C Nagy P S Bergman P
Charles Nagy had been one of Cleveland’s finest pitchers during their run of success in the late 90’s. After the 1999 season, Nagy had a 121-86 career record with a 4.20 ERA. He won at least 15 games in each of the Indians’ division-winning seasons, and was easily the most reliable Cleveland pitcher over that time period.
2000 didn’t start so well for Nagy. He had given up at least six earned runs in four of his first six starts. Nagy needed a solid start, and likely looked upon the Twins’ lineup as a great team to do it against.
In 1999, the Twins offense managed just 4.26 runs per game; dead last in the major leagues. The 2000 team improved quite a bit on that number, scoring 4.97 runs per game through 34 games, but were still among the league’s worst offenses. If Nagy was going to come out of his funk, this was the team to do it against.
Early on it looked like Nagy would do just that. Through six innings pitched he had allowed just one run on three hits. The run came on an RBI single by David Ortiz that scored Matt Lawton from second in the fourth inning.
The Cleveland offense was doing its part as well. Already ahead 4-1, the Indians put together a four run inning. Travis Fryman led off with a solo home run, and Manny Ramirez capped off the scoring with a two-RBI single that put the tribe ahead 8-1.
A David Ortiz single seemed harmless enough to start the Twins half of the seventh. When Catcher Marcus Jensen hit Nagy’s next pitch to right for a two-run home run, it seemed to light a spark in the Twins dugout. A Jacque Jones double and Torii Hunter single knocked Nagy out of the game in favor of reliever Tom Martin. Both men eventually scored, along with two other runs, pulling the Twins within one before Paul Shuey finally got Jensen to fly out for the final out of the inning. It took five Cleveland pitchers to get through the seventh, clinging to a one-run lead.
The score was still 8-7 until David Justice launched an Eddie Guardado pitch into the bleachers to give Cleveland an insurance run in the top of the ninth. Shuey had stopped the bleeding for the Indians, and was replaced by Cleveland’s new closer Steve Karsay for the bottom of the ninth inning.
Matt Lawton doubled with one out, his second of the game, and came home on a Ron Coomer single. The lead had been cut to one. After Shuey got Butch Huskey to fly out to right, the Twins were down to their final out.
It would have been easy to take a moral victory from this game. The Twins had been at or near the bottom of the AL Central for five years, while Cleveland was gunning for its sixth consecutive division title. Most Twins fans would have called this game, and series, a success had Shuey gotten the next batter, Midre Cummings out to end the game.
There was no need for moral victories, however, because Cummings took a 2-0 Shuey pitch over the left field wall for the game-winner. Jacque Jones summed up the feeling, quoted in Lavelle E. Neal’s game story in the Star Tribune:
“On paper, we’re not supposed to do the things we have done,” Jones said. “The only message we’re sending is that we’re not the same team we were last year.”
The 2000 Twins only won six more games than they did in the previous season, and still finished in last place. Perhaps Jacque spoke about a year too soon.
The Indians did not win their sixth straight division title, and lost the services of Charles Nagy for the bulk of the season due to arm surgery. Nagy never returned to the form that made him the best pitcher for Cleveland from 1995-1999.