Keepers enjoy crazy games, unusual moments in wild card win

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CLEVELAND – Guardians shortstop Austin Hedges stood shirtless in the middle of the grass at Progressive Field, wondering how much hair he had on his chest as jubilant players and their families chatted.

Bullpen coach Brian Sweeney admitted he pulled his hamstring running to participate in the immediate postgame scrum.

After former Cleveland ace Corey Kluber homered in the 15th inning to give the Guardians a 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays and a sweep of the American League Wild Card Series, right fielder Oscar Gonzalez brought a bottle of champagne. in the interview room. Translator Agustin Rivero did the same, as they both walked away from the party in the plastic draped club.

First base coach Sandy Alomar paused to reflect on the craziness of the four-hour, 57-minute game, the first in major league history to go 13 scoreless innings.

Third baseman Jose Ramirez’s remarkable play on a ground ball by the Rays’ Manuel Margot and Josh Naylor’s amazing play at first to record the final out in the Rays’ 12th. The odd 4-3-6 double play by Andres Gimenez, Naylor and Amed Rosario to end the 14th. And even Gonzalez broke his belt in the seventh inning trying to steal second on a Jimenez foul ball.

“I think the hole broke when I slid with my head,” Gonzalez said.

Alomar took off his belt and handed it to Gonzalez, among 17 rookies making their major league debuts for the Guardians this season.

In that piece of leather, Alomar found a coincidence he believes bodes well as the Guardians advance to the American League Division Series that opens Tuesday against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

“I gave him my belt and a size 15 belt and we win the game in the 15th inning. That’s the weirdest thing,” Alomar said. “An omen, right? Now he says he doesn’t want to give it back.

“Deep down, this is the best part. He can have it as long as he keeps doing this.”

The files dropped like empty champagne bottles. The two teams combined for 39 hits, the most in a postseason game. Gonzalez’s game-ending home run was the second most recent in the playoffs, behind only Chris Burke’s Game 18 heroics for the Houston Astros in 2005. It was the longest game in terms of innings in Cleveland history and of Tampa Bay.

There was a seventh and a 14th series, two renditions of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. The sell-out crowd of 34,971 waited patiently to party despite the seven drink limit.

After five hours of sheer pressure, heightened after the Guardians failed to score with the bases loaded and none out in the sixth, emotions were all over the place afterward.

“Cold, tired and pretty excited,” said Guardians manager Terry Francona, soaking in the festivities.

“Try to have fun … but it’s also anxiety at the same time. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I was proud of the effort. [Winning pitcher Sam] Henges goes out there for parts of three innings. Guys dug deep and made pitches, made plays. It ended up being enough. It was difficult, but it was enough.”

Rays manager Kevin Cash, a former Cleveland bullpen coach under Francona, didn’t know the story was being written, but he thought about it.

“I was sitting there thinking about it when we got to 10th, 11th, 12th. It crossed my mind, how many postseason games have you seen like this again?’ Cash he said. Francona then visited close friend Cash in the visitors’ club.

“It was a whirlwind. It was crazy,” Hedges said. “You don’t see things like that happen very often with two very good clubs. Obviously, both teams with great pitching, but both clubs with great hitting, too. To hold them to one run in two games like that, in as many innings, that’s hats off to our pitchers, our starters, our bullpen, Carl [Willis] and the pitching staff. It’s something really special that we’re doing.”

Guardians pitching coach Willis said he had been through something similar. He was part of the 1991 Minnesota Twins that beat the Atlanta Braves in 10 innings in Game 7 of the World Series.

“Not that big of a game, but obviously the stakes were high, as they were today,” Willis said, cigar in hand. “If we don’t do it again, nothing will equal it. But this was really special.”

Willis didn’t know it was the longest scoreless game of the postseason.

“At the end of the day, all we wanted to do was win. Record, I couldn’t care less. I just want to win,” he said.

Asked about wild moments like the Ramirez-to-Naylor fight that Francona said “could be a game-saver,” Willis said, “It was unbelievable. It’s Major League Baseball, you never know what you might see.”

Unlike Alomar, Willis wasn’t sure if nearly five hours of grueling, exhilarating madness was an omen.

“I hope so,” Willis said.

But as the postgame frenzy wrapped up on the field, Hedges was enjoying the celebration and thinking about hoisting the most important trophy in baseball.

“If going shirtless means winning the World Series and still having champagne parties, I’m never going to wear a shirt again,” Hedges said.

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