Red Sox Brawls: 1999 Red Sox vs. Indians


Almost 20 years ago, the Red Sox and Indians met in an epic ALDS five game series.  It was a winner take all in Cleveland at then Jacobs Field, and the big question was whether or not Pedro Martinez would be able to pitch in the game. 

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Martinez had a Cy Young season in 1999, he would go 23-4, 313 strikeouts and finished the season with a 2.07 ERA.  He would go on to win his second of three Cy Young awards in his career. 

The Indians were the favorite going into this series.  The Indians offense was led by Manny Ramirez, who hit 44 home runs and had a career high 165 RBI.  Bartolo Colon went 18-5 for the Indians with a 3.95 ERA and the club also had two Hall of Fame players in Roberto Alomar, who had a career high 120 RBI that season, and Harold Baines, who came over in a trade with the Orioles, hit 25 homers with 103 RBI.  The Indians were stacked on offense.  The team slugged its way to over 1000 runs scored that season. 

The Indians won the first two games of the ALDS in Cleveland and things looked grim after Martinez left after four innings in Game 1 due to a right shoulder injury.  Then Red Sox manager rallied the troops and walked around Fenway Park leading up to Game 3 saying “You better sweep us”. 

The Red Sox would go onto win Game 3, 9-3, and then crushed the Indians in Game 4 23-7 to bring the series back to Cleveland and set up a Monday night Game 5 showdown.  The two teams were rivals all season long, so it was fitting this series would come down to an epic Game 5 showdown. 

Gear up for the 2020 MLB Season with new gear from NikeLet’s rewind back to April.  It was the fifth inning between a pitching matchup that featured Indians Jaret Wright and Red Sox lefty Rheal Cormier.  Wright gave up a leadoff home run against Troy O’Leary and then the next two hitters got on base. 

Red Sox center fielder Darren Lewis came to the plate with two on and then Wright torqued a curveball that would go right into the shoulder of Lewis to load the bases and ignite a fury between the two clubs. 

Lewis and Wright exchanged words, and Lewis charged the mound.  Both benches and bullpens cleared, and Lewis and Wright were ejected after punches were thrown.  "I threw a curveball to Darren and I guess he thought it was a fastball," Wright said.  "He said something, I said something, and you saw what happened." 

Lewis wasn’t happy with Wright, saying after the game, “he has a reputation for doing that.  He did it to me in the playoffs last year and you don't forget what happens on the field," Lewis said.

Once things appeared to under be control, the Red Sox would get some retribution for Lewis.  Cormier took the bump in the top of the sixth with the Red Sox leading 6-5.  Indians slugger Jim Thome came to the plate and the Sox lefty sent a pitch into the ribs of Thome. 

Benches would clear again and a melee would ensue.  Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek tackled Indians outfielder David Justice and both were ejected.  Thome and Cormier would also be ejected after Thome charged the mound. 

"I was trying to send them a message but I wasn't trying to hit anyone," Cormier said.  "The ball got away from me and just ran in on him."

What’s funny about the Cormier and Thome scrum is they are really close friends off the field and hunting buddies.  Thome was asked by Dave Eminian of the Journal Star whether charging the mound was a hard decision to make he would say, “no, not at all.  When I step between the lines I don’t worry about anything else.  The game is the game.  The situation was called upon, I did it.  Things happen.  When the game is going on, you react.”

The Red Sox would go on to lose that game 7-6, but this series would lay the foundation down for an epic five-game series in October. 

Now back to Game 5, the concern before the game was whether Martinez was going to be able to pitch at all.  The Red Sox gave the ball to Bret Saberhagen to start the deciding game.  The Indians would counter with their Charles Nagy, which was surprise because Indians manager Mike Hargrove would start his ace Bartolo Colon in Game 4.  

The Red Sox took a two-run lead in the first when shortstop Nomar Garciaparra jumped all over the first pitch from Nagy and hit a two run home run.  The lead was short lived.  Thome would hit a two-run homer of his own off Saberhagen to tie the game. 

The Indians took the lead in the second inning when third baseman Travis Fryman hit a two-run home run off Saberhagen to give them a 4-2 lead. 

Saberhagen was dealing with shoulder problems at that stage of his career.  His shoulder was junk and he was trying to give the Red Sox what he could in that game and hoped it was enough to lead them to the ALCS.

I’ll personally never forget what happened next in the top of the third inning.  The bases were loaded and the Sox were facing a 5-2 deficit when Troy O’Leary walked up to the plate. 

Third inning and one out, O’Leary would crush a grand slam and it gave the Red Sox a two run lead.  The dugout went nuts.  O'Leary would also go on to add another three run shot later in the game.  He had seven-RBI in the game, but that was just half the story. 

Pedro would pitch in relief. 

Martinez was amazing and would silence the crowd at Jacobs Field.  He had no velocity in that game.  Pedro relied on off speed pitches, but he was running on adrenaline to get him through the game.

Pedro was special that night.  The Red Sox would advance to the ALCS against the hated New York Yankees.  Even though the Red Sox would come up short on against the Yankees, it would set the foundation for our expectations of Red Sox playoff baseball, and in just five years we would see the Sox finally come through and win the World Series.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: Red Sox Brawls: 1999 Red Sox vs. Indians
Red Sox Brawls: 1999 Red Sox vs. Indians
Boston Sports Syndicate
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