Welcome home, Jim

Friday, August 26, 2011–Indians 2, Royals 1

As I have stated many times before, I pick the games for these trips weeks or even months in advance, so I have no way of knowing that a one-time icon of the Indians’ franchise would be returning the same day I picked for scheduling reasons.  The Tribe made a deal with the Twins to bring Jim Thome—the Indians’ all-time leader in home runs and a number of other offensive categories—back to Cleveland, probably while I was on the train from Pittsburgh.  That means that if I hadn’t come to Cleveland specifically to see a baseball game, I coulda sold my ticket (with this as my view) for about three times what I’d paid for it. I heard that before the trade was announced, there were 10,000 unsold tickets, but by the time first pitch rolled around, it was sold out. Here was a sign the Indians had printed up for fans to wave and greet him.

But I did come specifically to see a baseball game, so let’s get to it. Thome came up to bat for the first time to lead off the second inning. The fans were giving him a standing ovation from the moment the top of the first ended and he had stood in the on-deck circle waiting for the between-inning promotion to end. When he was announced, the cheer from the Cleveland faithful was the loudest I’ve ever heard, and when Thome hit a weak groundout to the pitcher on the very first pitch he saw, the noise scarcely subsided until he’d returned to the Indians’ dugout.

While Thome was the emotional story of the night, the baseball story was a tense pitcher’s duel between two guys who started the season in Colorado. Ubaldo Jimenez went 7, struck out ten, and only gave up one run, a homer by KC’s Eric Hosmer. And until the bottom of the 7th, it looked like Felipe Paulino would make that run hold up, the only threat the Indians mounted through the first six frames ended when Koske Fukudome was thrown out at the plate. In the seventh, with two batters on, Jack Hannahan hit an RBI single to tie it, and Paulino’s night was done when he walked the next batter to load the bases. Tim Collins, the new Royals hurler, then walked Ezequiel Carrera to force in another run. That would close out the scoring for the night.

Here’s the scorecard.