Today marks the 7th anniversary of the greatest comeback (in terms of runs made up) in major league history. Back on this day in 2001, the Cleveland Indians overcame a 14-2 deficit in the bottom of the 5th inning to defeat Seattle 15-14 at Jacobs Field.
The game was nationally televised and was the ESPN Sunday Night game. The Mariners were on their way to winning 116 games, but this was one game that eluded them.
Seattle hit Cleveland starter Dave Burba hard, scoring seven runs in two innings. Reliever Mike Bacsik gave up another seven runs in six innings of work in his major league debut.
Cleveland started its comeback in the 7th. Russell Branyan hit a leadoff homer against Mariners starter Aaron Sele. With two outs, the Indians loaded the bases and John Halama came out of the pen to relieve. Jolbert Cabrera, who had come in to give Roberto Alomar a rest, singled in two to make it 14-5 after 7 innings.
Jim Thome led off the 8th with a home run and it was 14-6. Branyan was hit by a pitch and Marty Cordova homered and it was now 14-8. Singles by Einar Diaz and Kenny Lofton drove Halama out of the game and Norm Charlton relieved. Omar Vizquel doubled off of Charlton to make it 14-9, but the Indians threat died when Lofton was out at the plate trying to score on a pitch in the dirt and Cabrera struck out.
All Cleveland needed to do now was make up five runs in one inning. No problem.
Ed Taubensee, who had replaced Juan Gonzalez at DH, led off with a single. Thome flied out and Branyan struck out and the Mariners were one out away. But Cordova kept the game alive with a double, sending Taubensee to third.
Seattle manager Lou Piniella opted now for Jeff Nelson to face the loveable Wil Cordero. Cordero walked to load the bases. Diaz followed with a single to drive in two to make it 14-11.
Piniella was now in a thoroughly foul mood and he called on his closer Kazuhiro Sasaki. Sasaki was a closer who needed a lot of time to warm up and it's quite possible that Sasaki just wasn't ready because he was generally awful. Lofton greeted Sasaki with a single to load the bases. And then Vizquel cleared the bases and tied the game with a triple. Cabrera grounded out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the 10th, the Indians got two runners on with two outs against Arthur Rhodes and Piniella then made another change, switching right fielder Charles Gipson to left to trade places with Al Martin. I think Piniella had heard from Martin that he could throw a baseball 550 feet on the fly at a speed of 87 mph. Rhodes got Cordero to strike out.
The Mariners didn't score in the top of the 11th (Seattle had just three hits after the fifth inning) and Jose Paniagua was the next man out of the Seattle pen.
Paniagua retired Diaz to start the inning, but quickly got into trouble as Lofton and Vizquel singled to put runners at first and third with one out. Cabrera put an end to the game with a single to score Lofton and send what was left of an announced crowd of 42,494 home seeing something that happened since 1925. The game ended about 15 minutes past midnight, just in time for the fans to enjoy all the famous late night dining that Cleveland has to offer.
The last team that had blown a 12-run lead had been the 1925 Indians who led the A's 15-3 in the seventh inning before giving up a run in the bottom of the seventh and then 13 in the eighth. That was on June 15, 1925.
The Detroit Tigers are the other team that has come back from 12 down and they did so at home against the White Sox on June 18, 1911, who overcame a 13-1 deficit in the fifth to pull out a 16-15 win.