2002 Rewind: Game Ninty-seven

MINNESOTA 8, CLEVELAND 6 IN CLEVELAND

Date:  Thursday, July 18.

Batting stars:  Jacque Jones was 3-for-5 with a home run, his fourteenth.  Torii Hunter was 2-for-3 with a walk and a home run, his twenty-third.  David Ortiz was 2-for-5 with a double.

Pitching stars:  Kevin Frederick pitched two shutout innings, giving up only a walk.  Tony Fiore pitched two shutout innings, giving up two hits and striking out one.  LaTroy Hawkins pitched a perfect inning, striking out one.

Opposition stars:  Milton Bradley was 2-for-4 with a grand slam, his fifth homer.  Ricky Gutierrez was 2-for-4.  Omar Vizquel was 2-for-5.

The game:  Jones led off the game with a home run.  Ellis Burks countered with a home run in the bottom of the first to make it 1-1.  The Indians loaded the bases with none out in the second, but could only score one on a double play.  The Twins tied it in the third on Ortiz' RBI single, but Cleveland went back in front in the bottom of the third on Bradley's grand slam, taking a 6-2 lead.  The Twins got back into it in the fifth.  Cristian Guzman tripled, Ortiz doubled, and Hunter hit a two-run homer to cut the margin to 6-5.  The Twins went into the lead to stay in the seventh.  Bobby Kielty had an RBI single and Luis Rivas delivered a two-out two-run single to put the Twins up 8-6.  The Indians threatened in the bottom of the ninth.  Their first two batters were retired, but Vizquel singled and Burks walked.  Lee Stevens came up representing the winning run, but he grounded out to second to end the game.

WP:  Tony Fiore (8-2).  LP:  Ricardo Rincon (1-4).  S:  Eddie Guardado (31).

Notes:  Hunter raised his average to .313.

Kielty was 1-for-4 with a walk and was batting .312.

A. J. Pierzynski went 1-for-5 to make his average .300.

Juan Rincon made his last major league start.  It did not go well, as he pitched just three innings and allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks with no strikeouts.  He would be sent back to Edmonton after this game, but would return in a month to pitch out of the bullpen.

Hawkins lowered his ERA to 1.48.

Ryan Drese started for Cleveland.  He lasted five innings, giving up five runs on ten hits and no walks and striking out four.

Stevens entered the game in the seventh as a pinch-hitter for Jim Thome.  One assumes Thome was either ill or injured, as there is no other apparent reason one would make that change.  I would guess Twins fans were quite happy to see Stevens come up in the ninth as the winning run rather than Thome.

This was Stevens' last year.  He wasn't a bad batter, although he wasn't very good in 2002.  He came up with the California Angels in 1990 and had his first full season in the majors in 1992.  He'd had a big year in AAA Edmonton in 1991 and done well as a September call-up, so presumably the Angels thought they had their first baseman of the future.  It didn't work out that way.  He hit just .221/.288/.349 in 106 games, and presumably only stayed for a full season because the Angels didn't have other options at first base (their next best option was a fading Alvin Davis, in his last season).  Stevens would not get another chance in the majors until 1996, spending 1993 in AAA with Toronto and the next two season in Japan.  Texas signed him in 1996, and in 1997 he had his best year, batting .300 with 21 home runs.  It was the first of five consecutive seasons in which he was   He had two more solid seasons with the Rangers, then was traded to Montreal.  He was not quite as good with the Expos as he'd been with the Rangers, but he posted an OPS of around .800 both seasons.  The bottom fell out in 2002, however, as he was batting just .190 with ten homers when he was traded to Cleveland in late June in a trade that sent, among others, Cliff Lee to Cleveland and Bartolo Colon to Montreal.  The change of scenery didn't help him much, as he ended the season batting .204 with 15 home runs.  He signed with Tampa Bay for 2003, was released, and signed with Milwaukee, but played in just eighteen AAA games before his career ended.  For his career, he batted .254/.323/.448 in ten seasons, not great numbers but not terrible, either.  He has been a minor league coach, and was the batting coach for the Grand Junction Rockies in 2017.

Record:  The Twins were 56-41, in first place, leading Chicago by eleven games.

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