It had been quite the passage of time since an Indians pitcher ran out of the bullpen in the ninth inning and was welcomed by a standing ovation complete with raucous cheering. Such was the case on a crisp, late-September night in Cleveland when the bullpen door gave way to Justin Masterson, the 6-foot-6-inch ace hurler for the Tribe who was making his first appearance since succumbing to an oblique injury earlier in the month. High socks and all, Masterson jogged to the mound while fans, understandably enjoying the team’s multi-run lead in the midst of a playoff hunt, welcomed him back with open arms.
A perfect storm, really. One night after the team’s polarizing closer Chris Perez blew a one-run lead in the top of the ninth inning only to leave the field while being pelted by a chorus of boos, Masterson—essentially the antithesis of Perez in every way but employer—came in with his team up considerably. There was an absence of pressure. The fans were exuding an energy that had long been missing from the confines of Progressive Field. It was, in fact, the team’s final home game of the regular season—who better to close it out than the man who ushered this crazy, roller coaster of a season in by throwing the team’s first pitch? [Read more...]