Cleveland – It was the game that seemed like it would never end. Guardians Game 1 writer Shane Pepper decided to go grab a cup of chicken broth to keep him warm in the bunker as Cleveland reached the bottom of the 15th inning.
Oscar Gonzalez He walked to the board as Bieber was settling down for a longer marathon than the team had already gone through. The voice of pirate Patchi roared over the loudspeaker, shouting “Are you guys ready?” The entire Cleveland crowd also got up on its collective feet. “SpongeBob SquarePants” hymns filled Progressive Field, while Gonzalez searched for a quick match preview.
It took two pitches before Gonzalez hit former Cleveland ace cutie Cory Klopper deep into the left midfield bench not only to give Guardians wins 1-0, 15-game win over Rays in Game Two of the American League Wild Card Series on Saturday afternoon, but also send them to the AL Division Series, which begins Tuesday against the Yankees in New York. In the dugout, chaos ensued.
“Yes, I knew right away it was a good connection,” Gonzalez said through team translator Agustin Rivero. “And also the angle the ball was going, I knew it was going to be a home run.”
“I threw [the cup] “Boiling broth poured right over my hat,” Pepper said. “I couldn’t be happier about it. What a special time, and I am so happy for it.”
But Gonzalez has a reputation for being strong and there are only a few Guardians who can be expected to make such a huge impact with a single stroke of the racquet. His 31 owners in 121 matches between Double-A and Triple-A in 2021 certainly raised some eyebrows. He didn’t flex his muscles much after making his major league debut in May, but over the past few weeks of the regular season, he’s started giving glimpses of that untapped potential.
Gonzalez knew he needed to get on the field quickly. He got a cutter to start the attack and watched him miss the bottom outer corner of the strike zone. He did not deviate from his plan.
“During bat time, I was looking for a flat floor,” Gonzalez said. “I know myself and I know I can’t respond to Fastball, so I was just trying to put myself in a better position to break the pitch.”
Seated quickly, Gonzalez saw another cutter coming right above the center of the board, and gave Cleveland their first exit for Homer to clinch the post-season streak in club history (13th in MLB history).
“Maybe I hadn’t finished tying my pants at that time and heard the loudest sound in my life and that was his barrel,” Hedges laughed, “and then the fans started screaming and I saw the boys running there, so I didn’t even see him.” … Nothing makes me happier than running into the field with the guys.”
“Seeing them waiting for me on the board, especially so many players that I’ve seen all my life and been playing with, is very special,” Gonzalez said.
It’s become a record for the unprecedented success many rookies have had for Cleveland this season, but along with Stephen Kwan, Gonzalez may be the most impressive story. Gonzalez toured about 0.300 on average all season, finishing at 125 OPS+ with 11 Homers, 27 doubles and 43 RBIs in 91 games. And after just two games into his post-season career, he’s shown he’s not afraid of the spotlight.
“If you look up his numbers in the minor leagues, he does what he has done his entire career,” Hedges said. “The game doesn’t change for him. …Oscar is the perfect example of a guy who just came out and it’s Oscar in every match. When he does things like that, no one is surprised.”
Gonzalez stopped his usual jump celebration as he approached second place. His teammates were ready to douse him with water in the dish before emptying champagne bottles over his head at the club. As it neared third place, video screens showed a fan in the stands dressed as SpongeBob, as 34,971 fans celebrated that at least another post-season game was happening at Progressive Field next Saturday with Game 3 from ALDS.
This means that there will be at least one more instance of SpongeBob SquarePants hymns.
“I think the song SpongeBob walkup is here to stay for a bit,” Bieber said with a smile.