'Agonizingly fun': Luplow snag saves day

May 25th, 2021

“I love it, but it's torture.”

Indians manager Terry Francona couldn’t find any other words to describe what it was like to watch the ending of his team’s 6-5 victory over the Tigers on Monday night.

As many times as the offense tried to create some separation from the Tigers at Comerica Park, it came down to a one-run ballgame in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded. And a soft line drive by former Indian Eric Haase appeared like it was going fall into shallow right field for at least the game-tying run, when saved the game.

“That's as close as you can come to losing without losing," said Francona. "That was -- I mean, it was fun, but when I say it was fun, it was agonizingly fun.”

Josh Naylor had started in right field in the series opener in Detroit, but after his last at-bat in the top of the eighth, Francona decided to sub in Luplow as a defensive replacement -- a move that ended up assuring Cleveland would walk away with a victory. As the 82.7 mph line drive came off Haase’s bat, it appeared as though it was going to find grass.

“It's really hard to explain,” Francona said, when about his emotions when watching Luplow come charging in. “It's like your stomach's in your throat and you kind of figure the game is going to be over one way or another. It's torture, but it's fun. I love it, but it's torture.”

Luplow hustled in and dove to snag the ball just before it hit the ground. He landed on his stomach, rolled over and casually jogged in toward the infield as Haase was left stunned at first base.

"Yeah, I thought it was down,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “I immediately looked to see where [Jonathan] Schoop was. He's going with contact with two outs. I wasn't sure if Luplow was going to play that on a hop or dive. Then when I picked the ball back up, he had dove, and we were done."

“That’s what we're here for, to win games, and I think it was really exciting,” Indians outfielder Eddie Rosario said. “It was a tough play, so really exciting.”

It wasn’t a play that set off alarms in the Statcast database, but it was the only reason the Indians were able to come away with their 25th win of the season. Cleveland was on the heels of Sunday's extra-innings loss and reliever Emmanuel Clase was having difficulty finding the strike zone. But Luplow was ready to be the hero.

“I was actually in the clubhouse watching it on TV, but it was awesome,” Indians starter Sam Hentges said. “We were all kind of standing up watching that pitch and then we heard a roar and we didn’t know if it was from our dugout or from the fans on the field. But it was an unbelievable catch and it was definitely nice to come out of here with a win.”