Omar Vizquel ... "Thanks, Cleveland."
Omar Vizquel reminded Indians fans what they've missed Tuesday. He didn't get a hit and still helped the San Francisco Giants to a 3-2 win in his first game in Cleveland since 2004. The 41-year-old future Hall of Famer had a suicide-squeeze bunt and made one of his usually fine defensive plays in the Giants' first game in Cleveland since they completed a four-game sweep of the 1954 World Series.
Vizquel, one of the most popular athletes to ever play any sport in Cleveland during his 11 seasons with the Indians beginning in 1994, received a huge ovation when introduced before the game. The fans cheered again after a video tribute was played on the giant scoreboard screen -- as he sat on the top step of the Giants' dugout and enjoyed watching one after another of his great highlights in an Indians uniform.
"It was great, very emotional," said the 11-time Gold Glove Award winning shortstop, whose fine fielding helped the Giants hold off the Indians in the ninth inning.
Vizquel, cheered each time he came to bat, went 0-for-3, stranding two runners in the second inning and three more in the seventh before recapturing some of his old magic.
With runners on first and third in the ninth, he put down a well-placed suicide-squeeze bunt to score Rich Aurilia from third to give the Giants a 3-1 lead.
"He laid it down there perfectly," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "There's not too many guys who get it down like that. Omar's pretty good at that."
He's pretty good with the leather, too, and showed it for the umpteenth time in Cleveland in the bottom of the inning.
With Indians on first and third, pinch-hitter David Dellucci poked a bouncer that seemed like it could snake its way between third and short. Against most any other shortstop, it probably would. But Vizquel, even wearing a brace on his left knee after surgery this spring, sprinted to his right, backhanded the ball, then leaped up, twisted, and threw to second for a forceout.
Ben Francisco scored, but the out was a key one for San Francisco closer Brian Wilson, who yielded two hits and a walk, but got his 20th save.
"Omar saved us with that play in the ninth," Giants manager Bruce Bochy told The Associated Press. "He showed you can have a great game without a base hit."
An error by Cleveland catcher Kelly Shoppach let the Giants break a 1-1 tie in the eighth.
With runners on first and third, Shoppach admitted he was concerned the Giants may try to make something happen in the tight game. When Randy Winn broke for second, the catcher didn't make one of his usually strong throw, but bounced a ball that got past second baseman Jamey Carroll, allowing Ray Durham to trot home from third.
"I was a little hesitant and the ball came out funny," Shoppach said. "I wanted to make sure they weren't trying something (a double steal), so I peeked down to third and the ball didn't come out of my hand right.
"I've done that play a million times. There's no room for doubt in this game. You have to believe in yourself and believe in your ability."
Wedge was less than pleased.
"It's the big leagues and if he makes a good throw, the guy's out," he said. "That's typically Kelly's strength. He made a mistake tonight and hopefully he learned from it and will be better the next time.
"You can't make mistakes late in a game and expect to win."
Starter Aaron Laffey pitched well again, allowing one run over 6 2/3 innings, lowering his ERA to 2.83. The left-hander gave up four hits and three walks, striking out one and wouldn't blame the lineup for not getting him enough runs.
"That's out of my hands," Laffey said. "I don't worry about uncontrollables. I just want to give us a chance to win. I think I did that.
"I felt great, though I struggled with my command a little bit early and then again late. I got on a roll for awhile there, though."
The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the first off Jonathan Sanchez. Grady Sizemore singled, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and came home on a two-out single by Ryan Garko.
Before the game, Vizquel met with the media and tried to express how much he loved his time in Cleveland. He said his only regret was not being able to bring a World Series championship to his adopted home town.
"We got there twice and got to a game seven, which is the highlight of any player's career," he said. "I was watching them on TV last year and thought they were really going to do it.
"I'm always rooting for the Indians. Except not tonight."
Not the next two, either.