Guardians clinch spot in ALDS behind walk-off home run in 15th inning to eliminate the Rays

Ryan Lewis
Akron Beacon Journal

CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Guardians and Tampa Bay Rays set a record Saturday for the longest scoreless postseason game in major league history at 15 innings. Then Oscar Gonzalez ended it in an instant in the 15th.

The Guardians rookie blasted a home run to left field, giving Cleveland a 1-0 victory to win the American League Wild Card series 2-0 and advance to the AL Division Series against the Yankees.

Gonzalez, who walks to the plate to the “SpongeBob SquarePants” theme song, drove a 1-0 cutter from Corey Kluber, the 432nd pitch in the nearly five-hour game, over the 19-foot wall in left-center to touch off a wild celebration inside Progressive Field.

As Gonzalez rounded the bases, and his teammates gathered near home plate, the sellout crowd of 34,971 fans shook the ballpark as Cleveland’s surprise season turned more story book.

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AL Central champion Cleveland, the youngest team in the major leagues, opens the best-of-five Division Series on Tuesday at the AL East champ New York Yankees.

Cleveland defied odds all year in its first season after adopting their new nickname, Guardians. The team unexpectedly won the AL Central going away, then swept the more experienced Rays.

Tampa Bay was bounced quickly from it's fourth straight postseason appearance. The Rays finished the season with seven straight losses and managed just one run and nine hits in the series.

Guardians right fielder Oscar Gonzalez rounds the bases after his walk-off home run in the 15th inning.

The game was the longest in Cleveland postseason history.

The previous record for the longest scoreless postseason game was set two years ago, when Atlanta beat Cincinnati 1-0 in the NL Wild Card Series opener on Freddie Freeman's walk-off single in the 13th inning.

Tampa got just four hits through 14 innings and used eight pitchers, including Kluber, who made his first relief appearance in more than nine years.

Cleveland had four hits and also used eight pitchers.

There were 36 strikeouts through 14 innings.