CLEVELAND - This will forever be known as the Bug Game.
A swarm of insects descended on Jacobs Field in the eighth inning of the Cleveland Indians’ 2-1 playoff victory over the New York Yankees on Friday night, leading to a bizarre scene featuring players waving their arms and gloves in an attempt to keep the pesky bugs away.
The teams kept playing into extra innings as millions of bugs nagged players on the field and in the dugouts.
“Every time you tried to focus on something, they’re flying in your nose and your hair and your face,” said Yankees first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz, who was batting in the top of the eighth when the swarm invaded.
Ron Harrison, an entomologist who works for Orkin Inc., an Atlanta-based pest control company, said the annoying bugs were a type of midge, an insect related to mosquitoes. While some speculated they were Canadian Soldiers, they were much smaller than that type.
During warm fall weather, midges often breed on the outskirts of lakes.
“My feeling is that there has been some breeding around Lake Erie, and air currents are pushing them onto land in mass numbers,” Harrison said.
The insects don’t have piercing, sucking mouth parts, he said.
“They aren’t really biters — more of a nuisance,” Harrison said.
Just ask the Yankees.
They were on the verge of tying the series when the insects arrived in a scenario only Alfred Hitchcock could imagine.
Asked to play amateur entomologist after the game, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter shrugged his shoulders.
“I’m not an expert on what kind of bugs they are. They were small,” he said.
The bugs subsided somewhat after the game went into extra innings. Travis Hafner ended it with an RBI single in the 11th inning, leading to a wild celebration by the Indians in the infield.
Chamberlain and the rest of the Yankees refused to use the bugs as an excuse.
“There’s not much you can do about it,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “He was having trouble seeing out there. I’ll tell you one thing about the kid he never lost his composure. Unfortunately it was at a bad time.”
“They’re flying around in your face it’s going to mess with your vision a little bit,” Jeter said. “But it was like that for both teams.”
Chamberlain was sprayed with insect repellant when he took the mound in the eighth and fans booed as a member of the Yankees staff sprayed him down again in between batters.
“Bugs are bugs,” Chamberlain said. “It’s something you’ve got to deal with.”
Chamberlain, who was in command when he took over in the seventh, lost control. He walked two, hit a batter and threw a pair of wild pitches — he had only one wild pitch during the season.
Chamberlain’s second wild pitch let Grady Sizemore score the tying run from the third base.
Jeter and second baseman Robinson Cano swatted away the bugs with their hats between pitches. Alex Rodriguez used his glove and hat.
The bugs have plagued Jacobs Field in the past. During one memorable September 2004 game, play was stopped several times to allow players, who complained of swallowing the bugs while running the bases, were sprayed with repellant. The Indians lost to the Angels 6-1.
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