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 from both teams waving their arms and gloves in an attempt to keep the pesky bugs away.
The two 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.
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 seemed to subside somewhat after the game went into extra innings. Travis Hafner ended it with an RBI single in the 11th inning, leading to a celebration by the Indians in the infield.
With the Yankees ahead 1-0, the bugs clearly affected Joba Chamberlain and helped the Indians tie the game. Bug spray did little good -- Chamberlain's neck, face and hat were covered with the tiny bugs, and he tried to spit them out of his mouth.
"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."
Almost everyone was affected by the cloud, with players on both teams and the umpires trying in vain to brush them away.
"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
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 before facing Hafner.
"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.
The bugs, which come out in warm weather, 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, to be sprayed with repellant. The Indians lost to the Angels 6-1.