Covering the Bases: Game 90

PestanoFinal: Yankees 5, Indians 4 (14 innings)

FIRST: When a game is lost in extra innings, it is easier to blame the bullpen for the missteps that lead directly to defeat. On Wednesday night, Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury launched the go-ahead, decisive homer off Vinnie Pestano in the 14th inning. Ballgame.

Even with that finish, we’re not going to spend a whole lot of time second-guessing tonight (or this morning, rather). Cleveland’s relief corps had worked pristinely while pressed into extra duty this whole series, up until the ill-fated 0-2 offering that left Pestano’s right hand.

We’ll get to Vinnie P. in a moment, but let’s take a moment first to tip the ol’ cap to the Tribe’s bullpen.

“They’ve been doing it all year, from what I’ve seen,” Indians starter Josh Tomlin said. “They continue to keep doing it. They kept us in the game and did a great job.”

The home run allowed by Pestano actually ended an impressive run of 18 consecutive scoreless innings for Cleveland’s relievers. Sixteen of those innings came in the first three games in this series against New York. That will happen when a starter (Justin Masterson) lasts only two innings on Monday and Wednesday’s game includes two “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” sing-alongs.

Take a look at the work of the rotation vs. bullpen in this series:

Rotation: 16 IP, 18 H, 12 R/11 ER, 5 BB, 12 K, 6.19 ERA, 1.44 WHIP
Bullpen: 16 IP, 10 H, 1 R/ER, 3 BB, 18 K, 0.56 ERA, 0.81 WHIP

In the loss to the Yankees, Scott Atchison, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen followed Tomlin’s seven innings with one frame apiece. John Axford then went 1.1 innings and Marc Rzepczynski logged two. Pestano finished the 14th inning, when the relief corps finally flinched.

“They did great,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Get into a game like that and you’re playing at home, so you always feel like you have an advantage. Everything went pretty much right. Cody pitched out of a little bit of a bind, everybody else really came in and did what they’re supposed to. Vinnie got ahead of Ellsbury 0-2 and tried to bury a breaking ball and left it over. And that’s the game.”

SECOND: This does, however, bring us to the timing of Pestano’s appearance.

Since the right-hander has come back up from Triple-A Columbus, Francona has limited him almost exclusively to facing righties. Including Wednesday’s outing, Pestano has held right-handers to a .208 (5-for-24) average, while lefties have torched him at a .583 (7-for-12) clip. While at Triple-A, Pestano gave up a .314 average to lefties and limited righties to a .125 mark. Entering Wednesday, Pestano had 15 at-bats against righties and only two against lefties since his return on June 20.

“We try to use him against as many righties as we can,” Francona said, “just because we’ve been so successful against them. When you get in a game like this, you really can’t pick and choose too much. I wanted to get him through [Derek] Jeter and it didn’t work.”
Francona was referring to the fact that, when he pulled the left-handed Rzepczynski with one out in the 14th, New York had two right-handed batters (Brendan Ryan and Jeter) sandwiched around the left-handed Ellsbury. Pestano got Ryan to fly out to right field and then he worked Ellsbury into an 0-2 count. That is when Pestano turned to his slider.

“I was trying to back-foot it — just didn’t get it there,” Pestano said. “When you throw a pitch like that to a hitter like that, you need to get it down. It just didn’t get there and he did what he gets paid to do. I can’t make that mistake in that situation. But, can’t take it back — just got to learn from it.

“Lefties throughout my whole career have always seen me better. It’s just one of those things, I had him 0-2, I was in control of the at-bat, I made a mistake and he hit it out. I just needed to execute better.”

Pestano followed with a strikeout of Jeter. The home run was actually the first run allowed by Pestano since his promotion back to the big leagues. He entered the 14th-inning appearance with a 0.00 ERA, .176 opponents’ average, seven strikeouts, no walks and no extra-base hits allowed in five innings back in the Tribe’s bullpen.

THIRD: Tomlin did give the Indians seven innings and it would’ve been a strong performance had Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira not been in the lineup. Tex launched two homers off the right-hander — a solo shot in the fourth and a two-run blast in a three-run fifth.

I just made a few mistakes to one hitter and paid for it,” Tomlin said. “For me, I’m just trying to stay away, show him in when you need to and stay back away. He kind of dives a lot, so he likes the ball middle or out on the outside part of the plate. But, you can kind of get him, if you keep the ball away on him for the most part, he can roll over some pitches.

“I just left two pitches kind of over the middle of the plate and that’s what he did with it. The curveball [for the first homer] just wasn’t executed. It wasn’t down low enough. And the fastball [for the second homer], I tried to get away, just leaked over the middle of the plate.”

Tomlin has now given up 13 home runs in 13 appearances this season. In the no-decision against the Yankees, he ended with five strikeouts, no walks, eight hits scattered, four runs surrendered and 96 pitches (72 strikes).

“I thought he was really good,” Francona said of Tomlin. “The first home run to Teixeira was a breaking ball down that I thought was a good pitch. After he gave up that one to him he stayed away with it and a fastball came back up over the plate for the two-run homer. He’s going give up some hits. He spread them out a little bit.
“Teixeira got him twice. That accounted for three of the runs. Josh will never back down, that’s not an issue.”

HOME: Some of the offensive highlights — Nick Swisher had two hits and two RBIs, giving him nine RBIs in his past eight games for Cleveland. He’s hit .276 with three extra-base hits over that span as well. … Lonnie Chisenhall finally surpassed the required plate-appearance benchmark to qualify for the batting race. That said, he went 0-for-5 and has seen his average drop from .393 to .325 in his past 22 games. … Michael Brantley went 1-for-6 and is tied with Chisenhall with a .325 average on the season. They are tied for fourth overall in the American League. … Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Dickerson also had multi-hit games for the Indians. … All of this said, the team went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position, stranding 11 runners along the way. In the 10th, Cleveland had a prime chance to collect a walk-off win after former Tribe pitcher David Huff walked the bases loaded with one out. Against Shawn Kelley, Swisher struck out and David Murphy grounded out to end the promising rally.

Wednesday’s links:

On deck:

Yankees (46-44) at Indians (44-46)
at 7:05 p.m. ET on Thursday at Progressive Field


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