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Game 89: Indians 3, Rays 2

Michael Brantley, casting a spell before stepping in to the batter's box.
Michael Brantley, casting a spell before stepping in to the batter's box.

For a while, it looked as if the early missed opportunities would come back to the haunt the Indians, but Pestano and Perez made a one-run lead stand up.

Zach McAllister was making his second straight start against Tampa Bay, and although he had some bouts of wildness, he continued to get swings and misses. He struck out five in six innings of working, allowing just 3 hits and 1 run. He was bit rusty coming off an extended break, but he worked around those self-imposed jams, at times making his curve his primary strike pitch.

Alex Cobb was also coming off a similar break, but he couldn't work through the wildness. The box score says he only allowed 3 runs in 3.1 innings, but it should have been a lot more than that. Joe Maddon pulled him with the bases loaded and one out in the third, and the Indians couldn't push another run across, never mind get a big hit that would break the game open. The Tampa Bay bullpen would blank the Indians over the remainder of the game, making what could have been a laugher into a nail-biter.

Because Joe Smith threw multiple innings on Sunday, Manny Acta instead tried to use Esmil Rogers to get through the seventh inning. Rogers tried to get ahead of Desmond Jennings with a fastball, but the Tampa Bay left fielder was ready, and he hammered the pitch deep into the left field seats, cutting the lead to 1 and leaving the Indians with no margin for error the rest of the game. Rogers would retire the next two batters on grounders, but then walked Will Rhymes to bring up Carlos Pena. Acta brought in Tony Sipp to face Pena, but Maddon pinch-hit Sean Rodriguez for him, and Sipp walked him. So Acta called on his third pitcher of the inning, Vinnie Pestano, who would strike out the Ben Zobrist to end the inning. Because the Indians were now behind schedule, Pestano would need to go beyond his usual inning of work, and although he got through the eighth unscathed, he had to work hard to keep the Indians in the lead. Chris Perez pitched a perfect ninth to record the save and another one-run victory.

The Indians ended up winning the game, but this win could end up hurting them over the next couple of games, as the Indians had to use Vinnie Pestano for 1.1 innings and over 25 pitches, meaning that he probably won't be available for tomorrow's game.

Acta went with a revamped lineup tonight, moving Michael Brantley to cleanup and shifting both Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner down a couple spots. Acta made the move to maximize the number of at-bats the best four hitters on the team get, and right now Brantley is not only one of the best hitters on the Indians, but in all of baseball; going into tonight's game, Brantley was hitting .500/.553/.912 over the last 14 days (38 PA). Over the last 28 days, he's hitting .358/.435/.556. Jose Lopez, who was starting at third against a right-handed pitcher, was hitting fifth, and given how Jack Hannahan has been hitting lately, may be in the lineup more regularly. Johnny Damon went 2-for-3 on the evening, and seems to finally be in a groove even though he's sharing time with Shelley Duncan.

Source: FanGraphs