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Orel Hershiser's best season in years helped the 1995 Cleveland Indians win the pennant

The Bulldog turned in his best season in years, helping the Tribe rotation become one of the best in the league.

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The 1995 Cleveland Indians were an incredible team. They are rightfully famed for their other-worldly offense, but their pitching was excellent as well. As we all know, they fell in the World Series that October, making them arguably the best team ever among those that didn't win the Fall Classic.

It's been 20 years since that team brought the city of Cleveland to its feet and ended decades of frustration with an AL Pennant. Throughout this anniversary year we'll be celebrating them, as the current version of the Tribe hopefully makes its own run to the postseason. Each week I'll look back at one of the key players from that season, counting down to the very best of them.

Previous entries:

#7: Orel Hershiser

Orel Hershiser became a star in the late 80s, with a string of great seasons highlighted by 1988, when he broke the MLB record for consecutive scoreless innings on his way to winning 23 games while posting a 2.26 ERA in 267 innings. The Dodgers won the World Series, and Hershiser won the National League Cy Young.

In the early 90s though, Hershiser slowed down, way down. Seemingly overnight, he went from among the very best in baseball to league average. By the end of the 1994 season, what once looked like a surefire Hall of Fame career no longer had that shine. The Indians were able to sign Hershiser to a three-year deal for little more than $6 million. It would prove to be one of the best signings in franchise history.

Things didn't start off very well, as Hershiser gave up 5 runs in 5 innings during his first start for the Tribe, then 4 runs in his second start, both of which were losses for the Indians. His next time out though, Orel tossed 8 shutout innings against Kansas City, as no one made it as far as third base against him. On June 5 Hershiser delivered the best game any Tribe pitcher had all season, a complete game shutout of the Tigers, which included 10 strikeouts.

Hershiser was especially good during the second half, when he was the Tribe's best pitcher. He finished the season with eight consecutive quality starts (6+ innings, no more than 3 runs allowed), the second longest streak by an American League pitcher all season. The Indians went 7-1 in those games, as Hershiser ran his record to 16-6. He finished the year with a 3.87 ERA, good for an ERA+ of 121. He'd held batters to a .244 average, 10th best in the American League.

Hershiser's postseason performance in 1988 was legendary. The day after pitching 7 innings he'd come in and recorded the final out of Game 4 of the NLCS, picking up the save in a 12-inning victory. Three days later he'd pitched a five-hit shutout in Game 7, sending the Dodgers to the World Series. He pitched another shutout in Game 2, then allowed two runs in a complete game victory in Game 5, as Los Angeles clinched the series. While not quite on that same level, Hershiser's postseason performance in 1995 was also excellent.

Orel pitched 7.1 shutout innings in Game 2 of the ALDS against Boston, with 7 strikeouts and only 3 hits allowed. In Game 2 of the ALCS against Seattle, Hershiser allowed just 1 run in 8 innings, again striking out 7. He struck out 8 in Game, another Tribe win, and was named ALCS MVP at the conclusion of the series. The only one of his starts the Indians lost that October was Game 1 of the World Series, when he gave up only three runs, but was out-dueled by greg Maddux.

With the Tribe against the ropes, down three games to one, Hershiser took the mound for Game 5, and allowed just 2 runs (1 earned) in 8 innings, as the Indians staved off elimination. Sadly they couldn't stave it off again in Game 6. In his five appearances that postseason, Hershiser posted a 1.53 ERA in 35.1 innings, making him the team's top performer that month.