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Dennis Martinez, ace of the staff, was awesome for the 1995 Cleveland Indians

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El Presidente had a sky-high approval rating in 1995.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images


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:

#3: Dennis Martinez

Dennis Martinez turned 40 years old a month into his first season with the Indians, in 1994. That's not an age when most players are still especially effective, but Martinez wasn't most players. He did well that year, and was on the mound for Opening Day in 1995. That afternoon against the Rangers he allowed two runs (one earned) in six innings of work, helping the Tribe get off to a winning start.

All season long, getting at least six innings from Martinez was nearly a sure thing, as he failed to go that deep only twice in his 28 regular season starts. Among all MLB pitchers that year, only Randy Johnson and David Cone went 6+ innings more times than Martinez.

On June 3rd Martinez pitched the Tribe's first complete game of the season, shutting out the Blue Jays at Jacobs Field. Ten days later, again in front of the home crowd, Martinez pitched another shutout, making him the only Indians pitcher with more than one of them all season. His June numbers were fantastic: A 1.96 ERA in 46 innings, with three times as many strikeouts as walks.

That was plenty good enough to get him named to the American League All-Star team (he'd previously appeared on the NL team three times, while pitching for the Expos), and he pitched two innings in that summer's game.

On August 17, while facing the Brewers, Martinez caught Kevin Seitzer looking in the 1st inning, giving Dennis his 2,000th career strikeout, making him only the 45th pitcher to reach that mark, and only the 4th pitcher from Latin America to do so. (Martinez was born in Nicaragua.)

In 28 starts, Martinez was charged with more than 3 earned runs only five times, quite an accomplishment in a season when offense was reaching record heights. At season's end, Martinez has thrown a team-high 187 innings, with a 3.08 ERA, which was good for an ERA+ of 152, which ranked 4th among all qualified Major League starters. Among all Tribe starters in the two decades since then, only Cliff Lee's Cy Young-winner 2008 season featured a better ERA+.

Martinez pitched well in the ALDS against Boston and the ALCS Seattle, including seven shutout innings in the Tribe's pennant-clinching Game 6 victory. Unfortunately, the magic ran out in the World Series, as he took the loss in Game 2. He started Game 6, but was pulled during the 5th inning despite not having allowed a run.

Two more wins at the end would of course have made a tremendous difference, but Martinez's season was still among the most accomplished in recent Tribe history. The 1995 Indians were known for their offense, but with El Presidente at the head of the rotation, the pitching more than held its own.