Bullpen Mafia Survives A Marathon; Indians 3, Tigers 2
By Mike Brandyberry
Mafias normally band together, become their strongest, when they are pushed into a corner, with no where to hide. The normally tough Bullpen Mafia had not been so tough on the last road trip, but Monday evening and Tuesday morning, the mafia pitched twelve scoreless innings to give the Indians a 3-2 victory in fourteen innings against the Detroit Tigers.
Dubbed as the opener to the “series of the season,” Indians fans liked their chances with staff ace Justin Masterson on the mound to open the series, against deadline acquisition Doug Fister. However, Mother Nature removed both starters after only two innings.
The Indians jumped on top early with two runs in the first inning when Jason Kipnis doubled to start the inning and was chased home by an Asdrubal Cabrera base hit up the middle. After Travis Hafner singled to right, moving Cabrera to third, Kosuke Fukudome flew out to center fielder Austin Jackson for a sacrifice fly.
Detroit answered right back in the top of the second inning when Jhonny Peralta and Carlos Guillen singled and Alex Avila walked to load the bases with no one out. Masterson induced back to back ground outs, resulting in runs but minimizing the damage. He struck out Brandon Boesch to end the inning.
Then, it rained. What originally was expected to be a quick storm, became a two hour, three minute rain delay, scratching Fister and Masterson from the game.
With the game turned over to the bullpens, Duane Below and Chad Durbin took over, dealing the way the starters were expected to. Durbin worked a season-long three scoreless innings, while Below did not allow a hit in four innings. Rafael Perez worked out of a jam in the sixth.
Tony Sipp worked a five pitch seventh inning when Avila singled, but pinch hitter Ramon Santiago popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt. Sipp caught the bunt on the fly, wheeled and threw Avila out at first. Jackson promptly flied to right field to end any threat. Sipp retired the first two batters in the eighth before Vinnie Pestano struck out Miguel Cabrera.
The Indians had a chance to take control of the game in the bottom of the eighth when Jason Donald pinch hit for Lonnie Chisenhall with a double to dead center field. The base hit was the first for the Tribe since the second inning. Ezequiel Carrera moved Donald to third with one out, but a botched suicide squeeze by Michael Brantley resulted in Donald being retired. Brantley then flew out to left field to end the inning. A squeeze play is always risky, but considering Brantley has been hampered by a sore wrist, it may have been Brantley’s best chance to get the run home.
And then, in case each bullpen hadn’t worked enough, they shut down their opponents through the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth. Pestano, Chris Perez and Joe Smith worked the late innings for the Tribe, while Phil Coke and Al Alburquerque fired zeros for the Tigers. When Joaquin Benoit stifled the Tribe in the twelfth, the west coast games went final.
It was 1:11 am, and the first game started on the day’s slate would now be the last to finish. At 1:40, when Frank Herrmann finished the top of the fourteenth, and the bullpen was empty, pitching coach Tim Belcher asked Josh Tomlin if he thought he could pitch if it came to it.
Finally, in the bottom of the fourteenth Cabrera walked, Hafner singled to centerfield and Carlos Santana was intentionally walked to load the bases. And at 1:52, with Tomlin warmed for the fifteenth, Fukudome was hit by a pitch to give the Indians the win. It wasn’t pretty, but they’ll take it.
Every member of the bullpen pitched. In twelve innings, they allowed six hits, three walks, eleven strike outs and no runs, on 183 pitches.
The victory cuts the Tigers Central Division lead to only three games. Ubaldo Jimenez will make his Progressive Field debut Wednesday evening and hopefully give the bullpen a much needed rest. They need it.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images