Saturday, April 26, 2008

If the Left One Doesn't Get Ya...

With all of the hullabaloo about the Indians’ hitters finally finding their bats and Cliff Lee turning into Sandy Koufax, the underappreciated performance of the back of the revamped bullpen (sans JoeBo) has been just as vital in the Tribe rattling off four in a row. In the Indians’ last 8 games, in which they are 6-2, the back end of the bullpen has started to gel with Betancourt finally closing games and Perez and Masa serving as his primary set-up men. With the demotion of Jensen Lewis (whose velocity still sits in what will heretofore be known as “BrodzoskiLand”), the Indians seem to have settled on The Two Rafaels and Mr. Death Ball to close out the 7th, 8th, and 9th in close games.

In the aforementioned 8 games, both Kobayashi and Betancourt have pitched extremely well, with Perez scuffling (albeit ridden hard and often by the Atomic Wedgie)…that is until last night. Going into last night’s game, the back end of the bullpen posted these performances in their previous 7 games:
Kobayashi – 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Perez – 4 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
Betancourt – 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

Then last night arrives, with the Indians clinging to a lead against that “vaunted” Yankee lineup with more than three innings to go to close out the game. What happened in the 5th inning and beyond last night may serve as the moment that the back end of the bullpen settled itself as Rafael Perez righted himself in a very large and in charge manner (2 1/3 IP, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 K), getting an improbable 7 outs with a mere 23 pitches (17 of which were strikes) while allowing only one baserunner.

Following the Scarecrow, Senor Slo-Mo emerged to the sound of gavels hammering down and the crowd being commanded to “All Rise…Betancourt is in Session”. How did the Fist of Steel react to facing A-Rod, Matsui, and Posada with a two run lead? He threw 9 pitches (8 for strikes), retired A-Rod on a weak pop-out, whiffed Matsui, and got Posada to lift a fly ball that Sizemore nestled under for the 27th out.

From the time that Perez entered the game in the 5th, just after Matsui’s HR brought the game to a 5-4 lead for the Tribe, the Fist of Iron and the Fist of Steel threw all of 32 pitches to record 10 outs, allowing only one baserunner via the walk (who was promptly erased via the DP) against the “feared” (notice I use quotes) Yankees lineup.

The dominance from the two of them served as a reminder of how good the Indians’ bullpen was last year and how the fact that The Two Rafaels and Kobayashi have settled into their roles this early in the season (almost immediately after the nominal closer went down with “nothing left in the tank”) figures to play a huge role in the Indians’ defense of the AL Central. As a corollary, the fact that the 7th, 8th, and 9th inning roles have been claimed, the youngsters in the bullpen (namely Lewis and Mastny) can try to find their groove and slot themselves into the 6th inning man, when needed, in low-pressure situations or even allow the organization to audition even younger arms (Stevens, Newsom) for bigger roles on the parent club.

Last night served as a preview of the punches that the Indians’ bullpen possesses, with a Left-Right combination that can’t be matched by many teams.
If you see them coming, better step aside…


Anonymous said...

Probably the worst thing we could hear from the team right now is that Brodzoski is throwing some in the bullpen and his arm is feeling better....

Steve said...

Worse? How about hearing that Dellucci is making a diving effort at a fly ball hit to Left Field?

Baltimoran said...

watched the game with a yankees fan and a sawx fan...thank god the tribe won. after dellucci's terrible route to the ball and worse dive, the sawx fan said "that would never happen with Manny cause there is no way in hell he would dive for a ball anymore." even more frustating to watch that play knowing that francisco got sent back down.
paul interested to hear your take from the yanks dugout

Cy Slapnicka said...

in all honesty, dellucci only missed that ball by a few inches. if he makes that catch, which he damn near did, he's a stud. of course, those that live in baltimore lack the testicular fortitude understand that. even with a good track to the ball and no dive, i imagine those runs score.

as for the kid being sent down, that sucks that he only got 6 ABs and one start. although when you realize that dellucci and michaels didn't exactly struggle when gobbling up his ABs, it softens things. and wedge basically came right out and said the kid is ready, this was just necessary form roster shuffling.

Paul Cousineau said...

From our seats yesterday, we had a line on the ball to Dellucci and, to a man, everyone said "he's got it" as he left his feet. The ball then tailed off and it skidded past him.

Should he have left his feet? I'm not sure. If he makes that catch (which it looked to me, from field level looking down the LF line, that he would) the inning's over - no harm done. Of course, as we all know, when he missed it the bases cleared.

Would Francisco had made that catch? Maybe, but Dellucci's bat has made his inclusion on this roster much more palatable than last year.

Agreed with Cy on The Frisco Kid. I wish that it would have meant the end of Michaels, but it's just the first roster shuffling that's going to go on all season, so Benny will be back with all of the depth the Indians have and with the way injuries seem to be cropping up (hmmm...why would that be) this year.