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May 20, 2013

What You Need to Know

Cy of Relief

by Daniel Rathman


The Weekend Takeaway
Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano, who came off the disabled list in time for the ongoing series against the Mariners, issued this warning to other teams after the third game of four:

A couple of hours earlier, the Tribe put a six-run (five earned) hurting on Felix Hernandez, who had permitted only five total runs over his previous six starts. That was far more support than Cleveland starter Justin Masterson—who fired a four-hitter versus the Yankees last week—needed, as the righty extended his scoreless streak to 19 innings and fanned 11 in the 6-0 Indians win.

Hernandez, who entered Sunday’s assignment with a 1.53 ERA, had allowed only 20 extra-base hits to the 246 batters he had faced. The red-hot Indians notched five in 26 plate appearances—four of them doubles, the fifth a three-run homer by Michael Brantley. And if King Felix is down in the dumps after his first clunker since April 11, Pestano’s tweet might provide a bit of consolation.

Terry Francona’s offense, which led the league with a 793 OPS coming into Sunday’s contest, has done its best work against the most decorated pitchers to cross its path this season. As MLB.com beat writer Zack Meisel pointed out, Cy Young Award winners—both recent, like R.A. Dickey and David Price, and more distant, like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee—have all struggled to escape the Tribe’s wrath unscathed. Together, they have been touched up for 42 runs in 41 2/3 innings of work, and the Indians are 7-1 this season when facing a pitcher with at least one such honor under his belt.

Of course, the Indians haven’t merely honed their swings and eyes for opposing aces: They’ve been quite good regardless of the hurler toeing the rubber in recent weeks. Francona’s squad has won 17 of its last 21 games, the franchise’s most successful stretch since its near-pennant-winning 2007 campaign, which still represents its most recent playoff appearance and division title. Considered a .500 team by PECOTA, even in light of general manager Chris Antonetti’s winter moves, the Indians on Saturday moved into first place for the first time this season. They had not held the perch alone since June 23 of last year.

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