CLEVELAND -- The Indians were one bad pitch from having things unravel on Sunday. The Tribe had a win in its sights in the opener of a doubleheader against the Tigers, but a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning threatened the team's chances.
That is when manager Terry Francona handed the ball to Jeff Manship, who has quietly emerged as one of baseball's top relievers over the past two-plus months.
"We were kind of talking about it the other day in the dugout," Francona said after the Indians' 7-2 win over the Tigers in Game 1. "I think he's having a ball, and he should. He's gone from where he was a starter and kind of bounced around and was maybe a little inconsistent, to sort of finding a role and taking it and running with it."
Manship helped the Tribe sail to a victory.
With two outs and the bases empty in the sixth inning, Francona initially handed the ball to right-hander Zach McAllister, because the manager liked the matchup with Detroit's Steven Moya. McAllister proceeded to walk Moya, and the next two batters, loading the bases with Cleveland clinging to a 3-2 lead.
"That was a difficult situation," Francona said. "I thought it was set up pretty well for Zach. We wanted velocity with Moya. And he got ahead, 1-2, and then from there things were kind of going the wrong way. The at-bat to Gose was obviously huge."
Manship fell behind twice -- 1-0 and 2-1 -- but eventually worked the count full against Detroit's leadoff hitter. From there, the right-hander stuck with his four-seam fastball for the next four pitches. Gose fouled off three in a row before swinging through the ninth pitch for a key strikeout.
"That was obviously the key at-bat of the game," Francona said.
Heading into Sunday's second game with the Tigers, Manship's season ERA was tied for the third-lowest mark among Major League relievers with at least 30 innings. His 0.71 WHIP ranked first and his .152 opponents' average ranked fifth in the Majors, trailing only Javier Lopez, Andrew Miller, Wade Davis and Dellin Betances.
"The consistency is the biggest thing," said Manship, who signed a Minor League contract with the Indians last winter and was called up from Triple-A in June. "In past years, it was have a good outing, then a bad outing, then a good outing, then a really bad outing and it just messes up your overall stats and it's hard to come back from.
"This year, it's been nice going out there every day. My arm has been rebounding a lot better than I was expecting it to rebound. I've been able to go back-to-back days. I haven't been able to do that much in my career."