CLEVELAND -- The "comeback wins" stat is not necessarily the best barometer of a team's intestinal fortitude. After all, a club could give up a run in the top of the first, score two in the bottom of the inning and ride that 2-1 score to the finish line and have it considered a "comeback." So don't judge the Indians solely by their comeback wins, which stand at a big-league best 24 after Friday night's ninth-inning heroics off the bat of Ben Francisco. And don't judge them by the fact that those 24 wins fall just three short of last year's season total for comeback victories.
Rather, pay particular attention to the fact that the Tribe has won 12 games when tied or trailing after seven innings. And take note that it has won 12 games in its last at-bat, including seven at home. "That's just the way these guys fight," manager Eric Wedge said. "It's not just this year, but if you look back over the last few years, it's the way these guys play. They don't quit, and they don't give into anything. They respect the game enough to see it through." While Wedge might be right about past teams having late-inning tenacity, this season is an obvious improvement over 2006, when the Indians had a season total of 12 wins when tied or trailing after seven innings. Clearly, then, this club -- off to the franchise's best start since 1999 -- is well ahead of that pace. How has the '07 installment of the Tribe made this happen? "You've got to be in a position to win a ballgame, for starters," Wedge said. "And then you've got to take advantage of it." When it comes to the Tribe's late-inning heroics, this past week has been particularly enthralling. They put up five runs in the ninth, capped by Kelly Shoppach's three-run homer, to post an 8-5 win over the A's on Tuesday, used Jason Michaels' three-run, seventh-inning homer to beat Oakland, 4-3, on Thursday, and saw Francisco jack a solo shot to lead off the bottom of the ninth in Friday's 2-1 win over the Devil Rays. In case you're scoring at home, those aren't exactly the names of the Indians' prime-time players. And in Wedge's mind, that's the beauty of it. "Everybody's contributed," he said. "It's been that way all year." Here's the question ... Francisco's big blast was the 50th walkoff homer in Jacobs Field's history. Can you name the last Indians player to hit a walkoff shot for his first Major League home run? Time to reflect: From the "What have you done for me lately?" department comes this trend. While Shoppach, Michaels and Francisco have each played the part of the hero at one point this week, they have also all found themselves riding the pine the next day. On Saturday, it was Francisco's turn to take a day to reflect on his monumental blast. He had no qualms about it, seeing as how he is the club's fifth outfielder, after all. "That's my role here," he said. "I'll take it. It's great being here with the guys." Besides, Francisco could probably use the time off to catch up on some phone calls. His cell phone was buzzing all night, as friends and family called to congratulate him on his amazing first start in the big leagues. "I got too many calls to return," he said. "It was good to get a lot of support." Francisco's parents, Louis and Gretchen, were watching from their home in Anaheim, Calif., where they subscribe to the MLB Extra Innings package on DirectTV to see the Indians' games. "They were probably more excited than me," Francisco said with a smile. About the lineup: For Wedge, the decision to start Francisco on Friday, when the Indians faced Rays right-hander Edwin Jackson, came down to the young outfielder's success against righties at Triple-A Buffalo. On Saturday, with left-hander J.P. Howell on the mound, Wedge went back to Michaels in left and Franklin Gutierrez in right. Michaels was batting .338 off left-handers; Gutierrez was hitting .333. "We've been juggling the lineups all year, looking at matchups and lefts and rights," Wedge said. "You try to envision the numbers against righties and lefties and try to see it before it happens." Lately, Wedge has been batting Victor Martinez in the No. 3 hole, with Travis Hafner at cleanup, as he has simply been playing the hot hand while Hafner continues to work himself out of his struggles at the plate. "That gets [Martinez] up in the first inning," Wedge said. "He's been our most consistent hitter this year. Hopefully, Travis makes me change my mind about that." Tribe tidbits: Wedge said to expect Shoppach, who is batting .380 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 30 games this season, to catch for left-hander Cliff Lee on Sunday. The vast majority of Shoppach's starts, to this point, have come with Paul Byrd on the mound. ... The Indians reached an agreement on a Minor League contract with outfielder/infielder Bo Greenwell, their sixth-round pick in this year's amateur draft. He is the son of former Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell. A star prep athlete at Riverdale High School in Ft. Myers, Fla., Greenwell had committed to playing for the University of Miami before signing with the Tribe. ... According to STATS Inc., the Indians, with an average age of 28.27, have the seventh-youngest roster in the Majors. And the answer is ... Josh Bard hit a walk-off homer for his first big-league home run on Aug. 23, 2002, against the Mariners. On deck: The four-game set with the Devil Rays continues with Sunday's 1:05 p.m. ET game at The Jake. Though kids will receive a C.C. Sabathia mitt, it will be Lee (4-4, 5.37 ERA) on the mound, opposing right-hander James Shields (6-3, 3.81). The Indians will also find out which of their players are headed to July's All-Star Game.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.