CHICAGO -- Jensen Lewis was a junior in high school the last time the Indians made the playoffs. He was the only kid trotting around Anderson High School in Cincinnati wearing a replica Omar Vizquel jersey. If the Indians do indeed maintain their six-game lead in the American League Central and make it back to the playoffs this year, they'll do so with the help of the 23-year-old Lewis -- wearing his own Tribe jersey. Cleveland was looking for a reliever to ease the back-end burden on the three-headed monster that is Rafael Betancourt, Rafael Perez and Joe Borowski.
Lewis answered the call. He's held the opposition scoreless in 11 of his last 13 outings and given up one earned run over his last six, prompting manager Eric Wedge to use him in more meaningful situations. "I think it's just been a product of consistency," Lewis said. "That's the biggest thing [Wedge] and [pitching coach] Carl [Willis] are looking for -- somebody who can go out and get meaningful outs." To get those outs, Lewis tries to look at every inning, regardless of the score, as meaningful. "You have to take on the personality of, 'Hey, this is my ninth inning,'" he said. "'This is my time to close things out.' I just take a lot of pride in taking advantage of the chances they've given me." When he was called up to the bigs from Triple-A Buffalo on July 13, Lewis was certainly a feel-good story, given his Medina, Ohio, roots and his rooting interest in the Indians while growing up. But his role was uncertain. He could have stayed in the Majors a day, a week or a month, for all anyone knew. Two months later, Lewis, who owns an 0-1 record and 3.00 ERA in 19 appearances, is still here -- and very much a part of the Indians' playoff plans. "I just wanted to get my feet wet and get in some games," Lewis said. "Now, they think I can be a contributor and a guy who's a difference-maker. It's exciting to know that. It's really rewarding." The ultimate reward, of course, would be playing for an Indians team in the postseason. The very thought of doing so strikes Lewis as surreal. "You can't get anymore storybook than that," he said. Here's the question ... With 185 strikeouts and just 33 walks this season, C.C. Sabathia has a 5.61 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Since 1901, only one other Major League left-hander has posted a better ratio. Can you name him? Nice work: The player development system has one chief goal in mind -- player development. But that doesn't stop a Minor League manager such as Torey Lovullo from getting caught up in the standings. Lovullo is like any big league skipper in that he wanted his team to reach the postseason. That didn't happen for Buffalo this year, as the Bisons were eliminated from International League playoff contention on the second-to-last day of the season. But when Lovullo, brought up to help out the Major League coaching staff over the weekend, looks around Cleveland's clubhouse and sees Buffalo alums such as Lewis, Aaron Laffey, Rafael Perez, Franklin Gutierrez and Asdrubal Cabrera, he knows his efforts down on the farm did not go to waste. "I'm sitting there in Buffalo, N.Y., trying to win as many games as possible and make it to the playoffs," Lovullo said. "We had a chance, but we came up short at the end. But when I see these guys contributing and making an impact, it really makes me feel good." Seeing red: Plenty of green seats are available for next week's potentially pivotal three-game home set with the second-place Tigers, and the Indians would like to see them filled with red. At last count, less than 23,000 tickets had been sold for the Sept. 17 and 19 games, and the club had sold less than 27,000 seats for the Sept. 18 game. The Indians are encouraging all fans who attend the series to come decked out in red to give the games a more special feel. Tickets can be purchased at Indians.com. Tribe tidbits: The Indians' team charter didn't arrive in Chicago from Anaheim until after 4 a.m. CT on Monday morning. And that was actually an earlier arrival than anticipated after Sunday evening's game against the Angels. ... It was Ben Francisco -- not Gutierrez or Trot Nixon -- who got the start in right field against White Sox starter Gavin Floyd in Monday's series opener. Wedge made that move because Francisco has faced Floyd -- who was making his first career appearance against the Indians -- in the Minors. Down on the farm: Double-A Akron is seeking its third Eastern League Championship Series victory in five seasons. The Aeros open the best-of-five series on the road in Trenton on Tuesday night, with top prospect Adam Miller getting the start in Game 1. Miller is still in rehab mode after missing several weeks with a midseason elbow injury, so he'll likely only work a few innings. Left-hander Chuck Lofgren will start Game 2 in Trenton and left-hander Jeremy Sowers, still an option for the start in one of the Indians' Sept. 26 doubleheader games against the Mariners, will start Game 3 in Akron. And the answer is ... Randy Johnson had a 6.59 strikeout-to-walk ratio with the Diamondbacks in 2004. On deck: The Indians and White Sox continue their three-game set with Tuesday's 8:11 p.m. ET game at U.S. Cellular Field. Tribe right-hander Paul Byrd (14-6, 4.34 ERA) will oppose left-hander John Danks (6-13, 5.41) of the White Sox.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.