NEW YORK -- You won't find David Dellucci bragging about his 10 career pinch-hit home runs. "I don't know if it's a good thing to hit a lot of pinch-hit home runs," he said with a smile, "because it just means you've been pinch-hitting a lot." But for an Indians team that hasn't been hitting a lot -- pinch or otherwise -- Dellucci's three-run shot in a cameo appearance against Joba Chamberlain in the eighth inning on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium was a welcome plot twist in a game that had otherwise been following a predictable script.
With that blast off Dellucci's bat, an Indians team four outs away from defeat was instead propelled to a 5-3 win over the Yankees. "We needed somebody to step up for us," manager Eric Wedge said, "with the way things have been going." The way things have been going is well-documented. The Indians came into the game with the second-lowest team batting average (.242) in the American League and in the midst of a particularly brutal three-game stretch in which they hit .165. Making matters even less encouraging, the Indians were without their hottest hitter in this one, as catcher Victor Martinez was rested with a stiff neck. Sure enough, before Dellucci's at-bat, this was another listless night for the Indians' laboring lumber. The Tribe did, however, have a lead midway through the fourth inning, after Jhonny Peralta, moved up to the No. 3 spot in the lineup when Martinez was a late scratch, smacked a two-run homer to right-center field off Yankees starter Andy Pettitte. But the 2-1 lead afforded to starter Fausto Carmona by that blast was not enough. Carmona, whose struggles to command the strike zone have been a theme this season, had an erratic evening in which he allowed three runs on six hits, with five walks and two strikeouts, in five innings. The most damaging runs came in the bottom of the fourth, when Carmona walked Hideki Matsui and served up an RBI double to Jason Giambi and an RBI single to Robinson Cano to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead. It was the third time in seven outings that Carmona has walked five or more batters. He has walked four or more in all but one of his starts. "He needs to do a better job getting the baseball over the plate," Wedge said of Carmona. "He's a great competitor and he can get himself out of trouble because he can put the ball on the ground. But he hurts himself when he gets behind in the count." The Indians once again found themselves behind on the scoreboard. As the game shifted toward the late innings, they gave little reason to believe they had a comeback in the tank. This was, after all, the same Indians team that was 1-12 in games in which they trailed after seven innings. And with the Yankees set to turn to the back end of their bullpen -- Chamberlain, who had never allowed a run in Yankee Stadium, and closer Mariano Rivera, who hasn't allowed a run all year -- the situation looked grim. But Chamberlain, sent out for the eighth, struggled with his command. He walked Grady Sizemore to lead off the inning, then, with one out, walked Peralta. "I was just kind of out of whack," Chamberlain said. "I just couldn't get out there, and my hands were separating late. It's going to happen. Nobody's perfect, and sometimes you've got to battle through it." After Ryan Garko flied out to right, Wedge sent up the left-handed-hitting Dellucci in place of Franklin Gutierrez. "He's one of those guys who goes up there confident," Wedge said of Dellucci. "I think he likes being up in those situations." Of course, nobody is overly thrilled to face a pitcher like Chamberlain with the game on the line. "His at-bat against Grady, he threw a first-pitch curveball and a second-pitch slider," Dellucci said. "When you see a guy who can throw 98 [mph] getting those pitches over, you know it's going to be tough." The Yankee Stadium crowd was particularly tough on Dellucci, booing him mercilessly as he was announced. "When you go up to bat," he said, "you try to block everything out." Chamberlain offered up an 0-1 fastball, and Dellucci pounced, rocketing it to the right-field seats and silencing the crowd. The fans would remain silent in the ninth, when Rafael Betancourt closed it out for his third save in four chances. "Fortunately, I got one elevated and I put a good swing on it," Dellucci said. "[Pinch-hitting] is a tough role. It's a do-or-die situation, and the statistics are against you. You've got to try to get your hacks." And for one moment, at least, the Indians got a big one.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.