In the Tribe's latest turn through the rotation, no one has been "that guy," and it was staff ace C.C. Sabathia avoiding the stigma in a 2-0 victory over the A's on Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
"Everybody's working hard and just trying to keep this up," Sabathia said. "Nobody wants to be 'that guy.'"
Sabathia's shutout of his hometown A's kept the Tribe starters' incredible string of scoreless innings going strong at 43 1/3, dating back to the fifth inning of Friday night's game against the Blue Jays, which just so happened to be Sabathia's last start.
So each member of the Indians' current rotation -- Sabathia, Aaron Laffey, Fausto Carmona, Cliff Lee and Paul Byrd -- has turned in a scoreless outing in succession. The Indians were trying to determine the last time that's happened in the Majors.
What is known, according to The Elias Sports Bureau, is that this run is the longest scoreless streak put together by a group of Tribe starters since Bob Lemon, Gene Bearden, Sam Zoldak and Satchel Paige threw consecutive shutouts in 1948 -- a stretch of 47 innings.
Over the Tribe starters' past 48 innings of work, they've allowed just one run. In doing so, they've bumped the club's season shutout total to seven, which is the best in the big leagues. Four of those seven shutouts have come in the past five games.
"It's been impressive to watch," center fielder Grady Sizemore said. "I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. Offensively, you want to get on board and help these guys out, but they're just taking matters into their own hands right now."
The streak was clearly safe in Sabathia's hands on this night, in which he limited the A's to a mere five hits with two walks and 11 strikeouts and only seemed to get better as the game wore on. The A's had a runner in scoring position against him just twice, and they grounded into a pair of double plays.
Sabathia's effort had one member of the A's uttering a statement that just might make the Indians' higher-ups, who hope to lock the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner up with a contract extension this year, wince.
"If he pitches like that the rest of the year," first baseman Mike Sweeney said, "the contract Johan Santana got will probably [look] cheap."
Yep, Sabathia was that good.
Turning it on
|The Indians finished a full turn through the rotation on Wednesday without a starter giving up a run, stretching the starters' scoreless streak to 43 1/3 innings, the longest in club history since the 1948 staff tossed 47 scoreless innings.|
| Wednesday was the Indians' seventh shutout, best in the Majors|
The Indians have thrown back-to-back shutouts and have shut out their opponent in four of the past five and five of the past eight games
The key, Sabathia said, was his cutter -- a pitch whose unpredictability in the early going this season had helped lead to four brutal outings from the big left-hander.
Ever since Sabathia regained command of the cutter, particularly against right-handed hitters, he's been cruising. He has a 1.49 ERA over his past five starts, lowering his season ERA from 13.50 to 5.47.
Manager Eric Wedge was impressed with the way Sabathia, who reached double digits in strikeouts for the 13th time in his career, put the A's away in this one.
"With any pitcher, getting to two strikes is one thing," Wedge said. "But finishing them off ... that's where real discipline comes into play. You've got to fight a little more."
Wedge thought his offense put up a pretty good fight against A's starter Joe Blanton, even if the results didn't say so. Blanton only allowed four hits and two walks in seven innings.
Two of those hits were loud ones, though, and they were enough to support Sabathia's strong start.
Sizemore led off the bottom of the first with a 393-foot blast to the opposite field.
"You like to get on the board early," Sizemore said. "If you can get on early and build momentum, it always helps. We didn't get on the board and run away with it, but C.C. didn't need much help."
Still, Sabathia got just a little more help in the fourth, when Ryan Garko went deep for the second time in as many games with a solo shot to left.
And that was all the Indians' bats, following a season-long trend, had to offer. In fact, they were unable to strike with the bases loaded and none out in the fifth.
If the starting staff has needed particular incentive to keep this run going, it need look no further than the offense's .200 average (76-for-381) in the month of May and .235 average overall.
"We haven't been scoring a lot of runs," Sabathia said, "so we need to shut it down, and we've been able to do that."
They're doing that, Sabathia said, without thinking about the streak, even if that mind-set flies in the face of human nature.
"I don't think anybody's aware of us not giving up a run," Sabathia said of his mates in the rotation. "I think we're aware of how good we are. We've got a pretty good starting staff in here. If we do what we do, these types of things happen."
And if this ridiculous run keeps happening, no one will be "that guy."