Lewis latest in line for save chances

Lewis latest in line for save chances

TORONTO -- Since the day Joe Borowski was sent packing, the Indians' closer situation has been similar to a scene from "The Price is Right."

Now, apparently, it's Jensen Lewis' turn to come on down.

Lewis was handed the ball -- and a 5-2 lead -- in the ninth inning of Friday's series opener with the Blue Jays and delivered his first big league save. Lewis has shown improvement since returning from Triple-A Buffalo and certainly has a closer's confidence.

"He'll get more opportunities," manager Eric Wedge said.

Lewis, who admitted he was nervous enough that the plate looked like it was "120 feet away" when he stepped to the mound, walked John McDonald, the first batter he faced. But he retired the next three Jays in order for his first save in the Majors and just his third professionally.

"It was a little different heartbeat going in there," Lewis said. "I look at it as an opportunity. You can't make it bigger than what it is."

The Indians have had plenty of big blowups in the closer's department this season -- none bigger than the one suffered by Ed Mujica and Masa Kobayashi against Tampa Bay on Wednesday. That drama, in which six Rays runs came across and no outs were recorded, spoke to the obvious concerns that befall a club without a closer.

"It's a tough spot to be in," Wedge said.

With 48 games left in '08, the Indians will keep trying people, knowing full well they'll probably be shopping for a legitimate closer this winter. At the moment, Lewis is the hot hand, and that's the one Wedge will likely play going forward, including Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.

The one genuine constant in the Indians' 'pen in recent months has been left-hander Rafael Perez, but he's not viewed as a ninth-inning candidate. Wedge has needed Perez's services so often in the other late innings that closing is simply not an option for him.

"He can't do everything for us," Wedge said of Perez, who worked a pair of innings Friday, giving up a run. "He can't get you there [to the ninth] and close."

So Wedge will cross his fingers and hope Lewis is the guy for now.

Pitching matchup
CLE: RHP Paul Byrd (6-10, 4.72 ERA)
Byrd continued his stellar performance as of late, allowing one earned run on six hits in seven innings Saturday in Minnesota for his third straight victory. His ERA is 0.90 in his last three starts because he's been keeping the ball in the park and men off base, something he struggled with earlier this year. Rumored to be traded before the July 31 deadline, Byrd tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings July 28 against Detroit, and one earned run in his start before that. Byrd has not pitched against Toronto this year but is 3-3 lifetime at Rogers Centre. He allowed one run in 8 1/3 innings in his lone start against the Blue Jays last season.

TOR: RHP Roy Halladay (13-8, 2.77 ERA)
Halladay was in fine form Monday, limiting Oakland to one run on four hits over eight strong innings. The Blue Jays' ace added eight strikeouts, upping his season total to 149, and issued just one walk in the 113-pitch effort. Over his past seven starts, Halladay has turned in 48 shutout innings among the 56 frames he's logged, posting a 2.00 ERA during that span. He is 5-1 with a 3.97 ERA in 11 career games against Cleveland.

Tidbits
The Indians are 8-3 against the Jays over the past two seasons. ... Kelly Shoppach has hit in 13 of his past 15 games, batting .396 with eight doubles, five homers and 15 RBIs in that span. ... Jhonny Peralta's 10-game hitting streak ended Friday night.

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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

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On radio
• WTAM 1100

Up next
• Sunday: Indians (Cliff Lee, 15-2, 2.58) at Blue Jays (Scott Richmond, 0-1, 4.91), 1:07 p.m. ET
• Monday: Indians Orioles (Dennis Sarfate, 4-2, 4.58) at (Fausto Carmona, 5-4, 4.46), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Tuesday: vs. Orioles (Garret Olson, 8-6, 6.06) at Indians (Jeremy Sowers, 1-6, 5.70), 7:05 p.m. ET

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.