CLEVELAND -- The trials and tribulations of the bullpen has been an ongoing storyline for the Indians this season. Things have been a lot quieter on that front of late for the Tribe, and that has been a great development for the club.
Over the past few weeks, Cleveland has enjoyed noticeable improvement from its relief corps, which has benefited from a handful of factors. The starting rotation has been pitching deeper into games, lefty Rich Hill has made positive strides lately and closer Chris Perez has been locking down the ninth inning.
"It all starts with the guy pitching the first inning," Indians reliever Cody Allen said. "If he can get us deep into a game, that's great. They've been doing that. Our starting pitching has been outstanding. We've stacked a couple good innings together, a couple good games together and it's kind of been rolling."
The Indians entered Monday's meeting with the Tigers having won 15 of their past 20 games. During that stretch, which dates back to July 11, Cleveland's rotation has posted a 2.23 ERA with an average of more than six innings per start. The bullpen has fallen in line accordingly, posting a 2.72 ERA with a .232 opponents' batting average over that span.
From July 3-10, when the Indians went 2-6 as a team, the bullpen posted a 6.35 ERA. Cleveland also had a 15-5 run from June 11-July 2, during which the bullpen put up a 2.92 ERA. Prior to that stretch, the Tribe endured a 4-16 spell from May 21-June 10, in which the 'pen posted a 7.18 ERA.
"The deeper the starters get, the less stress on a bullpen," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "The other thing is, Rich Hill has been really good lately. When you have that situational lefty, a lot of times you bring him in when the game's on the line.
"Not only has he been getting those guys out, but because he's been successful, Cody and [Bryan] Shaw have been facing fewer of the big lefties than they had before. So I think it goes hand in hand."
Helping matters has been the fact that Perez has posted a 0.95 ERA with 11 saves in 11 chances across 18 appearances since rejoining the bullpen on June 28, following a stay on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury.
"We've been getting a little rhythm out there and getting some confidence," Allen said. "Having C.P. back pitching as well as he has been has really allowed us to have some confidence in just getting the ball to him."