Pestano makes Tigers rally disappear
Reliever pitches out of bases-loaded jam, extends K streak
CLEVELAND -- Vinnie Pestano just hoped to limit the damage.
With the bases loaded and nobody out in the eighth inning of a tie game Wednesday night, the Indians reliever wanted to make sure not all three runners scored. He had to give his team a chance.
"I was just trying not to blow it," Pestano said.
Pestano pitched himself out of the jam without allowing a single run to score in the Indians' 4-2 win over the Tigers. His two strikeouts in the inning extended his streak to 23 straight appearances with at least one K, establishing a record for a Cleveland reliever (since 1918).
After Detroit's Prince Fielder reached on an error against Tony Sipp to begin the eighth, manager Manny Acta made the call for Pestano. The hard throwing right-hander struggled early, giving up back-to-back singles to the first two batters he faced -- Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch.
"Not every outing is smooth," closer Chris Perez said. "Sometimes you have to make pitches."
Pestano did just that.
He struck out Jhonny Peralta by throwing him more sliders than fastballs. Pestano, who earned the win and improved to 2-0 on the season, said he had been hurt by his fastball against Peralta in the past and didn't want to give the Tigers' shortstop any good ones to hit.
Pestano then got Ramon Santiago to ground to first, where Casey Kotchman collected the ball and fired home to get the lead runner.
"I was yelling 'Four, four, four' at him like he didn't know what he was doing," Pestano said. He's got one of the best fielding percentages of any first baseman in the game and I'm telling him where to throw the ball."
Only pinch-hitter Alex Avila, who blasted a three-run home run against the Indians on Tuesday night, stood between Pestano and an escape.
After running the count full, Pestano caught Avila looking at a fastball. Crisis averted.
"I thought about throwing a 3-2 slider and maybe trying to sneak one in there," Pestano said. "But at the end of the day, you have to go with your best pitch. If I throw a slider and it's a ball, I got beat with my second-best pitch.
"Those are some of the most exciting games to have, and I'm just happy I came out of it on top."
Pestano has grown more comfortable with his slider in recent weeks, but his strikeout pitch is usually his fastball. It's how he's fired his way into the Indians record book -- even though he spoke about the meaninglessness of the record earlier Wednesday -- and it's what got him out of the most difficult situation a relief pitcher will ever face.
Pestano has a 2.41 ERA with 26 strikeouts against six walks in 21 appearances (18 2/3 innings) this season.
"Only a guy with that kind of stuff can get away and do those kind of acts," Acta said. "It's not easy to do it, but he made some good pitches. I don't think you're going to see that very often."
You aren't going to see a streak like the one Pestano extended Wednesday night very often, either. Since 1918, only five relievers have had strikeout streaks of at least 20 games to begin a season. The others include Billy McCool of the Reds (25 in 1965), Tom Gordon of the Royals (21 in 1991), Ted Davidson of the Reds (20 in 1965) and Byung-Hyun Kim of the D-backs (20 in 2002).
When Pestano struck out Avila on Tuesday night, he passed Paul Shuey's club relief record of 21 straight games with a strikeout. Dating back to 1918, there have been 40 such streaks of at least 22 games by a reliever. Bruce Sutter (Cubs, 1977) owns the big league record of 39 games, and Jeff Montgomery (Royals, 1989) boasts the American League mark of 32 games.
"When he harnesses the stuff that he has," Kotchman said of Pestano, "he has the ability to kind of Houdini some stuff."
Justin Albers is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.