Since the late 2000's, if your baseball team didn't have the lead after the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians, you could call it a game. The trio of right handed submarine style pitcher Joe Smith, right handed reliever Vinnie Pestano and right handed gunslinger Chris "Pure Rage" Perez have eliminated any sort of rally years in the late innings.
Smith would do his thing in the seventh, dazzling Clevelanders with his unusual delivery and realease point making it very difficult for hitters to see the ball off of him. Pestano would attempt to hold to lead in the eighth. His laser sharp accuracy and dynamite command left hitters with repugnant taste in their mouths after facing the right hander. Finally, it's Pure Rage time.
Closer Chris Perez would come into the game and overpower hitters with his electric fastball, ending any hope for the opposing team.
Coming into this 2013 campaign, Indians fans felt that their strong suit would be the back end of the bullpen. The offense was definitely improved with the acquisitions of center fielder Michael Bourn, first baseman Nick Swisher and others but was still lacking a few key pieces. The starting pitching had so many question marks going into the season, and while ace Justin Masterson and company have been surprising, there is still work to be done.
But the back end of the bullpen has been unfortunately very different.
It starts with Smith. He has not been the problem. A 1.27 ERA, three home runs allowed and a 1.03 WHIP tells that story. His continued dominance in the seventh inning (and eighth when Pestano has been on the DL) has helped the Indians win many ballgames.
Pestano has not been so great. His ERA has climbed up to 4.50 this season compared to last year's 2.57 ERA. Leaving pitches up in the strike zone has been Pestano's Achilles' heal, but compared to Perez he's Cy Young.
On the field and off, Perez has been absolutely atrocious. He has blown four saves this season only out of a mere eleven attempts including a horrific meltdown in Boston. Up 5-2, Tribe fans thought the ballgame was sealed. Perez gave up three runs, and then left the game due to right shoulder tendinitis.
Leaving the bases loaded for Smith is not a recipe for success. It was a Boston winner.
Perez's off-the-field issues are a big problem as well. Accused of receiving a package containing one-third of a pound of marijuana leaves Perez and his wife Melanie in a world of trouble. The couple has plead not guilty, but a pending hearing is still in place. Perez continues to recover from his right shoulder tendinitis and looks to be back throwing for the Indians shortly.
The once reliable back end of the Indians bullpen has suddenly turned for the worst. The necessary adjustments need to be made because there's no playoff team that wins without dynamite pitching from its bullpen. However, the Indians won't even have a chance to make the playoffs if things don't turn around quickly.
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