CLEVELAND -- Vinnie Pestano wasn't even expecting to pitch in Sunday's game, never mind close it out.
Given the events of the first seven innings, one could hardly blame him.
After being blanked by Bruce Chen into the seventh inning, the Indians erupted with a five-run eighth, erasing a three-run deficit en route to their 5-3 win over the Royals at Progressive Field.
Shelley Duncan's game-tying three-run homer and a go-ahead, two-run double by pinch-hitter Michael Brantley allowed Pestano to notch his first Major League save, an achievement that looked as though it would have to wait for another day before the Tribe lit up Robinson Tejeda in the eighth.
"It was awesome," Pestano said.
Chen was pretty impressive himself, scattering four hits and three walks over 6 2/3 shutout innings that befuddled the Tribe.
"He's crafty," Duncan said. "When you're a pitcher like that, you need to have command of all of your pitches. He had that today."
But because of Tejeda's implosion, Chen did not have what he sought most -- a victory.
"Robinson's one of the best pitchers on the staff," Chen said. "If we're winning, that's who I want out there in the eighth inning."
The Indians wasted no time teeing off on Tejeda. Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo rapped singles to bring up Duncan, who lofted a 1-2 slider onto the left-field porch to tie the game at 3.
"Situations like that are fun," Duncan said. "You try to treat every situation the same, but big situations are fun, because your adrenaline gets pumping a little bit more."
Of course, Duncan's heroics wouldn't have been possible without the efforts of Cabrera and Choo.
"The at-bats by those guys were the key," Tribe manager Manny Acta said. "Shelley's home run was obviously huge, because Chen pretty much put us to sleep until then, with all those offspeed pitches and the way he handled our hitters.
"After that, we knew the momentum was on our side."
Andy Marte's two-out single and a ground-rule double by Luis Valbuena set the stage for Brantley, who was held out of the starting lineup for a fourth consecutive game, due to left hamstring tightness.
"We had [Brantley] and [Jordan Brown] to pinch-hit in that situation, and we went with [Brantley]," Acta said. "He came up with a big hit."
That hit was a two-run double that scooted past first baseman Kila Ka'aihue and down the right-field line, putting the Indians on top and fueling Tejeda's frustration.
"I really don't understand what happened today," Tejeda said. "Everything went by so quick. I feel like I made the right pitches. It wasn't like I was all over the place.
"It was incredible."
The Royals grabbed a first-inning lead, courtesy of a two-out rally off Tribe starter Fausto Carmona. Billy Butler, Ka'aihue and Josh Fields stroked consecutive singles, the last of which gave Kansas City a 1-0 advantage.
Carmona and Chen proceeded to trade zeroes until the fifth, when Mike Aviles launched a 1-1 fastball into the Indians' center-field bullpen for a one-out solo homer.
Carmona departed after yielding six hits and two walks over five innings of two-run ball. The 26-year-old righty threw 102 pitches, 51 of which came in the first two innings.
"[Carmona] started the game a little bit flat up in the zone," Acta said. "He made an adjustment after the second inning, but that being said, he threw way too many pitches."
Aviles struck again in the seventh, singling to right with two out against Frank Herrmann, then swiping second base, taking third via a wild pitch and scoring on Butler's knock to left.
But a 3-0 cushion proved insufficient for Kansas City, which was spared the challenge of facing Chris Perez in the ninth because the Indians closer returned home on Friday for the birth of his son.
Instead, the Royals got Pestano, a pitcher called up to the Majors for the first time on Thursday.
"I got kind of lucky with C.P. having his baby," Pestano said. "I wasn't expecting to go in the game at all. I was expecting the phone to ring after we went up and it would be Jensen Lewis, but I was happy Manny had enough faith in me to come up and get those last three outs."
Pestano secured those outs in a 13-pitch inning, working around a one-out walk.
"He was pretty impressive out there," Acta said. "Before the game, we had decided we were going to give him an opportunity today. This kid went through some pressure-packed games down there in Triple-A, so this was the time to see what he could do."
What he did was close out a game the Indians had appeared ticketed to lose.
"To put up five runs and come back like that, it was a great win," Pestano said. "I was happy to be a part of it."
John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.