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05/26/09 11:56 PM ET
Powerful offense backs brilliant Pavano
Indians never trail in rain-soaked win over Rays
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- The way Carl Pavano was pitching Tuesday night, the Indians didn't find themselves in need of some historic, Herculean comeback effort, akin to what took place a night earlier. No, the Tribe's 5-1 victory in the second game of the series was decidedly more ordinary, and that sat just fine with those in the Indians' clubhouse. With the rain pelting Progressive Field all night, Pavano perplexed the Rays' hitters for seven strong innings, and the Tribe's bats backed him up with four home runs. "[Pavano] has been real strong and real consistent," manager Eric Wedge said. "He doesn't try to do too much. He just goes out and pitches. He's been real impressive." Equally impressive is the Tribe's recent history against the Rays in this ballpark. This was the Tribe's 15th straight win over the Rays at home. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the Indians' longest winning streak at home against a single team since they took 15 straight from the Tigers from 1994-97. The club record is 27 straight home wins over the St. Louis Browns from 1952-54. The only thing that could stop the Indians in this latest win was the 32-minute rain delay that came in the middle of the fourth. The tarp came off, but the raindrops didn't cease until the late innings. Even in the rain, however, Pavano left the Rays high and dry. In seven innings, he allowed just one run -- a Carlos Pena solo shot in the seventh -- on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts. "I was just trying to mix it up," Pavano said. "I just pitched against these guys two starts ago, so I tried to stay in unpredictable counts and analyze what worked against them the last time." Pavano, whose five wins in May lead the Majors, was working with an early lead as Ryan Garko, who homered twice in Monday night's 10-run comeback, went deep again with a solo homer off Matt Garza in the second. In the third, it was Asdrubal Cabrera taking Garza deep with a solo shot of his own. And in the sixth, after Garko was plunked by a pitch, Mark DeRosa went deep with a two-run blast to make it 4-0. And after Pena took Pavano (5-4, 5.50 ERA) deep in the top of the seventh, Kelly Shoppach sealed the scoring with a solo shot off Randy Choate in the bottom of the inning. "The big ball was working for us tonight," Wedge said. "Garko put a great swing on that ball to right-center, and [DeRosa] did the same thing to almost the same spot. It was good stuff." But it was Pavano's stuff that really stood out. Truth be known, Pavano wasn't sure how sharp that stuff would be this season after four injury-plagued years with the Yankees. He earned the nickname "American Idle" by making just 26 starts in that four-year span. But Pavano only seems to get stronger and more effective as this comeback season rolls along. He has now gone 5-1 with a 3.58 ERA over his last six starts. "My location [early in the season] was good," he said. "But my fastball has a little more on it now. And when your arm strength gets stronger, it makes your other pitches sharper." As for that delay, it wasn't long enough to pull Pavano out of his rhythm. He threw about 15-20 pitches off a mound in the indoor cages to stay sharp. The Rays only made one serious threat against Pavano with the game on the line. It came in the top of the fourth, with the Indians up 2-0, when Carl Crawford singled and Evan Longoria walked to open the inning. Pavano struck out Pena, got Willy Aybar to pop out and got Ben Zobrist to ground out. "He has a good heartbeat," Wedge said of Pavano. "When things start to get deep, that's when you have to slow it down and make pitches." Slowing the fleet-footed Rays down is no easy task, but Pavano didn't let their speed get the best of him. "When they get on base and start running, they put pressure on you," Pavano said of the Rays. "For me, as a big guy who's not as quick to the plate, sometimes you sacrifice location [to keep up with them]." But Pavano didn't sacrifice any of his best stuff in this win, and the Indians kept the momentum going from their Monday night magic.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.