Indians notebook: Betancourt's success mirrors bullpen's

Andy Call

Rafael Betancourt is not used to cleaning up his own mess.

Cleveland’s right-handed setup man entered Wednesday afternoon’s game against Detroit to begin the eighth inning. A leadoff walk and two singles loaded the bases, but Betancourt retired Marcus Thames on a high fly ball to left to help preserve the Indians’ 4-2 victory at Jacobs Field.

“I’ve come into the game with the bases loaded, but I think that’s the first time this year it’s happened when I started the inning,” Betancourt said. “Sometimes you have to battle. You’re not going to have 1-2-3 innings every time, and you’re facing a great lineup.”

Betancourt came into the game with a 1.48 ERA and a .184 opponents’ batting average, so he hasn’t faced many similar scenarios this year. His success in a tough situation, however, mirrored the success the Indians bullpen has experienced during the season’s home stretch.

Since the Angels scored a 10th-inning run off Betancourt Sept. 7, the only relief pitcher charged with an earned run has been Cliff Lee. Indians relief pitchers worked 9 2/3 scoreless innings in the three-game sweep of Detroit and have not allowed an earned run over the last 15 1/3 innings.

Lee is not actually a relief pitcher by trade, working in that role only since being recalled from Triple-A Buffalo Sept. 1. If his stats are thrown out, none of the regular relievers have allowed a run over the last 25 innings.

That string of success appeared in jeopardy Wednesday when Betancourt faced the top of Detroit’s batting order in the eighth inning.

Curtis Granderson drew a leadoff walk, Placido Polanco flew to right and Gary Sheffield drove a hit to left-center. That brought MVP candidate Magglio Ordonez to the plate.

“The way I threw to him is the way I throw to everybody else,” Betancourt said. “It’s just highlighted because he’s leading the league in hitting.”

Betancourt attacked Ordonez with fastballs until he finally swung through one for the second out. Carlos Guillen beat out an infield single and the next hitter was Thames, who was 4-for-4 with two grand slams and 13 RBIs in bases-loaded situations. Thames belted a towering fly ball to left, but Jason Michaels fought off the sun and made the catch.

“Betancourt had to work for it,” Indians Manager Eric Wedge said. “But, he’s going to do whatever he needs to do to get the job done.”

COMING UP  The Indians are idle today, then host Oakland for three games beginning Friday.

A LITTLE HELP  The Indians have announced they will employ IMG to help locate a corporation to purchase the naming rights to Jacobs Field. Former owner Dick Jacobs maintained the rights through the end of the 2006 season. The Indians have made presentations to local companies on a naming-rights package, but none of those negotiations have proven fruitful. IMG’s search will likely encompass a more regional and national field.

UNDER THE KNIFE  RHP Edward Mujica had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Wednesday. Mujica sustained the injury during “pregame activities” last week, the club said. Torn cartilage was removed, and Mujica should be at full strength when he reports for spring training.

WHO’S HOT  Victor Martinez has reached safely in 26 consecutive games, and 30 of the last 31. He has set a career high with 24 home runs and needs two RBIs to break his career high of 108, set in 2004.

WHO’S NOT  Travis Hafner is 4-for-23 (.174) since Sept. 12, but two of those four hits are home runs.

CENTRAL THEME  The Indians are 46-23 against the Central Division. They have won 13 in a row against division foes when C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona and Paul Byrd are the starting pitchers.

PACK ‘EM IN  Wednesday’s attendance of 32,511 was the most for a day game during the week this season. The Indians had averaged 23,664 for the six previous “businessman’s lunch” games.

HE’S OK  CF Grady Sizemore was hit on the right hand by a pitch from Nate Robertson in the fifth inning. Sizemore remained in the game and Manager Eric Wedge said afterward there appeared to be no significant injury.

Reach Canton Repository sports writer Andy Call at (330) 580-8346 or e-mail andy.call@cantonrep.com.