Rookie Clevinger keeps his cool in tense 7th

Indians righty fans Encarnacion after originally being called for a balk

Rookie Clevinger keeps his cool in tense 7th

CLEVELAND -- It would have been easy for Indians rookie Mike Clevinger to lose his composure on the mound.

Instead, he recorded perhaps the biggest out of the Tribe's 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays in the rubber match on Sunday at Progressive Field.

"That probably wouldn't be the first situation I'd pick for him coming in, in relief," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But sometimes when you do that, now Clevinger feels good. I think he already did, but he feels better. Every experience he gets is going to help him."

The right-hander got plenty of experience when he entered in the seventh to face Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion. Clevinger was tasked with getting one of the game's top home run hitters out with the bases loaded, two away and the Indians trailing by one.

"It definitely brought intensity to a new level," Clevinger said. "Plus it has been like a playoff atmosphere for this whole series. Then with the runners on base, I just tried to stay as locked in as I could."

Clevinger wasted no time, starting off with a slider that was called for a strike. After missing with a heater, Clevinger went back to his slider, which caught the edge of the strike zone, getting ahead in the count, 1-2.

That's when things got interesting.

After a brief discussion with catcher Roberto Perez, Encarnacion held up his hand as he stepped into the batter's box. Clevinger saw home-plate umpire Ramon De Jesus call time, so he stepped off the mound. Third-base umpire Greg Gibson, however, called a balk.

"He said I came to a double set, a double pause," Clevinger said. "Which I don't remember doing a double pause. Just my taps in my windups, I guess, are considered a balk to them. I think I'll just stick to a stretch with anybody on third base from now on."

Clevinger almost balks

After a lengthy discussion with both managers, De Jesus overruled the call, as he had signaled that time was out during the at-bat. However, after the game, Encarnacion did not agree that time was out.

"I never asked time," Encarnacion said. "Every time I go to the box I always put my foot down and I always put my hand like that. So I don't know [why he called time]."

Clevinger wasn't taking any chances after being granted new life. He moved to the stretch, and then froze Encarnacion with a fastball on the very next pitch to get out of the seventh-inning jam.

"I said if I'm going out of the stretch then there is no need to even think about it anymore," Clevinger said. "I didn't want to have that in the back of my head on top of having the home run king up with the bases loaded. I'll just go out of the stretch and everything seemed fine."

It was the first such test for Clevinger, who typically is a starter but is in the midst of his second stint in the bullpen in case a starter is pulled early and the Tribe needs an extended relief outing.

But in Sunday's series finale, Francona called on the new reliever in a jam. Clevinger responded by earning his second Major League victory after spinning 1 1/3 scoreless frames.

"That was huge," Cleveland closer Cody Allen said. "That guy is going to get some really big outs for us down the stretch and in October. He's a vital part of what we're doing here, too."

Clevinger has allowed just one run across 7 1/3 relief frames this season. And given the weekend had a postseason atmosphere, it is easy to envision Clevinger having a chance to contribute in a similar role come October. A role that Clevinger would certainly embrace.

"It is fun to be a part of this, so whatever I need to do," Clevinger said.

Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.