Tribe needs innings from Westbrook

Tribe needs innings from Westbrook

BOSTON -- The Cleveland Indians are back home after a huge 13-6 victory on Saturday night and now count on Jake Westbrook's turbo sinker to keep the momentum on their side.

Westbrook will be on the mound for the Indians against the Boston Red Sox when the American League Championship Series resumes with Game 3 on Monday at Jacobs Field.

The importance of the game is obvious. If the Indians can win three straight in front of their home fans, they won't see the inside of Fenway Park until 2008.

"[Saturday] was a big win for us," Westbrook said. "To lose the first one and come up with a big win like we did and come away with a split, that changes [Monday's start] a little bit. The series being tied, especially at home, that takes a little of the pressure off. But this is still a big game and I want to come out strong."

The Indians need two things to happen. They need for Westbrook to pitch better than he did in his first playoff start and they need him to last longer than co-aces C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona did in Boston.

The Indians' two 19-game winners walked a combined 11 batters, nine unintentionally, in 8 1/3 innings, and neither could get out of the fifth inning in his respective start. The Indians know they were fortunate to get at least one win in Boston despite the struggles of their top two pitchers.

"It's ironic," pitching coach Carl Willis said. "We led all of Major League Baseball in fewest walks this year. That was not necessarily our goal; our goal is to get ahead of hitters and into pitcher's counts and stay away from hitter's counts. We haven't been doing that, and that's been frustrating."

Westbrook didn't have that problem in Game 3 of his ALDS Series start against the New York Yankees. Westbrook managed to get through five innings without walking a batter but still allowed six runs on nine hits and took the loss in the Yankees' 8-4 victory.

He had a 3-1 lead going into the fifth because he was able to get three double plays in the first three innings. But the Yankees finally got to him with four runs in the fifth.

"I didn't feel like I pitched all that terrible in New York," Westbrook said. "I felt like I started out well. I had a pretty good game plan. I think I got into a little bit of a pattern and didn't mix it up as well as I should have. They made the adjustments, as good hitters do, and they got to me there in the fifth."

The Indians still need better than that, especially after what happened with Sabathia and Carmona. Their relievers were needed for a taxing 10 2/3 innings in the first two games in Boston.

"Jake does a pretty good job of making adjustments, whether it be from pitch to pitch, inning to inning or start to start," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "He just needs to continue to pitch to his strengths -- be aggressive, work ahead, stay ahead and put the ball on the ground.

complete coverage
Home  |  News  |  Multimedia  |  Photos
"I think he was just running the ball off the plate a little bit too much with his last outing. So hopefully, he can make some adjustments off that. But I think he'll be fine."

Westbrook's troubles in Game 3 of the ALDS reflect a career trend. He does not do too well with extra rest.

Westbrook, in 25 career starts, is 7-14 with a 4.75 ERA when he has six or more days' rest between starts. He has made 84 starts on his normal four days of rest and is 34-25 with a 4.31 ERA. In 44 starts on five days' rest, he is 16-17 with a 4.29 ERA.

The start against the Yankees was made on seven days' rest. He will be pitching on seven days' rest when he takes the mound against the Red Sox on Monday night.

"If anything, it makes me stronger," said Westbrook, who is 3-2 with a 4.81 ERA in his career against the Red Sox. "That's good for me."

Willis acknowledged the numbers and admitted the extra time off during the playoffs may have taken some of his starting pitchers out of their routine and thrown them off their game.

"As we move forward, I think that will change as we get back into a normal routine," Willis said.

But his last start against Yankees was also the continuation of a late-season slide for Westbrook.

Westbrook, who had to deal with a strained abdominal muscle in May and missed over six weeks, was terrific in August, going 4-1 with a 1.90 ERA in six starts. But since then, he is 1-3 with a 4.93 ERA over six September starts plus the outing against the Yankees. Westbrook said he should be more confident and comfortable after getting past his first postseason start.

"It was a lot of emotion, a lot of different feelings that I'm not used to, having not pitched in postseason before," Westbrook said. "I'm going to be a little more relaxed but still amped and ready to go. It's going to be a lot better pitching here in front of our home fans, and I'm excited and ready to go."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.