The Tribe survived a long rain delay and a Chicago comeback. More importantly, the Indians overcame being short-handed in the bullpen en route to a sweep of a day-night doubleheader against the White Sox. The end result was a day that was as satisfying as it was wet for Cleveland, which has won six of its past seven games.
"It was worth it," Acta said. "We made it through it without our bullpen and we got two wins."
Following an 8-6 win over Chicago in Game 1, right-hander Josh Tomlin did his part in helping the relief corps by piecing together 7 1/3 solid innings for the American League Central-leading Indians (17-11) in the nightcap. In the eighth inning, Tomlin was in line for the win at the point when the game entered into a rain delay that lasted one hour and 25 minutes.
Before the tarp was rolled over the diamond, Acta pulled Tomlin in favor of veteran Dan Wheeler with one out and runners on first and second base in the eighth. After the long delay, Wheeler's outing was nixed and Cleveland handed the ball to sidearmer Joe Smith. Initially, Smith was one of three relievers deemed unavailable for the entire day.
Going into Monday, Acta planned on doing everything in his power to keep closer Chris Perez, setup man Vinnie Pestano and Smith off the mound. Perez and Pestano had each worked in four of the previous five days and Smith had seen plenty of action of late as well. Between games, however, Smith offered his services.
"I just came in and I told him I felt good before the game," Smith said. "C.P., Vinnie and me were all down, but I felt good. Vinnie has thrown a ton and C.P., for a closer, has thrown a lot this past week, too. I felt good, so I told him I could go."
Jairo Asencio and Nick Hagadone were not available in Game 2 after pitching in the afternoon affair.
When play finally resumed on Monday night, Smith allowed a run-scoring single to Alex Rios that pulled the game into a 2-2 deadlock. That sent Tomlin home with a no-decision, though his effort was undeniably admirable. The starter was charged with two runs on five hits and he chalked up a career best with eight strikeouts.
It was exactly what the Indians' bullpen needed.
"[Tomlin] gave us a tremendous outing," Acta said. "It was fantastic."
Smith escaped further damage and Cleveland's lineup went to work on a rally of its own. Against White Sox lefty Matt Thornton, Asdrubal Cabrera -- hitting .565 (13-for-23) in his last seven games -- opened the home half of the eighth with a single to shallow center field. Carlos Santana followed suit with a base hit, setting the table for Shelley Duncan.
With one out, Duncan ripped a pitch from Thornton down the left-field line for a run-scoring double, giving the Indians a 3-2 lead and creating a critical save situation. Duncan knew what Cleveland's bullpen was up against and was more than impressed with how the group delivered.
"For a doubleheader, it's always tough on pitching," Duncan said. "And we were without Pestano and C.P. It made it even more special that we were able to get two close wins."
The win was hardly drama-free, though.
Sipp headed to the mound with the one-run advantage and was asked to face a line of right-handed hitters. Alexei Ramirez was slated to lead off and Brent Lillibridge stood on deck as a pinch-hitter. Slugger Paul Konerko loomed in the hole. And, if the game extended further, the right-handed Tyler Flowers would follow.
Entering the outing, Sipp had a 9.00 ERA on the season and right-handed hitters had managed a .500 average against him. Beyond that, batters had hit Sipp to the tune of a .364 average at Progressive Field this season. As for saves? Sipp had only one in his Major League career. Once upon a time, Sipp did collect a couple saves during his days at Clemson.
"In Clemson, you don't have Konerko up there," Sipp said with a laugh.
Ramirez led off with a deep flyout to the warning track in left field. Sipp then struck out Lillibridge to set up a confrontation with Konerko. Knowing that Konerko was not a threat to steal a base, and Flowers was batting just .150 on the season, Sipp pitched around the slugger and took his chances with a walk.
Flowers launched the next pitch deep to left field, where the baseball hooked into foul territory and struck the "R" in the large "Home Run Porch" sign that hangs on the outer edge of the ballpark. Smith saw the long fly ball on a television inside the clubhouse.
"Get ahead, right?" Smith said with a laugh. "It doesn't matter if it goes 500 feet, as long as it's foul."
It was a dangerous first-pitch strike.
"I felt good with my fastball," Sipp said. "No one told [Flowers] that."
No harm done.
Sipp recovered with a game-ending strikeout, saving the game and the bullpen.
Under the circumstances, the Indians were thrilled to escape with the sweep.
"We're definitely playing pretty good baseball right now," Tomlin said. "We want to keep doing that."