Dependable stoppers show value of halting a skid

Dependable stoppers show value of halting a skid

Dependable stoppers show value of halting a skid
As the Indians came dangerously close to equaling the worst losing streak in franchise history earlier this month, it seemed like everything that could go wrong did. Errors in the field, baserunning miscues, horrible hitting and pitching problems.

For 11 straight games, everywhere they turned, it was a loss. Until they turned to Justin Masterson.

Every skid eventually comes to a halt. For every streak, there is a stopper. And Cleveland's ace fit that bill.

For Masterson, there was no denying the Indians' desire to break the streak and the pressure they felt to do so. When they snapped it on Aug. 8, it was like the win heard 'round the city.

"I'm sure it was a relief in all of Cleveland," Masterson said.

There are certain pitchers around baseball -- Indians rival and Tigers ace Justin Verlander is one of the more eminent -- who can take the ball and deliver a victory when the team needs it the most. In doing so, these stoppers carry out a myriad of duties that go well beyond just putting the team back in the win column.

Yankees ace CC Sabathia has had six of his 13 victories this season come after a New York loss in the previous game. The wins -- New York has 74 of them, the second-most in the American League -- are valuable, Yankees manager Joe Girardi says, but so too are the innings that the durable Sabathia saves the bullpen from after a rough stretch heading into that particular contest.

"He really changes the complexion of a couple games, not just the one he pitches in," Girardi said.

Early in the season, when the Yankees fell to as many as 5 1/2 games back in May before hitting a surge this summer, Sabathia's starts were practically the only sure thing in the rotation. That trickled all the way down to the pitchers who filled the roles in the final third of ballgames.

"He's given us an opportunity every time he's gone out there to pitch, and that's big," Girardi said. "Especially given some of our struggles. Different times, different people have kept us afloat. But CC has really been the big guy."

It's a role Sabathia relishes.

"It's always a goal of mine to pitch deep into games," Sabathia said this summer. "The strength of our team is the bullpen. Any time I can give them a rest, it always helps. I want to win every game. I go out there with the intentions to try to win every game."

Not all teams have the luxury of a Sabathia, Masterson or Verlander to count on when the times get tough.

The Astros, who are no stranger to losing streaks in what has been a season to forget, have turned to youngsters like Lucas Harrell to break streaks. When the Cubs lost 12 straight in May, it was Randy Wells who earned the victory to snap the skid. And reliever Shawn Camp got the skid-snapping win after Chicago dropped eight in a row this month.

But, in Detroit, the stopper has never been in question. In his MVP season last year, Verlander won 16 times (of his 24 victories) after a Tigers loss, and has done it for seven of his 12 victories this year.

With his help, the Tigers have lost more than three straight only once this season and are poised for another playoff push.

And given his competitive nature, Verlander will take every opportunity to get out there and throw. Whether he needs to stop a losing streak or not.

"[I] don't relish them," Verlander said of pitching after a loss. "Don't want to be that guy. But I like being the guy that when I take the mound, the team looks to in those situations and feels like we've got a good chance to win.

"Really, I think they should feel that with every guy we have. I just go out there and do whatever I can."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak.‬ This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.