November 23, 2014

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Making winning a habit

indians 6, tigers 3
Dellucci’s two-run, one-nun HR big blow

DETROIT — C.C. Sabathia was strong again and the Indians outlasted Tigers ace Justin Verlander on Saturday, but it might have been a Catholic nun from Baton Rouge, La., that got Cleveland its latest win.
Sister Dulce, a confidant of David Dellucci, provided some hitting advice for the struggling outfielder, who entered the game mired in a season-long slump and looking for any way to impress his new teammates in Cleveland.
It paid off with Dellucci producing his best game as an Indian, going 2-for-4 with a pivotal two-run homer that helped his team to a 6-3 victory.
“I talked to her (Friday),” said Dellucci, who met the nun in the winter of 2003 and has kept in contact with her. “She told me three things — loosen up at the plate, stop putting so much pressure on yourself and take God to the plate with you.
“I like to call her my agent. She’s just a great inspiration. It couldn’t have come at a better time, because I felt like the world was on my shoulders.”
Dellucci’s home run off Tigers reliever Jason Grilli broke a 3-all tie in the eighth inning and was his first homer since April 19.
The victory kept the Indians atop the Central Division standings by 1½ games over the Tigers and assured Cleveland another series win — its 12th of 16 on the year.
Sabathia and Verlander took turns holding the opposition’s offense in check through the first six innings, with the Tigers leading 3-2 on the strength of Magglio Ordonez’s sacrifice fly in the sixth.
But while Verlander bowed out from there, thanks to a mounting pitch count (105), Sabathia kept going, lasting seven innings and allowing three runs on six hits.
Verlander entered the game with a 4-0 record in his last four starts, allowing two earned runs apiece in each of them, but the Indians took a patient approach that didn’t produce much off the right-hander, except for a premature departure.
That was enough.
“We just work hard to put up quality at-bats to create innings and to try and take advantage of the situation,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. “If you do that, you’re going to force them to work that much harder.”
“We face good pitching time and time again,” Wedge said. “You can keep going and going. What they do is go up there and control each AB. You do that and you’re going to be a tough out.”
“We just went out there and made sure we put up good at-bats,” said catcher Victor Martinez, who drove in the only runs off Verlander with a two-run homer that put Cleveland in front 2-1 in the third inning. “He just left a couple pitches in the zone. We just stuck with our plan.”
With Verlander gone, the Indians took aim at a depleted Detroit bullpen, scoring once in the seventh and three times in the eighth to put the game away.
Dellucci’s two-run homer off Grilli was a sign of negative times to come for the Detroit reliever, who was knocked out of the game when the following batter, Ryan Garko, lined a pitch off his left knee for a double.
Sabathia, who allowed a broken-bat solo homer to Marcus Thames for Detroit’s first run, continued his winning ways, improving to 7-1 with a 3.54 ERA in 11 starts. He won for the fourth time in five decisions, maintaining an ace-like effort that was there only on occasion in the past.
“He’s been good all year, for that matter, the last 2½ years,” Wedge said. “He’s been about as consistent as a starting pitcher can be. He’s in a situation that we knew he could be in. Now he’s proving it time and time again that he’s there.”
Sabathia, who claimed he did not know what his record was, has allowed just five earned runs in his last three starts.
“Really, I’m just trying to go out there and keep my team in the game,” he said. “I don’t care what my record is as long as we win.
“I felt as good as I have all year.”
The Indians have been tough to beat in tight games this season, going 7-1 in games that have been tied after seven innings. It’s a good sign for a team with playoff aspirations.
“We expect to keep winning and hopefully be there at the end,” Sabathia said.
And with Sister Dulce in their camp, anything may be possible.
“We’re always in the ballgame,” Dellucci said. “This team just battles all nine innings. We’re here in the standings because this team has a never-say-die, no-excuses attitude.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.

Tonight
WHO: Cleveland at Detroit
TIME: 8:05
WHERE: Comerica Park, Detroit
PITCHERS: Carmona (5-1, 2.77 ERA) vs. Maroth (3-1, 4.94)
TV/RADIO: ESPN; WMMS 100.7-FM