ANAHEIM -- Going strictly by the many defensive metrics that are available, Asdrubal Cabrera of the Indians does not rate as an elite shortstop. What those numbers do not quantify is Cabrera's baseball intelligence, which was on full display in Tuesday's win over the Angels.
"He's a baseball player," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "His clock is really good."
Without Cabrera's quick thinking, Cleveland might not have pulled off its 4-1 win over Los Angeles in 14 innings on Tuesday night. In the eighth inning, Cabrera noticed Josh Hamilton straying a bit too far from second base and the shortstop alerted reliever Joe Smith that a pickoff play might be possible.
"He walked up to me and told me, 'Hey, watch him. Don't forget about him on second,'" Smith said. "I was like, 'All right.' I was not expecting it. I haven't done a pick to second base with him playing shortstop, I'm pretty sure, in the five years I've been here."
With one out and runners on first and second, Smith looked back and saw Cabrera quickly sneaking behind Hamilton to cover the bag. The reliever did not know the shortstop was going for the pickoff, but Smith reacted by spinning and firing a perfect throw. Hamilton dove headfirst back to second base, but it was too late.
"It's one of those things where maybe it was better off that you didn't know it was coming," Smith said, "so you didn't screw it up. You just react. That was awesome."
Kole Calhoun followed with a single to right field, but Smith escaped the inning unscathed and the Tribe held on to win in extras.
Cabrera was the one who quarterbacked the play.
"I saw Hamilton, he had a big lead off second," Cabrera said. "So I thought we had a chance to make the out. Joe made a good throw."
Asked about Cabrera's heads-up play, Francona smiled.
"I had the best seat in the house," Francona said. "I can see it in front of me, so it was fun to watch, because I could see it unfolding."
Bullpen's dominance represented in Tuesday's win
ANAHEIM -- The Indians could have promoted a pitcher from the Minors on Wednesday to help their fatigued bullpen, and manager Terry Francona said there was a flight that could have got the player to the West Coast in time for the club's game against the Angels.
Following Tuesday's 14-inning victory, which included nine pitchers used against the Angels, Francona did not feel it was necessary to bring another reliever to Orange County.
"We could have," Francona said prior to Wednesday's game. "It's just, we have a day off tomorrow, and to be honest with you, I just think we want to try to get through today. I would've had a hard time sending somebody down after last night. I think that sends the wrong message."
Following 5 1/3 strong innings from starter Danny Salazar, the Indians cycled through all eight of their relievers, who helped Cleveland string together 13 shutout innings after the Angels scored in the first. The relief corps turned in 8 2/3 scoreless frames, lowering the bullpen ERA to 1.38 through the first eight games of this nine-game road trip.
Cleveland's bullpen has fashioned a 2.73 ERA over the team's past 38 games, dating back to July 8.
One of the bullpen's specialities of late has been stranded inherited runners.
During the road trip, Cleveland's relievers had stranded 22 of 23 inherited runners entering Wednesday. The Indians' 89.1 stranded percentage in August was the second-best mark in the Major Leagues. The Tribe's season stranded rate of 73.6 percent was the third-best mark in the American League behind only the Yankees and Blue Jays.
Indians lefty Rich Hill entered Wednesday ranked first in the AL with the most inherited runners stranded (50), and he led Cleveland's bullpen by stranding 86 percent.
"That's always a huge number," Francona said. "That doesn't get publicized a lot, but it's big."
Roughly two hours before Wednesday's first pitch, Francona admitted that he was not sure how his bullpen would be used, if needed, following starter Justin Masterson.
"I saw him this morning," Francona said of Masterson. "He was going to breakfast and I told him he has a pitch count of 190."
Indians cautious with Salazar's workload
ANAHEIM -- Danny Salazar trusts the Indians when it comes to how the team has handled his workload this season.
During Tuesday's 4-1, 14-inning victory over the Angels, the 23-year-old Salazar was lifted from the game by manager Terry Francona after throwing only 75 pitches in 5 1/3 innings. As a competitor, Salazar would keep throwing as long as allowed, but the righty knows why Cleveland is being careful.
"I have a limit for pitching innings for this year," said Salazar. "They're saving me, saving my arm so I can be fine for pitching in September. Sometimes I want to keep going in the game, because I feel good, but he's the manager, and I understand it."
It marked the second start in a row that Salazar was pulled at 75 or fewer pitches. During the right-hander's outing against the Twins on Aug. 12, Francona turned to the bullpen after Salazar reached 71 pitches through four innings.
"I kind of have a responsibility to him and the organization to handle this appropriately," Francona said. "It's hard -- it is -- but I'm not saying it's bad. We talk about it before the game."
Salazar underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2010 and has seen his yearly innings advance from 14 2/3 in 2011 to 87 2/3 in '12 and a career-high 116 this season, between the Minors and Majors. In his second big league start, Salazar logged a season-high 103 pitches against the Tigers on Aug. 7 after averaging 70 pitches per outing throughout 21 Minor League appearances earlier in the year.
"I think that was the first time in my life," said Salazar, referring to exceeding 100 pitches. "I was sore, but the next day I got some treatment, a massage, and I was good again."
Quote to note
"I understand that he's been having a rough year this year, but that guy has made plays, and he's in the best shape I've seen him in a while. His range is definitely better this year than it has been in past years. I know in 2011, all those top plays of the season, I was on the mound. I don't know what it is, man. That guy makes plays, so in my mind, I've got no problem with it. You want to hit a ground ball to Cabby? That's fine with me. Good luck."
-- Smith, on Cabrera
• In the ninth inning of Tuesday's win over the Angels, Smith had a pitch to Erick Aybar incorrectly register at 136 mph on an Angel Stadium scoreboard radar gun. On Wednesday, Smith had a sense of humor about his otherworldly radar reading.
"You have to throw it from your hip. It's all about the whip," Smith deadpanned. "Once a year, I can break that out. I try to save it for important situations."
• Indians starter Corey Kluber (on the disabled list with a sprained right middle finger) continued his throwing program on Wednesday, working up to around 180 feet with tape on his injured digit. After that session, Kluber threw without the tape up to a distance of 90 feet. Kluber will rest on Thursday before resuming throwing on Friday in Cleveland.
• Utility man Ryan Raburn, who has been in the starting lineup in just three of the team's past 14 games, said his sore right calf felt improved on Wednesday. Raburn (available as a pinch-hitter, according to Francona) said he has been dealing with the issue off and on for the past few months.
• Indians outfielder Drew Stubbs provided the decisive blow on Tuesday night when he delivered a two-run home run in the 14th inning. It marked the latest home run by a Cleveland hitter since Manny Ramirez belted a three-run homer in the 17th inning against Seattle on July 30, 1998.