10/14/07 5:21 PM ET
Lewis loving the pressure
Tribe righty an intergral part of bullpen's playoff success
By Justice B. Hill / MLB.com
The clubhouse at The Jake was absent Indians players, aside from Lewis and hitting coach Derek Shelton, who was seated a short distance away.
"I'm a single guy," said Lewis, a rookie. "I have nothing else to do."
Did he give any thought to sleep?
Perhaps not, because Lewis still rode the emotions of a performance late Saturday/early Sunday that kept the Tribe from returning home with a 0-2 deficit in the American League Championship Series.
Lewis, a 24-year-old right-hander, found himself in a pressure cooker with one out in the fifth inning. He was being asked to bail out left-hander Rafael Perez, who had an uncharacteristic implosion in a game the Indians could ill afford to lose.
And what did Lewis do? He handled the moment as if it were a routine game in August. His performance was the turning point in a game that had more twists and turns than the Tour de France.
"Jensen Lewis, last night for me, was the key to the whole game," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "They had gotten to a point in their bullpen where if he has a hiccup or he gets knocked around a little bit, they're in trouble.
"He worked ahead of every hitter, and we did nothing."
Yet had Francona seen more of Lewis this season, he'd have seen a young pitcher who's had few hiccups. He's gone from a middle-innings reliever to someone manager Eric Wedge is confident enough in to use in any situation.
In Lewis, Wedge has a durable arm whose performance belies his youth.
"He's been a big part of our bullpen here the last couple of months," Wedge said. "Another young man that has come through our system, he has a great deal of confidence. ... He was the one that really got things going for us last night in that bullpen."
No doubt Lewis did. He stood tall in holding the Red Sox hitless in 2 1/3 innings. He turned a winnable ballgame over to the rest of the bullpen. It was typical of what Lewis has done as he's worked his way into more high-pressure duties.
None was as high-pressured as what he faced in Game 2.
"Mistakes are magnified this time of year," Lewis said. "One hit, one pitch, it's really what that game came down to."
Several innings later, the 13-6 win was over. Lewis had his hand all over it, as he has in game after game in the ride to the postseason. His has been an almost seamless display of pitching in the big leagues.
Nobody could have predicted this, not even Jensen Lewis.
"It's just a matter of sticking with your strengths," he said. "It's understanding that, if you take it day to day, some good things can happen.
"I've been fortunate with opportunities here."
His last outing was one such opportunity. It's behind Lewis now -- thank goodness. He can relax and get some sleep, which he needs after a sleepless flight from Boston to Cleveland. The game had ended late, and Lewis and his teammates didn't land at Hopkins Airport until early in the morning.
They returned to no hero's welcome.
"I think we got in around like 6 or 6:30 a.m.," said Lewis, smiling. "But we got punked, because Boston got in before us, so I guess they get off the plane before us at our own airport.
"We kinda got shut out. It's not too nice."
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.