CLEVELAND — The unlikely pitching combination of Jeanmar Gomez and Vinnie Pestano helped the Indians start September on a good note.
Gomez went the first 5⅔ innings and Pestano recorded the final four outs Saturday night, allowing the Tribe to hang on for a 4-3 victory over the powerful Texas Rangers.
Catcher Carlos Santana had a two-run single, while Casey Kotchman and Jack Hannahan added RBI groundouts — all in the first inning — as Cleveland snapped its six-game losing streak in style.
“August is over,” Pestano said. “Hopefully, we can go undefeated in September and forget all about it. Having a short-term memory is very important in baseball.
“That’s why I didn’t find closing any different tonight than going out for the eighth inning. I’m just trying not to blow the game.”
The Indians (56-77) were happy to turn the calendar after equaling their franchise record for losses in a month by going 5-24 in August. They were even happier to kick off September with a one-run win over the American League West-leading Rangers (78-54).
Add in the absence of Tribe closer Chris Perez, whose wife gave birth to a daughter earlier in the day, and it’s understandable why Cleveland’s clubhouse was booming with the sounds of Rita Ora’s hit “How We Do.”
“I don’t know if the name of the month had anything to do with it, but it’s nice to win,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “Our pitching deserves all the credit today. Gomez gave us a very good outing and our bullpen was terrific.”
Right-hander Gomez set the tone in his first start since June 23, scattering four hits and three runs while striking out five. He allowed solo homers to David Murphy in the third and Adrian Beltre in the sixth, along with an RBI sacrifice fly to Mitch Moreland in the fifth, in exiting with a 4-3 lead.
Making Gomez’s outing even more impressive, he was recalled Wednesday from Triple-A Columbus to exclusively pitch out of the bullpen, but had to make a spot start when Roberto Hernandez’s sprained right ankle flared up.
“In the first inning, we made four runs, so I just tried to keep the lead,” said Gomez, who improved to 5-7 with a 5.08 ERA. “I made two mistakes to Murphy and Beltre, but my two-seamer (fastball) was really moving and it was in the zone the whole game.”
Joe Smith followed with 1⅓ scoreless innings, while Esmil Rogers notched the first two outs in the eighth. Acta then called upon righty setup specialist Pestano, whose last save was July 18, 2011, at Minnesota.
Pestano was nicked for one hit in the eighth and another in the ninth, but ended the evening strong by striking out Geovany Soto and inducing a game-ending groundout by Moreland.
“I was never actually told I was closing, but I kind of assumed everyone would move one spot up the ladder tonight,” said Pestano, who has four career saves. “Believe me, though, Chris closing games still gives us the best chance to win.”
The Tribe’s first six hitters reached base against right-hander Scott Feldman, allowing it to take a 4-0 lead. Santana brought Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Kipnis around with his single, then scored on Kotchman’s grounder. Cleanup hitter Michael Brantley scored on Hannahan’s groundout.
Feldman was nearly untouchable after that, only allowing two more hits in his six-inning stint. He struck out five in surrendering four runs and six hits, dropping to 6-11 with a 5.01 ERA.
“We got good quality at-bats off Feldman in the first, but we allowed him to get into a groove after that,” Acta said.
Designated hitter Russ Canzler had two hits in his Indians debut, batting fifth just hours after arriving in Cleveland. He was recalled from the minors, along with left fielder Thomas Neal and reliever Scott Barnes, as all rosters expanded from 25 to 40 players.
Tribe shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who was a late scratch from the lineup with a sore right wrist, entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth. Acta said he will not play today, but should be healthy enough to start Monday when Cleveland begins its road trip in Detroit.
Texas designated hitter Elvis Andrus had a single in the eighth to extend his hitting streak against the Indians to 28 games, the third longest ever. Seattle’s Ken Griffey Jr. had a 35-gamer from 1992-1996, while Toronto’s George Bell went 34 games from 1985-1987.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.
• WHO: Cleveland vs. Texas
• TIME: 1:05 p.m.
• WHERE: Progressive Field
• PITCHERS: McAllister (5-5, 3.82 ERA) vs. Holland (9-6, 4.90)
• TV/RADIO: Channel 3, SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM