When the Cleveland Indians lost Danny Salazar to injury, people doubted them.

When the Indians lost Carlos Carrasco to injury, people counted them out.

One month later, Cleveland is putting together one of the greatest pitching performances in postseason history.

No team has ever pitched five shutouts in a postseason, until now.

In three World Series games, Cleveland has shut out Chicago twice.

The Indians are racking up impressive statistics without two of their top three pitchers fully healthy. Keep in mind, starting pitcher Corey Kluber had a mild quadriceps strain in late September, and starting pitcher Trevor Bauer had a deep cut on his pinkie after messing around with a drone.

None of the injuries have mattered, however, as the Indians continue to find ways to get outs.

“Injuries are a part of the game. It’s going to happen throughout the year. Obviously, we’ve had our fair share of them pitching-wise, but I think it’s just really guys embracing the challenges of stepping in and filling those shoes,” Kluber said.

A big part of the success is the masterful use of the bullpen by manager Terry Francona, one of the best managers in postseason history. He led Boston to two World Series championships, and won his first nine World Series games before Game 2 on Wednesday.

Francona hasn’t been afraid to go to his bullpen early and often because it keeps performing.

In a three-game sweep of Boston in the American League Division Series, the Indians’ bullpen allowed two runs in 10 1/3 innings.

In five games against Toronto in the American League Championship Series, the Cleveland bullpen allowed four earned runs in 23 innings.

A star of that bullpen has been former Erie SeaWolves pitcher Andrew Miller. Through eight appearances, he has 27 strikeouts to four walks with no runs allowed in 15 innings.

It’s not just Miller, however.

Bryan Shaw is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in nine appearances out of the bullpen, while Cody Allen has six saves in eight games without allowing a run.

Dan Otero has one earned run allowed in five relief innings, and Jeff Manship hasn’t allowed an earned run in his two appearances.

Josh Tomlin has come up with big starts and Ryan Merritt, in his second MLB start, threw 4 1/3 shutout innings in a ALCS-clinching win over Toronto.
With Francona, traditional roles have been thrown out, and it continues to work for the Indians. Starting pitchers do not have to go five innings or more if he wants to make a move. His best relief pitchers could come in as early as the fifth inning and Francona has used some of them for two innings or more.

Miller was a back-end reliever with the New York Yankees, but he could appear in a game at any time and in any situation.

Francona has even declared Kluber the starting pitcher in three games in the World Series, which means he will pitch on short rest, twice. Francona has never pitched someone on short rest in the postseason.

“Kluber has made himself, through hard work, one of the elite pitchers in the game. Once he got here he didn’t take the foot off the gas,” Francona said. “I mean, this kid’s routines are impeccable. He works hard. Every time he picks up a ball, there is intent. There’s a reason that it’s late October and his gas tank, the needle’s on full. That’s a pretty big compliment to his work ethic.”

Losing two of your top three starting pitchers, and having to use a bullpen over and over might be too much to overcome for most teams chasing a World Series title.

The Indians are turning that situation into an all-time performance by the pitching staff.