HOUSTON -- It's not often you hear the losing pitcher's night described as "outstanding," especially when he was on the mound as the other team walked it off.
That was Cody Anderson's fate in Wednesday's 5-3, 16-inning loss to the Astros, as the starter-turned-last-resort reliever shut Houston down for three innings before Marwin Gonzalez took him deep to end the game.
"You always set out to win the game and you get that deep into a game and it hurts when you lose, but he threw the ball really well," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "You get into an extra-inning game on the road, you're a pitch away from going home and that hurts. But I'm really pleased with the way he attacked with his pitches."
Anderson's valiant effort in an unusual role was just one amongst a slew of impressive relief innings. It bordered on absurd by the four-hour mark of the game. Cleveland utilized all eight bullpen arms and two starters over the course of the 16 innings, and even combined no-hit Houston for 8 2/3 frames.
But Anderson was at the center of it and also the last straw. The team had already decided on Tuesday it was moving Anderson's impending start to next Monday, based on some leg cramps in last Saturday's outing.
Francona even said they put the righty down in the bullpen during Tuesday and Wednesday's game just to "relax a little bit … be one of the guys." They thought Anderson was putting too much pressure on himself. He had a 7.56 ERA in five starts entering this week.
If he was going to get an inning of work in relief, the plan was for a blowout or a low-stress game. Then, Francona thought, Anderson could just "let it eat" out there.
Anderson didn't have that luxury on Wednesday, but he answered the bell despite moving to 0-3.
"[Pitching coach Mickey Callaway] and I were talking and from the things we were talking to him about, just watching him come out and attack, it'll serve him well," manager Terry Francona said.
Added Anderson: "I'm just out there competing. It's a different situation, but it's still the same thing. I just have to get outs. Unfortunately today, they wanted me to win and I didn't come through."
That was debatable, as teammates and Francona certainly weren't pinning this one at any one player. After all, it was a collective bullpen effort just to reach the 16th, and it was all hands on deck anyway after Danny Salazar's command struggles limited him to five innings.
"It was amazing, it was a really long game," Salazar said. "I feel like I pitched yesterday. That was awesome, though. Cody, who wasn't even supposed to pitch today, he made that sacrifice there and he saved a few arms."
It was ultimately a footnote to a loss, but it was encouraging for Anderson and the bullpen alike.
After all, Francona said, there's only so much you can ask of anybody five hours into a game.
"A lot of guys [came through]," he said. "You start asking a lot. You worry about the concentration, and I thought our guys did a good job of holding that.
"We played a clean game but you just get into a game where if you make a mistake, you'd like to be the home team."