Rested Clevinger Cruises as Tribe Shuts Out Rays; Indians 3, Rays 0

For a lot of Major League players, they seem to get amped up and find a way to pay back teams who may have given up on them or traded them away. For former Tribe farmhand Chris Archer, that has not been the case as he took a seventh straight loss in as many starts against Cleveland as he was outpitched by right-hander Mike Clevinger in a 3-0 Indians win on Saturday night.

Archer has yet to find the magic potion for stopping the Indians. The team that drafted and developed him, before shipping him off in a trade with the Chicago Cubs in December of 2008 for Mark DeRosa, knocked off the two-time All-Star right-hander for the second time this season and the seventh time in his career. The Indians remain the only team in the American League that he has not defeated in his six-year big league career.

The Indians (62-52) notched their second straight shutout and dealt the Rays (59-59) their fifth shutout in the last eight games and their ninth at home this season as their Wild Card hopes hang in the balance. A powerful lineup built around the long ball has been grounded as the Indians took a 2-1 series lead.

The news gets worse for the Rays, as Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber will take the mound for Cleveland on Sunday.

Santana & Ramirez - Brian Blanco/Getty Images
Santana & Ramirez – Brian Blanco/Getty Images

The Indians got their work done with a little help from the Rays. After setting the first two men down in the first, Archer walked fellow All-Star Jose Ramirez on five pitches. Edwin Encarnacion grounded down the third base line and legged out an infield single, beating the throw of Trevor Plouffe as Ramirez hustled all the way to third. Jay Bruce popped a ball up into shallow left field as Plouffe and left fielder Corey Dickerson converged on the ball. Neither would make the catch as the ball would bounce off the turf with Ramirez scoring, Encarnacion going to third, and Bruce getting credit for a two-base hit. Carlos Santana struck out on three pitches, but Cleveland had a 1-0 lead.

Clevinger gave up a leadoff single to Dickerson to start the home half of the first, but erased him on a double play grounder from Lucas Duda. Logan Morrison started the second with a single, but Clevinger bounced back with three straight swinging strikeouts of the five, six, and seven hitters to get out of the inning.

The Tribe tallied another two-out run in the third to extend their lead and once again received a little help from the Rays in the process. Francisco Lindor doubled to lead off the inning and moved up to third on a grounder by Bradley Zimmer. Ramirez struck out swinging for the second out, but with Encarnacion at the plate, Archer’s 0-2 pitch to the Indians slugger got away from catcher Wilson Ramos. Lindor slipped briefly but was able to race to the plate just ahead of Archer’s tag to give the Indians a two-run advantage.

Clevinger retired nine straight after Morrison’s second inning single before Brad Miller began the fifth with a double to right. After Ramos flied out to left for the first out, Miller was thrown out on a costly caught stealing by Roberto Perez in a bit of a head-scratching move by the Rays. Plouffe walked and moved to second on an infield single by Mallex Smith, but Adeiny Hechavarria fouled out in a double-digit pitch at bat to leave a pair in a wasted inning by the Rays.

The Indians would make that failed opportunity by the Rays all the more costly the next half inning. Ramirez doubled to start the sixth and moved to third on a fly out to the warning track in center by Encarnacion. Bruce lined a single to right over a pulled in infield to make it 3-0 and after Santana drew a walk, Archer’s streak of 15 consecutive starts of six innings or more came to an end as Sergio Romo came on for manager Kevin Cash to retire the final two outs.

Bruce - Brian Blanco/Getty Images
Bruce – Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Clevinger pitched two more innings, retiring the final seven batters that he faced through seven innings of work. Joe Smith pitched a perfect eighth, striking out a pair, and Cody Allen replicated his effort, striking out two in earning his 20th save of the season.

Clevinger (6-4, 3.65 ERA) showed no rust in making his first start since a tough outing in Boston on July 31 and just his second appearance since, including a one-inning relief outing on August 6. His nine strikeouts matched a career-high. He worked ahead in the count most of the night, throwing first-pitch strikes to 18 of the 24 batters that he faced. Most importantly, he limited unnecessary base traffic from the Rays, giving up just four hits and one walk in his 98-pitch effort.

Archer (8-7, 3.84) was hurt by a pair of unforced errors. He allowed three runs on seven hits with two walks and eight strikeouts in five and one-third innings and once again failed to earn his first win against the Indians.

Kluber (10-3, 2.65) will look to give the Indians a series win in the finale on Sunday. He has thrown back-to-back complete games, giving up a run on three hits in each. Right-hander Austin Pruitt (6-3, 5.14) will go for the Rays, making his third start against an AL All-Star pitcher.

First pitch from St. Petersburg is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.

Photo: Brian Blanco/Getty Images

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