Mike Clevinger was masterful on the mound for the Cleveland Indians on Saturday afternoon at Oriole Park at Camden Yards as he threw his first career complete game and shutout in a 4-0 win over the Baltimore Orioles.
For the first time in his Major League career, Clevinger pitched into and completed the ninth inning in wrapping up a two-hit shutout over the Orioles. He came into the outing with a pair of wins against Baltimore in his career. It was a strong bounce back effort for “Sunshine”, who looked sharp after giving up four runs in the fourth inning of his last start in a short no-decision for the 27-year-old right-hander.
Making his second career start in Baltimore, following last season’s five innings of two-run baseball in a win, Clevinger took command early and worked around the few problems that came his way. A first inning run gave him some room on the mound, and three home runs later would pad his advantage, with some of the pop coming from a big day at the plate from Jose Ramirez.
The Tribe took the lead in the first with a little help from Orioles starter Chris Tillman. After getting Francisco Lindor to fly to right to start the game, he walked Jason Kipnis on five pitches. Ramirez followed with his first of three hits on the day, a single to center, to put two on. A wild pitch allowed both runners to move up and with both runners in scoring position, Michael Brantley put the Indians on the board with an RBI-grounder to second to make it a 1-0 game. Still with a big runner on third, Edwin Encarnacion could not drive him home as he flied to center to end the inning.
The Indians’ struggles with runners in scoring position continued after the 0-for-2 in the first (despite the run scored). Yonder Alonso led off the second with a single and moved into scoring position on another wild pitch from Tillman, but each of the next three batters were retired in order.
Clevinger started out strong, working an easy first inning around a two-out walk to Manny Machado. He had a quiet second, getting a pair of outs in the air, but his offense could not come through in the third with a chance to add to the one-run lead. Kipnis reached on a bunt single to extend his hitting streak to seven straight and Ramirez singled him to second. With two on and one out, the Indians fell to 0-for-6 hitting with runners in scoring position as Brantley grounded into a 3-6-1 double play to short circuit the rally attempt.
The Tribe right-hander walked the first batter of the third, Chance Sisco, who had an impressive afternoon behind the plate, but Clevinger got the next three batters in order to end the inning before his battery mate would give him a little more wiggle room on the mound. With two outs in the fourth, Yan Gomes delivered a big fly to left on a 2-2 fastball up, extending the Indians lead to 2-0.
Clevinger had his toughest inning in the fourth, when the defense behind him failed for a moment. Machado led off the home half of the frame with a single to left, reaching base safely for the second time on the day. Adam Jones lined to center for the first out before a ground ball from Chris Davis towards Lindor on the right side of second base in the shifted infield. Lindor did not get his glove down enough and the ball shot through into right field, allowing Machado to motor to third. With runners on the corners, Clevinger picked up his defense, getting Tim Beckham to fly to short left before former Indians prospect Anthony Santander grounded to Alonso at first to leave a key run 90 feet from the plate.
Baltimore got their second hit in as many innings when Sisco led off the bottom of the fifth with a single, but a nice snare at first base by Alonso started a double play ball off of the bat of Luis Sardinas. The Indians then gave Clevinger even more support, as Ramirez led off the sixth with a solo blast to right and two outs later, Alonso followed with a drive of his own to double the Tribe lead to 4-0.
From there, it was Clevinger’s ball game. He did not allow another base runner through the final four innings. He got a pair of fly outs and a strikeout in the sixth, six straight groundouts through the seventh and eighth, a fly out to start the ninth, and two more on the ground to end it.
The Indians (10-8) ended their brief two-game losing skid with the win, evening the series in Baltimore at one game apiece. They are now 4-6 on the road this season. For the Orioles (6-15), it was yet another frustrating day at the plate as they dropped their seventh game in their last eight.
IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY
Clevinger, who previously established a new career-high for innings pitched with seven and one-third innings of work in his second start of the year in a no-decision against Kansas City, set himself a new personal best with his first career complete game shutout on Saturday.
“There were some deep counts and then we got to that point in the fourth when Frankie tried to check the runner too quick. From there, [Clevinger] started pounding the zone,” shared manager Terry Francona after the game. “He got a couple first pitch outs in innings, which is good. That was really fun to watch.”
In his complete game effort, Clevinger allowed two hits and two walks while retiring the final 15 outs in order. He struck out three and had a perfect balance between outs in the air and outs on the ground with a dozen of each. He threw 107 pitches, 70 for strikes, and 20 for first pitch strikes, all while facing just four batters over the minimum on the day.
The nine scoreless innings dropped his season ERA to 1.75.
LONG BALL HURTS BALTIMORE AGAIN
Tillman was dealt his fourth straight loss of the year. He was charged with four runs on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts. The three solo home runs allowed the Indians to slip away as his teammates were unable to produce against Clevinger. He was wild for stretches, throwing a pair of wild pitches, and he did not have the Indians fooled too often at the plate as they swung and missed just four times in the contest.
The loss for Tillman marked the 22nd straight start for the right-hander without a win, an unpleasant streak stretching back to the beginning of the 2017 season.
Gomes extended his hitting streak to seven straight with his solo homer. Kipnis extended his own streak to seven games with his bunt single in the third.
Brantley saw his streak of five straight multi-hit games come to an end on Saturday, but his hitting streak remained intact and grew to six straight with his single.
Alonso, whose five-game hitting streak came to an end in Friday night’s loss, had a pair of hits in Saturday’s win. His brother-in-law, Baltimore’s Machado, pushed his hitting streak to nine games with one of the two Orioles hits on the day.
ON THE SHELF
Baltimore leadoff man and outfielder Trey Mancini was out of the lineup for the O’s on Saturday after needing stitches in his right knee following a collision with a wall during Friday’s game. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Craig Gentry. He is expected to miss a couple of days, but it appears as though he will not need a disabled list trip.
The O’s will host the Indians in game three of the four-game wraparound set on Sunday afternoon. A pair of right-handers will oppose one another, as Baltimore’s Andrew Cashner (1-2, 3.00) will take on Tribe ace Corey Kluber (2-1, 1.52).
The 31-year-old Cashner will make his fifth start of the year and has been good in his first season with the Orioles. He is coming off of a loss his last time out, when he gave up three runs in six innings to Detroit in a 4-2 loss. He is averaging six innings per start and has three quality starts in four appearances. He has faced the Indians once in each of the last two seasons and has taken rough losses in each outing. Last season, he went five innings and allowed five runs on six hits. He had a similar line the year before, allowing six runs.
Kluber will look to pick right back up where he left off in his last outing, a six and two-thirds innings effort in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the Indians’ win over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday. He owns a 2-1 mark in his career against the Orioles with a 2.76 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. The last time he faced them, he threw a complete game three-hit shutout while striking out eleven Baltimore batters.
First pitch from Oriole Park at Camden Yards is scheduled for 1:05 PM ET.
Photo: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images