The Indians rallied back in a wild five-run fifth inning and never looked back on Monday afternoon as Cleveland held off the Chicago White Sox, 9-6, in a special Memorial Day afternoon start.
Adam Plutko returned to the mound for his third start of the month and his second since stifling the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday, when he did not give up a hit until the seventh inning. In his second battle of the year with a team from Chicago, the effort would be extremely different than his six-plus innings of shutout baseball last week, but the end result would be the same for him and the Tribe.
Chicago jumped out to an early lead in the first inning with a manufactured run. Yoan Moncada walked on four straight pitches to start the afternoon, stole second, moved to third on a groundout by Yolmer Sanchez, and scored on a sacrifice fly to center to give starter Dylan Covey a little breathing room before he even got to the mound.
The White Sox would add two more to that early lead in the second. Matt Skole led off the inning with a first pitch single for his first Major League hit in his first at bat. After a fly out by Tim Anderson, Adam Engel tripled deep to center and scored on a sacrifice fly by Charlie Tilson to make it 3-0.
The Indians stranded a base runner in the first and hit into a double play in the second, but they would scratch across a gift run in the third, something that would be a trend throughout the middle innings. With one down in the inning, Greg Allen singled to left. He picked off second base and moved to third on a wild pitch from Covey. A second wild pitch, with catcher Alfredo Gonzalez looking lost at times behind the plate, allowed the speedy Indians center fielder to score with ease, getting Cleveland on the board in a 3-1 game.
Chicago got the run back and then some in the fourth. Daniel Palka singled but was caught stealing, which loomed large as the batter at the plate, Skole, hit his first big league homer to right to extend the Sox’s lead to 4-1. Four pitches later, Anderson followed with his fourth home run in the last week, giving Chicago back-to-back home runs for the first time since their season opener and a 5-1 lead.
The Indians got to Covey again in the fourth to tally another run. Jose Ramirez singled to lead off the inning and after a flailing strikeout attempt by Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso doubled to left, putting two in scoring position with just one out. Melky Cabrera knocked Ramirez in with a groundout to first, but Jason Kipnis struck out swinging to strand Alonso at third, leaving the game at 5-2.
Plutko had a quiet inning in the fifth, giving up just a two-out single to Sanchez in what would be his final frame of the ball game. Trailing 5-2 at the time, things would be much different when the White Sox would step in against the Indians’ bullpen in the next inning.
Covey was back on the mound for a fifth inning of work, facing the bottom of the Indians’ lineup. Yan Gomes reached on a throwing error by Anderson, but was forced out at second on a grounder by Allen, who legged out the fielder’s choice on a slow turn at second by Moncada. Francisco Lindor singled to center and Michael Brantley walked to load the bases, bringing manager Rick Renteria out of the dugout for reliever Luis Avilan. He threw one pitch, getting Ramirez to pop up to short, before Renteria went back to his bullpen for Chris Volstad. He could not replicate his bullpen mate’s success, but it was not necessarily his fault. On pitch two to Encarnacion, he got the slugger to send a pop up to shallow right. The fielders converged on the ball but it glanced off of the right fielder Palka’s glove, allowing Encarnacion to pull into second with a bases clearing two-out double, tying the game at 5-5. Renteria returned for his fourth pitcher of the inning, calling upon Jace Fry, who gave up an RBI-double to Alonso deep to right-center to give the Indians their first lead of the day at 6-5. Cabrera then reached safely on an error at second by Moncada, allowing Alonso to score the fifth run of the frame before Kipnis struck out swinging.
Manager Terry Francona turned to his bullpen in the sixth, and the occasionally risky move paid off. Tyler Olson struck out a pair in the sixth and Evan Marshall completed the inning by striking out Anderson swinging.
The Indians added another run in the sixth, as Gomes doubled to right, moved to third on a sacrifice by Allen, and scored on a single by Lindor (his second of three singles on the day). Marshall avoided trouble in the seventh after two singles to start the inning, getting a big double play ball and a strikeout to strand a runner at third. Encarnacion expanded the Tribe’s lead to four with a leadoff homer off of Chris Beck to start the bottom half of the inning, giving the Tribe’s slugger a four-RBI day at the plate.
Neil Ramirez gave up a leadoff single in the eighth and walked Skole with two outs, but escaped with no damage to the Indians’ advantage on the scoreboard. The White Sox would add one more in the ninth, but would get no closer, as Tilson reached on an infield single and scored on a double by Omar Narvaez off of Ben Taylor before a strikeout and a groundout ended any further suspense.
The Indians (27-25) have won three games in a row for the first time this month. The White Sox (16-35) fell to ten and a half games in back of the Tribe in the AL Central and are 8-17 in May.
With two wins in his first two career MLB starts, Plutko looked to make it three in a row and backed into another victory after his club’s big five-run fifth inning gave the Tribe a 7-5 lead at the time.
Plutko was not quite as crisp as his first two outings and suffered some of the long ball issues that he had in his debut appearance on May 3 against Toronto. As was the case in that start, he was supported on Monday with a big performance at the plate from the starting nine. He lasted just five innings, allowing five runs on six hits with a walk to the first batter of the game and two strikeouts. He threw just 75 pitches in his five innings before he got the hook prior to getting into the middle of the White Sox order for a third time.
COVEY HURT BY DEFENSIVE MISCUES
Covey was looking good in the early going, working around some early baserunners, but the fifth inning would prove to be his undoing as the defense behind him failed him on multiple occasions. He would be unable to finish the inning, working four and one-third frames while allowing five runs (just two earned) on five hits with three walks and three strikeouts while throwing 80 pitches on the afternoon.
Making his third career appearance against the Indians and his first in a starting role, he did not factor in the decision. The loss went to Volstad, his third of the year.
ROSTER MOVES AND FIRSTS
The White Sox took a hit prior to the game when they had to place slugger Matt Davidson on the 10-day disabled list (retroactive to May 25) with back spasms.
In a pair of corresponding roster moves, pitcher Ricardo Pinto was designated for assignment to create room on the 40-man roster for Skole, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Charlotte.
Michael Brantley extended his American League high hitting streak to 17 games on Monday with his first inning single off of Covey. He was hitless the rest of the day, drawing a walk, scoring a run, and hitting into a pair of double plays.
Jason Kipnis extended his own on-base streak to 17 straight games when he doubled in his final at bat in the bottom of the seventh on a ball misplayed by converging outfielders. His streak dates back to May 8.
In game two of the three-game series, the Indians and White Sox will each call upon a pair of young right-handers.
Mike Clevinger (3-2, 3.32 ERA) will bring some more sunshine to a hot day projected for downtown Cleveland on Tuesday night. It will be the fifth career appearance for the 27-year-old against Chicago and his first start since 2016. He is coming off of back-to-back losses in a pair of starts against Houston.
Lucas Giolito (3-5, 7.53) will counter for Chicago. He was hit hard in his last start, shelled for seven runs on six hits with three walks and two home runs allowed while failing to get out of the second inning. A first round pick in 2013 by the Washington Nationals, the right-hander is in his third season pitching at the Major League level and his second with the White Sox. His start on Tuesday will be his first career appearance against the Indians.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 PM ET.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images