Adam Plutko became the second Columbus Clippers hurler in as many weeks to be named the International League’s Pitcher of the Week.
Plutko made his first start back with Columbus on Saturday night after being optioned from Cleveland on May 29, not as a result of his performance for the Indians necessarily but more due to the club not needing a fifth starter until June 12. He would make sure that he stayed a visible and viable option in the Tribe’s future plans by taking a perfect game into the ninth inning in Syracuse against the Washington Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate, the Chiefs, before completing the no-hitter after a one-out walk.
The right-hander was aided by six runs of support from the Clippers in his return to Triple-A action, as Columbus scored three times in the third before adding solo runs in the fourth, fifth, and ninth innings.
He started and ended his day with swinging strikeouts of Jaff Decker. In between, Plutko put on a pitching display. He worked through the early innings with a diet of fly ball outs, striking out a batter in each of the first two innings before striking out a pair in the third. He added single strikeouts in the fifth, sixth, and seventh, with the latter ending a nine-pitch frame. He was even more impressive in the bottom of the eighth, needing just six pitches to get two groundouts and a fly out to right to extend his streak to 24 straight batters retired.
After getting a final run of support in the road half of the ninth, Plutko returned to the mound at the 98-pitch mark, looking to complete his perfect outing. He got the leadoff man to fly to the rehabbing Lonnie Chisenhall in the right field corner for the first out, but shortstop and eight-hitter Bengie Gonzalez walked on a questionable 3-2 pitch to end the bid for perfection. Plutko continued on unaffected, getting a fly ball to another rehabbing Indian, Brandon Guyer, in left field before striking out Decker on three straight pitches to end the ball game.
He would be credited with his fifth win for Columbus and eighth overall this season, including his three wins for the parent Indians. He walked one batter in nine scoreless and hitless innings, earning a 100 game score while throwing 112 pitches on the night. The shutout dropped his ERA at Triple-A to 1.87 and with just one base runner in 28 batters faced, his WHIP moved to 0.70 in his eight starts for the Clippers. The walk of Gonzalez was just his tenth in 53 minor league innings of work this season.
The 26-year-old right-hander has flirted with no-hitters and perfect games several times this season.
In his final start of April, he fired seven and two-thirds perfect innings against the Indianapolis Indians. Already tabbed at that point to make his first Major League start for the parent Indians on May 3 in game two of a doubleheader with the Toronto Blue Jays, he was lifted after just 95 pitches in favor of reliever Neil Ramirez, who gave up a double to the first batter that he faced. He would work the final four outs, allowing three total hits to complete the shutout of Indy.
Plutko’s second start with the Indians on May 23 also involved a bid for history. He took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. He would allow the first two batters of the inning to reach via hits and was hooked, but the bullpen held on for the win. He was credited with six-plus innings of work, allowing two hits and four walks while striking out four.
Plutko’s nine-inning no-hitter earned him the Clippers’ second Pitcher of the Week honor of the year, just one week after Shane Bieber won the award after firing his own seven-inning no-hitter in a game shortened by rain in Gwinnett against the Stripers, the top farm club of the Atlanta Braves.
With a pair of no-hitters in just over a week’s span, the Clippers became the first team in the International League to hurl a pair of no-hitters in the same season since Indianapolis accomplished the feat in 2012. It was the ninth no-hitter thrown by Columbus pitchers since joining the International League in 1977 and just the sixth by the club to encompass nine innings.
Plutko is in line to make one more start before he could potentially be recalled to Cleveland to occupy the fifth starter role, filling the spot vacated by the ineffective Josh Tomlin this season. Bieber is also a candidate for that start after being added to the 40-man roster last Thursday in a spot start in Minnesota.
Jacob May, an outfielder for the Chicago White Sox’s Triple-A affiliate in Charlotte, was named the International League’s Player of the Week after hitting .429 with a .484 on-base percentage and .536 slugging after going 12-for-28 during the week with a homer, five RBI, and six runs scored.
Photo: Cathryn Wood/Columbus Clippers