James Shields got back into the win column for the first time since Opening Day, limiting the Indians to just one run in seven innings of work as the Chicago White Sox handed Cleveland a 5-1 loss on Tuesday.
Shields had been on the losing end of seven straight decisions and had gone 13 games since his only win of the season to date. He had the Indians putting the ball in the air all night long, but unlike the results of his last two starts (when he allowed six home runs), Shields was able to keep the ball in the yard, collecting a personal-best 16 outs on fly outs over the course of his night. The 36-year-old right-hander would get all of the support that he needed within the first five pitches of the game from Indians rookie righty Adam Plutko, who looked to win a fourth straight start in his second season in the big leagues.
Shields retired the Indians in order after plunking Francisco Lindor with the first pitch of the game, bringing switch-hitter Yoan Moncada to the batter’s box for the Sox against Plutko. In a 2-1 count, he got a fastball in and drilled it over the wall in center to put Chicago up, 1-0. On the very next pitch, Yolmer Sanchez delivered the same result, rocketing a four-seamer to right-center for back-to-back blasts and a 2-0 lead.
It would prove to be plenty for Shields, but the White Sox would not be done in the inning. After Jose Abreu grounded to second for the first out, Daniel Palka walked on seven pitches and Matt Davidson drove the next pitch deep to center for an RBI-double, extending the lead to 3-0 for the Sox after one.
Shields retired eight in a row before Lindor stepped up to the plate for his second at bat. He slapped an opposite field double past the shifted third baseman with two outs, but he was stranded there as Michael Brantley lined sharply to center.
Plutko was able to settle down after the sloppy first. While he allowed a single to start the second, a fly out, a caught stealing, and a strikeout ended the frame. Plutko put on the first batter of the third with a free pass, but after balking the runner to second, the Columbus call-up struck out the next three batters swinging.
Chicago threatened in the fourth. Omar Narvaez singled to start the home half, but Tim Anderson popped out. Charlie Tilson grounded into a force at second before Adam Engel singled to put runners at the corners for the top of the order, but Moncada popped out to third on a nice place by Jose Ramirez reaching into the stands.
Plutko would not be as lucky in the fifth as his night would come to a premature close. After getting the first two outs, Plutko walked Palka again and in a case of déjà vu, Davidson doubled to deep center again, driving in another run to make it a 4-0 game. Narvaez got his second hit, doubling to right-center to plate Davidson, giving Shields and the Sox a 5-0 lead.
Shields retired eight straight again before the pesky Lindor got to him again for another hit, providing just the second Tribe hit of the night with a one-out single in the sixth. Brantley singled off of Moncada to move Lindor to third and he scored on a sacrifice fly from Ramirez to put the Indians on the board with their lone run of the night.
Zach McAllister saved the Cleveland bullpen with seven needed outs in two and one-third innings of work, striking out the final batter of the fifth and two more in the sixth before a nine-pitch seventh.
Shields allowed a double to start the top of the seventh to Yonder Alonso, but he would be unable to move past third base. It would be Shields’ last frame, as he allowed just a run on four hits with no walks and a pair of strikeouts. Jace Fry retired the side in order in the eighth with two strikeouts, but three pitchers were needed to put down the Tribein the ninth as Nate Jones gave up a double to Ramirez before walking Alonso with one out. Xavier Cedeno was summoned from the bullpen for the lefty-lefty matchup and struck out Jason Kipnis swinging for the second out and Joakim Soria got Yan Gomes with one of the loudest outs of the game, as he came just feet short of a three-run home run on a fly out to deep center.
The Indians dropped to 35-30 on the season with the defeat, their first of the year against the White Sox in five games. Chicago moved to 23-42 with the win and 11-20 at home.
Plutko, making his fourth career big league start and his second straight against the White Sox, had trouble with command against an aggressive and young Chicago lineup. He was able to give the Indians some length after the early inning woes, but made it just four and two-thirds innings while taking his first MLB loss. He allowed five runs on eight hits, walking three and striking out five. The Indians bullpen, however, stopped the bleeding, throwing three and one-third hitless shutout innings with two walks by Tyler Olson.
Cleveland’s issues extended to the offensive side, where Shields kept them contained for much of the night. The Indians mustered just five hits and went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position with six men left on base. Lindor reached base three times and Alonso did twice.
Prior to the game, the Indians optioned catcher/outfielder Francisco Mejia back to Triple-A Columbus to make room on the roster for Plutko. Mejia’s stay on the roster was just one day while providing insurance for the injured Roberto Perez, who appears to have avoided a disabled list trip and broken bones after being hit by a pitch in Sunday’s game.
The Indians will look to get back into the win column on Wednesday night in another 8:10 PM ET start from Guaranteed Rate Field. Chicago will call on right-hander Dylan Covey (2-1, 2.22 ERA), who earned his only loss of the season against the Indians on May 28 in his shortest start of the season. Trevor Bauer (5-4, 2.62) will look to continue his good season in his first start of the season against the White Sox. He has struck out ten batters or more in four of his last five starts.
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