The Cleveland bullpen allowed three runs after seven shutout innings of one-hit baseball from Mike Clevinger, but a similar disastrous effort from the Chicago White Sox allowed the Indians to rally with four runs in the bottom of the eighth for a 5-3 win in Monday’s Home Opener from Progressive Field.
Three different Tribe relievers combined for two extra base hits, a walk, a costly error, and three poorly timed runs in the top of the eighth as the dormant White Sox lineup woke up to claim a 3-1 lead. Chicago manager Rick Renteria responded with a trip to his own bullpen after seven one-run innings from Ivan Nova, but it proved to be costly.
Left-hander Jace Fry walked the leadoff man Leonys Martin before Jose Ramirez flied to center for the first out of the eighth. Jake Bauers hung in after falling behind two strikes and drove the ball with authority the opposite way to the gap in left-center, putting two in scoring position and bringing Renteria back to the mound for right-hander Dylan Covey. Carlos Santana was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up force plays around the diamond, but Covey’s first official pitch was slapped towards second by Hanley Ramirez. Ranging to his left, Yolmer Sanchez had the ball tick off of his glove and into right field, allowing Martin to score from third on the error. Max Moroff, who entered the game in the top of the inning at second base, drove the first pitch that he saw the opposite way to left, bringing the tying run across the plate in Bauers with his first hit of the season. Roberto Perez, hitless on the campaign, stepped into the batter’s box with a chance to be the hero and he did just that in unconventional fashion, taking four straight two-seamers off of the plate for a four-pitch walk, giving Cleveland a 4-3 lead.
Renteria went back to the ‘pen for Caleb Frare, but he provided the same painful result as his predecessor, walking pinch-hitter Greg Allen on five pitches to force in another run. Frare recovered to strike out Eric Stamets on a 3-2 pitch and the tenth man to bat, Martin, struck out on a 2-2 slider to end the threat, but Cleveland had a 5-3 lead with three outs to go.
Brad Hand came on looking for his second save in as many opportunities in the ninth. After hitting Welington Castillo with a slider to put the Sox catcher on base for the fourth time on the day, Hand handled the rest by getting Sanchez to fly to center, Jose Rondon to strike out looking, and Adam Engel to strike out swinging in an eight-pitch at bat.
The Indians got on the board in the sixth inning with a clutch two-out hit from the team’s hottest hitter to open the season, Santana. After J. Ramirez delivered a big one-out double to left in front of a sliding Eloy Jimenez, Santana stepped to the plate an out later and sent a 2-1 two-seamer through the shift on the right side of the infield to score Ramirez, giving Cleveland a 1-0 lead.
The White Sox could not strike through against Clevinger, but did against the bullpen in the eighth. Adam Cimber was the first man on in relief, but Rondon reached safely on a comebacker to the mound that Cimber threw into the stands. A sacrifice from Engel moved the runner to third. Oliver Perez came on to face the switch-hitting Yoan Moncada, who pulled a fastball into the left field corner for a game-tying RBI-double. With pinch-hitter Ryan Cordell announced for Palka, manager Terry Francona went back to the mound again, bringing in right-hander Jon Edwards, but his second pitch was driven into the stiff wind blowing in from center. The ball cleared the fence for a costly two-run home run to give Chicago a 3-1 lead. Edwards sandwiched two outs on the ground around a walk of Alonso to prevent further damage.
Despite being responsible for the Sox’s lead in the top of the eighth, Edwards earned his second win of the season in as many appearances. He was charged with a run on a hit with a walk and a strikeout in two-thirds of an inning of work. Covey took the loss for Chicago, allowing two runs (one earned) on one hit with a pair of walks while not retiring a batter.
The Indians offense had a never-say-die attitude in the eighth inning after failing to do much of anything against Chicago starter Nova, who worked seven innings of one-run baseball with six hits and a walk allowed while striking out four. After squandering an opportunity in the first with two on and nobody out, the next nine Indians were retired in order before a walk by Bauers to start the fourth. He was erased on a double play and H. Ramirez singled with two down, but he was stranded. Nova retired the side in order in the fifth.
The eighth inning was a completely different story against the Chicago bullpen. The Indians drew four walks (including two with the bases loaded), had two hits, and had one more reach on error in a ten-batter frame that accounted for a season-high four runs scored in the inning.
“Basically, it didn’t work,” said Sox skipper Renteria after the game. “It didn’t work out. I’m fully confident that everyone I put in will be successful. If they do not do well, you can blame me.”
Clevinger pitched like a man on a mission from the get go. He struck out the side in order in a 17-pitch first inning and added two more in the second around a leadoff four-pitch walk to Yonder Alonso and a one-out walk to Castillo. He ended the third inning with his sixth strikeout of the day, getting Daniel Palka swinging. He closed the door on the fourth the same way, catching Jimenez looking for his seventh K.
Castillo led off the fifth with the Sox’s first hit of the day, a single to left-center, but he was stranded at first after a lineout and two more strikeouts from Clevinger. An eight-pitch sixth bought Clevinger another inning on the mound, as he was under a dozen pitches away from the century mark on a cold day in Cleveland after his tenth K of the day on a high heater against Jose Abreu.
He struggled slightly with his location again in his final frame, but only after striking out Alonso looking to tie his career-best with eleven strikeouts. Jimenez grounded out on the next pitch for the second out, but Castillo worked a walk as Clevinger lost his command of the zone. He found it again after falling behind 2-0 to Sanchez, firing three straight heaters to set down the second baseman swinging with a new personal best 12th K of the day.
Clevinger was lifted after seven, allowing no runs on one hit with three walks and 12 strikeouts in a tough no-decision. He made 106 pitches, with 62 crossing for strikes.
Clevinger’s accomplishments were an unusual sight for Tribe fans. In the last 40 seasons (according to MLB Network), the Indians have had just five outings by a pitcher with 12 or more strikeouts and one hit allowed or less. Carlos Carrasco did so twice – on 7/1/15 at Tampa Bay (13 strikeouts) and on 9/25/15 at Kansas City (15 strikeouts). Corey Kluber stymied St. Louis similarly with 18 strikeouts on 5/13/15 and Bartolo Colon went into New York on 9/18/00 and struck out 13.
CUTTING BACK ON THE K
After striking out 13 times in each of the first three games of the season, the Indians cut that number by more than half, striking out just six times against White Sox pitching. They also matched their previous offensive production in one day combined, scoring five runs after putting up just five in three games against Minnesota over the weekend.
The Indians offense did little to support their starter Clevinger through the first seven innings, but the bullpen did even less, failing to protect the slight one-run lead against a Sox club that mustered just one Castillo hit against the Tribe’s hard-throwing right-hander.
Cimber, Perez, and Edwards allowed three runs (two earned) on two hits with a walk and just one strikeout in their inning of work. Cimber’s error allowed the first man to reach and set the tone for the unpleasant inning.
For the second time this season, the Indians unveiled a new uniform on the field.
After wearing their new navy road jerseys while in Minnesota over the weekend, Cleveland donned its new red uniform tops on Monday. The red color scheme will enter the jersey rotation for the first time since 1977 and will be worn as an alternate home jersey for weekends and special occasions. It replaces the former navy home jersey and will pair with the traditional home whites. Both home unis will be accompanied by the navy cap.
The two teams will conclude their brief visit on Wednesday after a day off on Tuesday. Right-handers Kluber (0-1, 2.57 ERA) and Carlos Rodon (0-1, 3.38 ERA) will make their second starts of the year.
First pitch from Progressive Field on a getaway day for the White Sox is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak