Plutko and Bullpen Combine on One-Hit Gem Over Orioles; Indians 4, Orioles 1

Previous results do not always predict future outcomes and that was the case on Saturday as Adam Plutko and the Cleveland Indians bullpen combined on a one-hit beauty over the Baltimore Orioles, 4-1, from Progressive Field.

The Indians have been looking for some answers in their starting rotation after losses of both Mike Clevinger and Corey Kluber have left the team a bit thin at the MLB level. While Jefry Rodriguez seems to have replaced Clevinger, Kluber’s spot was unsuccessfully held down in a pair of short starts by Cody Anderson, who was optioned back to Triple-A Columbus earlier in the week.

Plutko was recalled by the Indians prior to the game from Columbus, where he made a pair of conflicting appearances for the Clippers while looking to return from a right forearm strain suffered in the spring that had kept him on the shelf to open the year.

Plutko – David Maxwell/Getty Images

After giving up five runs on two hits with three walks while retiring just one batter in his first start of the season against Charlotte on May 7, he returned for a much better second start against Syracuse on May 12. He took a second straight L, but he allowed just one run (via solo homer) on two hits total with a walk, a hit batter, and four strikeouts over five innings of work.

The Indians got the Plutko far more similar to the latter than the one prior in game three against the Orioles. The only blemish on the stat sheet for the Tribe on Saturday was a fourth inning solo home run by Baltimore’s Trey Mancini, which gave the Orioles the first lead of the game. They had missed out on scoring opportunities against Plutko in the second, when Chris Davis drew a leadoff walk before Stevie Wilkerson grounded into a double play. The Tribe right-hander retired seven in a row before Mancini put the first hit and run of the game on the scoreboard for Baltimore with his shot over the wall in left.

John Means entered with good numbers on the season and was coming off of his first two career quality starts in wins over Boston and Los Angeles. Early on, it looked like he was in line for another win, as long as he got some run support. Mancini’s shot proved to be insufficient.

After facing one over the minimum through the first three innings (Carlos Gonzalez two-out walk in the second), Means took the mound in the bottom of the fourth for the first time on the day with a lead. That edge, however, was destined to die as Carlos Santana doubled to center with one out, moved to third on a wild pitch, and came in to score a strike later as Jordan Luplow blasted home run number five on the season to the bleachers in left to give the Indians a 2-1 lead.

Plutko worked around a one-out walk by Rio Ruiz in the fifth before the Indians offense got back to work with another big one-out hit. Oscar Mercado registered the first hit of his big league career with a double to left-center and he came in to score on a single through the left side by Francisco Lindor to push the Cleveland lead to 3-1. Lindor was joined on the bases after an infield single by Jason Kipnis and a walk by Santana, but Luplow grounded into a double play to waste the bases loaded opportunity.

While Plutko’s pitch count was expected to be heavily monitored in his first MLB start since straining his right forearm in the spring, he was able to last six innings. He turned the game over after that to the bullpen, which looked to protect a 3-1 lead. Oliver Perez did his part, striking out three of the four batters that he faced in an inning and one-third. Adam Cimber put two on via error and walk, but Brad Hand came on in the two-run game to strike out Jonathan Villar on a diet of slider, slider, and slider to end the threat and leave the score at two.

Santana rewarded Hand’s effort with a big one of his own to start the home half of the eighth against Miguel Castro. On the second pitch of his appearance, Castro’s changeup to Santana was driven to deep center field for the first baseman’s sixth home run of the year while giving Cleveland a late insurance run in a 4-1 game.

Santana – Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire (via Getty Images)

Hand returned to wrap up his four-out save and did just that, getting Dwight Smith Jr. to line to third, Mancini to line to left, and Davis to go down hacking on a slider to end the game.

The Indians guaranteed at least a series split with the O’s with the 4-1 win and moved to 24-20 on the season. The Orioles dropped to 15-30 on the year in another rough start for Baltimore.

Plutko got a well-deserved win for an incredible quality start on the mound. He scattered 83 pitches over six innings, allowing just the one hit while walking two and striking out four. The Tribe bullpen trio of Perez, Cimber, and Hand combined to work three hitless innings with five strikeouts. Hand’s save was his 12th in as many tries.

Means suffered his fourth defeat of the campaign. He went five innings, giving up three runs on five hits with three walks and a strikeout. Just three of his 53 strikes thrown were swung on and missed by the Indians hitters.

Prior to the game, the Indians designated right-handed reliever Neil Ramirez for assignment to create room on the roster for the addition of Plutko. In 16 games this season for Cleveland, Ramirez posted a 5.40 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP over 16 2/3 innings. He had suffered significant jumps to his hit, walk, and home run rates while seeing declines in his strikeout rate, which was at its lowest since 2016.

The Indians have seven days to place the 29-year-old Ramirez on waivers, trade him, or give him his outright release.

The Indians will go for a series win in the finale of the four-game set from Progressive Field at 1:10 PM ET on Sunday afternoon. Right-hander Shane Bieber (2-2, 3.81 ERA) will go for his third win of the season in his ninth start of the campaign. The Orioles will counter with righty Yefry Ramirez (0-1, 5.14). The 25-year-old will make his fifth appearance and first start of the season.

Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images

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