Texas Tames Clevinger in Rocky Return; Rangers 7, Indians 2

Mike Clevinger was back on the mound for the Indians on Monday for the first time since April 7, but he was unable to replicate his numbers from his first two starts to the season as he allowed three hits, three walks, and five runs over just four and two-thirds innings as the Texas Rangers defeated Cleveland by a 7-2 final.

Lance Lynn proved to be tough competition for the Indians in the series opener from Arlington, Texas, where the Rangers looked to hold off the hard-charging Indians for the second American League Wild Card spot. Lynn gave his club yet another quality start and his offense was able to provide him with a steady stream of two-out run support in a Texas-sized victory over the Tribe.

Both clubs were retired in order through the first two innings, but the Indians had a different kind of scare in the second when an old friend nearly made a mess of Cleveland’s plans. After the 1-2-3 first from Clevinger, he faced Asdrubal Cabrera to lead off the second. He swung at the first pitch and grounded towards Carlos Santana at first. Clevinger rolled his plant leg ankle awkwardly and hobbled a bit, bringing the Tribe trainer and manager Terry Francona out of the dugout. Clevinger did some on-field calisthenics to show that the injury was not going to hamper him, then went out and struck out the next two batters to end the inning.

Lynn had to contend with some trouble of his own in the third. After strikeouts by Roberto Perez and Tyler Naquin to start the inning, Leonys Martin reached on a well-placed bunt single. A single to left-center by Francisco Lindor, extending his hitting streak to six straight, put a second runner on, but a tough day at the plate continued for Oscar Mercado as he struck out for the second straight at bat, stranding a pair to end the inning.

Santana – Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Texas made a habit of coming through with timely two-out hits on Monday and it started in the bottom of the third. With one down in the inning, Ronald Guzman doubled to right. After a strikeout by the light-hitting Jeff Mathis, Shin-Soo Choo jumped on the first pitch that he saw and doubled to left, scoring Guzman with the game’s first run. Delino DeShields was retired on a liner to right for the final out.

The Indians threatened again in the fourth with two outs, but could not deliver for Clevinger. Santana singled to right before back-to-back fly outs by Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez. Jake Bauers singled to right, putting runners on the corners for Perez, but he sent a 2-2 pitch to the warning track in left to leave two on for the second straight inning.

The Rangers came through with another two-out rally in the fourth to pad their lead. After Clevinger set down the first two, he walked Willie Calhoun on four straight pitches. The next offering was over the plate and right when Danny Santana wanted it as he crushed a two-out, two-run home run to center to give Texas a 3-0 lead.

Cleveland got a big two-out hit of its own to respond in the top of the fifth. After consecutive grounders to first by Naquin and Martin, Lindor sent a 3-1 four-seamer over the wall in center for his 12th homer of the year, making it a 3-1 game.

Clevinger’s up and down game continued in the fifth as the game began to get away from the Tribe. The hard-throwing right-hander struck out the first two batters, but walked Choo in an eight-pitch battle. He stole second before a seven-pitch walk on the payoff pitch to DeShields to put a pair on. Francona came out of the dugout with Clevinger at 91 pitches and brought on righty Tyler Clippard to face notorious Indians killer Elvis Andrus. As he has done throughout his career, he delivered and did so with another big two-out knock as he blooped a double down the left field line that plated both base runners to give Texas a comfortable 5-1 edge.

The Indians left another runner in scoring position in the sixth after a two-out ground rule double by Ramirez before the Rangers tacked on with another two-out hit. Tyler Olson came on as the Indians’ third pitcher of the day and got the first batter before Santana singled to left. After a strikeout by Rougned Odor, Santana stole second and was joined on the bases on a walk by Guzman. A passed ball with Mathis at the plate bounced off the back wall and down towards the first base dugout, allowing Santana to score all the way from second. A single by Mathis moved Guzman across as the Rangers scored their seventh run of the game with two outs on the scoreboard.

Lynn struck out two in his final inning in the seventh before turning the game over to Jose Leclerc for the eighth. Facing the top of the order, he retired Lindor on a liner. Mercado stepped in, 0-for-3 on the day with three strikeouts, but he pulled the payoff pitch from Leclerc off of the foul pole in left for his fourth home run of the year, cutting the Indians deficit to 7-2. Cleveland got no closer, however, as Leclerc got the next two and Brett Martin worked around a single by Bauers with one out in the ninth by getting Perez to ground into the game-ending double play.

Clevinger – Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Indians (37-34) dropped a game and a half in back of the Rangers (39-33) in the Wild Card race with the defeat.

The 32-year-old Lynn continued a resurgent year on the mound in his first season with the Rangers by throwing his eighth straight quality start and eleventh of the season. Coming off a pair of no-decisions, he earned his second win of the month to move to 8-4 on the year. He allowed just one run on six hits, striking out nine and failing to walk a batter.

Combined with two innings of relief from Leclerc and Martin, Rangers pitching did not walk a batter on Monday.

Clevinger’s rough week off the field carried onto the mound as he was tagged for his first runs of the season. While he allowed just three hits, he walked three batters, all of whom came around to score. He struck out an encouraging seven (including six on the fastball) in his four and two-thirds, but his pitch count was elevated quickly, helping to lead to an early exit from the contest.

“One, it was nice seeing him out there. Two, he scared the heck out of us when he went down,” Francona said of Clevinger’s second inning ankle roll. “It was nice to see him back competing. As he gets reps under his belt, he’ll build up, he’ll refine his pitches and he’ll be OK.”

The Indians sent Clevinger for x-rays on the ankle after his start. The pitcher reported that the results “came back good”.

“It’s definitely scary, especially just coming off the DL, or IL,” said Clevinger about the incident. “It was pretty sticky and then I kind of finished up across my body. And then went to take off and my foot stay into the ground.”

Clippard allowed both of his inherited runners to score to push Clevinger’s earned run count up a pair, while Olson allowed two more to reach in a messy sixth.

Eight of the nine runs scored by the two teams on the night came with two outs. Each left five men on base.

Both clubs made roster moves prior to the game.

The Indians optioned left-handed reliever Josh Smith to Triple-A Columbus to create a 25-man roster spot for Clevinger. Cleveland transferred right-hander Corey Kluber from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day IL to make room on the 40-man roster for Clevinger’s activation from the same list (after missing more than two months with a right upper back/Teres Major muscle strain).

The Rangers placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day injured list with a right groin strain. The second-year outfielder Calhoun was activated from the IL after missing time with a left quad strain. Right fielder Nomar Mazara was out of the lineup for the Rangers with right hamstring tightness, missing his second straight game.

The Indians will look to even up their four-game set with the Rangers on Tuesday night in another 8:05 PM ET first pitch from Globe Life Park. Texas will bring out right-hander Adrian Sampson (5-3, 4.21 ERA), who has gone 5-0 over his last six games (including three starts and three relief appearances after an opener). Cleveland will call on rookie righty Zach Plesac (1-2, 2.92 ERA), who will look to get back on track after the first rough start of his brief Major League career last Wednesday against Cincinnati.

Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

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