A nine-run second inning was more than plenty for the Washington Nationals on Saturday as they secured home field advantage in Tuesday’s National League Wild Card Game with a 10-7 blowout of the Cleveland Indians.
With meaningful games done for the Indians after being eliminated from 2019 playoff consideration on Friday night, a lineup filled primarily with bench bats put up a bit of a fight on Saturday, but only after Adam Plutko and the Cleveland bullpen were destroyed in a nine-run frame by the Nationals as they rolled to victory. The only blemish for Washington was a subpar performance from Patrick Corbin, their big offseason signing, who was tagged for six runs and was unable to finish five innings in his final regular season start of the year.
The Indians could only muster a Yu Chang two-out single against Corbin through the first two innings before the game very quickly escaped Cleveland’s grasp. Plutko gave up back-to-back singles to Ryan Zimmerman and Gerardo Parra before walking former teammate Yan Gomes to load the bases. Corbin aided his own cause with an RBI-single to center to put the Nats on the board, 1-0. After Plutko struck out Trea Turner for the first out, Adam Eaton made it 2-0 with a single to left and Anthony Rendon doubled that advantage to 4-0 with a double to left to score both Gomes and Corbin. Juan Soto was intentionally walked before Asdrubal Cabrera came through with another big hit in the series, singling to right to push Eaton across with the inning’s fifth run. Terry Francona had seen enough as Plutko allowed eight of nine in the inning to reach and he went to reliever Hunter Wood. He missed on his first two offerings to Zimmerman before getting him to fly to right for the second out, but Parra’s big weekend continued as he drove in four with one swing, driving an 0-1 four-seamer to straightaway center for a grand slam, capping the nine-run inning with his ninth homer of the season.
Corbin allowed a leadoff double to Andrew Velazquez in the third before striking out the side. The Indians had much better success the next inning, however, as Jordan Luplow led off the fourth with a homer to right to put the Indians on the board. Franmil Reyes, making his first start in the outfield for the Indians, doubled to left. After a strikeout by Jake Bauers, Chang drew a walk to put two on. Eric Haase drew three straight balls to start the inning. After a strike from Corbin, Haase belted a three-run blast to center with an exit velocity of 112 MPH for his first big league homer, cutting the score to 9-4. Corbin got the final two outs around a two-out single to center by Mike Freeman.
Jefry Rodriguez returned to the mound for a second inning of work against his former club in the bottom of the fourth but could not keep Washington from touching the plate. Soto doubled with one out and Cabrera walked before Zimmerman singled to left to make it 10-4. Rodriguez retired the next two.
The Indians knocked Corbin out before he could complete five. Oscar Mercado struck out before a walk by Luplow. Reyes worked the count to 2-2 before driving a slider over the wall in left to make it a 10-6 contest. Nationals manager Dave Martinez hooked his starter with six earned runs allowed, bringing on Wander Suero, who walked Bauers before striking out Chang and getting Haase to fly to center.
James Hoyt and Dan Otero pitched scoreless frames in the fifth and sixth, while the Nationals silenced the Indians lineup. Fernando Rodney walked the first two that he faced in the seventh before he got a fielder’s choice and a double play grounder.
Phil Maton retired six straight batters in the seventh and eighth to keep the score within four, but the Nationals bullpen handled the Tribe. Daniel Hudson struck out a pair in a perfect top of the eighth. Sean Doolittle got the first two in the ninth before Luplow battled him for ten pitches, sending the final fastball over the left field wall for his second homer of the game and his 15th of the year to make it 10-7. Pinch-hitter Ryan Flaherty popped to short for Maton to close out the blowout.
The Indians dropped to 93-68 with their fourth straight defeat. The playoff bound Nationals moved to 92-69.
Plutko was charged with eight runs in just an inning and one-third. He gave up seven hits and two walks while striking out three on 48 pitches thrown. The loss dropped him to 7-5 on the season and plumped up his season ERA to 4.86. Wood gave up the key grand slam, but needed six pitches in total to allow the big blow between a pair of outs. Rodriguez made just his second appearance since June 1 after being activated from the injured list earlier this month.
Corbin lasted just four and one-third innings for the Nationals, which will be counting on him in the playoffs if the team can make it through its Wild Card matchup with either St. Louis or Milwaukee. The left-hander allowed six runs on seven hits with two walks and eight strikeouts and was hurt by three separate home runs allowed. The bullpen behind him, despite some shaky results through the season, allowed just two hits and three walks over the final four and two-thirds.
Parra has a homer and four RBI in each of the first two games of the series against Cleveland. The Nationals were 6-for-13 with runners in scoring position on the afternoon.
Bradley Zimmer went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts for Cleveland. Luplow, Reyes, and Freeman had six of the team’s nine hits on the day.
While the season will be looked at as a lost one for Cleveland, the team did hit four home runs on Saturday to break the team’s franchise record for long balls in a season with 222, surpassing the club’s total from 2000. Reyes’ blast was his 37th between San Diego and Cleveland.
The final game of the 2019 season for the Indians is scheduled for a 3:05 PM ET start from Nationals Park on Sunday. Righty Joe Ross (3-4, 5.90 ERA) will make the start for Washington, while Cleveland will turn to Mike Clevinger (13-3, 2.39), who will look to set a new career-high in wins.
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