Plutko Performs on the Spot, Tribe Completes Sweep; Indians 5, White Sox 3
Bob Toth | On 28, Jul 2020
Early scoring and strong starting pitching provided the keys to the game again for the Cleveland Indians as they completed a doubleheader sweep of the Chicago White Sox with a 5-3 win in the nightcap on Tuesday night.
Adam Plutko stepped in with a spot start for manager Terry Francona after Monday’s rainout and did everything that could have been asked of him. He limited the White Sox to just a pair of runs over six innings, while his offense provided a big jolt right out of the gate.
After Plutko limited the Sox to a one-out Yoan Moncada single to start the second game, the Tribe bats came out swinging against left-hander Carlos Rodon. Leadoff man Jordan Luplow popped to second, but each of the next three men tagged Rodon for extra base hits. Jose Ramirez slashed a double into the left field corner. Francisco Lindor sent a 3-1 pitch over the head of left fielder Nicky Delmonico to score Ramirez to give Cleveland the early 1-0 lead. Carlos Santana, after a strike in and off the plate, parked the next offering onto the Home Run Porch to cap a three-run inning.
James McCann cut into the deficit in the next half inning with a big blast of his own, sending a one-out shot into the bleachers to make it a 3-1 contest.
Rodon, who was visibly upset in the dugout after the rocky first, came out firing in the second, shutting down the bottom of the Indians order. Plutko worked around some third inning trouble, giving up a one-out single to Tim Anderson and a two-out single to Jose Abreu, but he escaped without harm on a Delmonico grounder to second. Rodon got a big double play in the third, erasing a Ramirez one-out single on a double play grounder to short from Lindor.
Plutko struck out the side swinging in the fourth before his bats got back to work with a patient approach in the home half. With one down, Franmil Reyes and Domingo Santana each drew seven-pitch walks. Rodon recorded his second strikeout of the inning, setting down Yu Chang swinging for the second out, but then promptly walked Sandy Leon on four straight to load the bases. Manager Rick Renteria had seen enough and went to the mound for reliever Steve Cishek, who had pitched earlier in the afternoon. Facing Oscar Mercado for the second time on the day (after striking him out in the opener), Cishek was unable to contain the Indians’ center fielder, who laced a bullet to left that scored both Reyes and Santana. Luplow popped out on the next pitch to leave a pair, but the Indians had a healthy 5-1 lead.
Plutko set down the side in order in the fifth and got Moncada to start the sixth with his eighth straight batter retired, but the tough-to-contain Abreu left the yard with a solo shot to center just out of the reach of Mercado to make it a 5-2 game. Plutko got the next two in order to complete six quality innings on the mound.
The White Sox bullpen faced the minimum over the final four trips to the plate for the Indians. Jimmy Lambert was the only reliever to face more than three in a frame, as he gave up a two-out single to C. Santana in the fifth. Ian Hamilton got a double play ball in the sixth to wipe away a D. Santana leadoff walk. Evan Marshall, the former Cleveland reliever, struck out a pair in a perfect seventh. Alex Colome got three outs without a ball leaving the infield in the bottom of the eighth.
Adam Cimber provided the Indians with an inning of one-hit relief in the seventh, but Dominic Leone ran into trouble in the top of the eighth after getting the first two. Abreu continued his good game with a double to right-center, his third hit of the game, and Delmonico pushed him across with a single to left to make it a 5-3 score. As the tying run at the plate, the rookie Zack Collins sent a drive deep to left, but Mercado ranged far to his right and leapt into the P.B. Blaster sign on the 19-foot wall in left and held on for a potential game-saving catch, ending the inning and the rally.
Rookie Cam Hill was tasked with the save opportunity in the two-run contest after the Tribe were retired in order in the eighth by Colome. Hill struck out 2019 American League All-Star catcher McCann on a 3-2 slider for the first out. After an unnecessarily long delay to review whether a ball hit by Luis Robert was fair or foul (it was clearly foul on review), Hill struck him out swinging on a slider for the second out. Leury Garcia battled for eight pitches, sending the final one towards first base. C. Santana had the ball glance off of his glove and into foul territory, but he completed the backhand flip to a sprinting Hill at first, just ahead of Garcia’s arrival for the final out, giving Cleveland a 5-3 win and Hill his first career save in just his second Major League appearance.
The Indians have now won three straight games and improved to 4-1 on the season, extending their lead in the American League Central. The White Sox have lost three in a row and are now 1-4 on the season.
PLUTKO IN A PINCH
Plutko drew the starting nod to save an Indians rotation shuffle at some point down the road, giving the majority of the staff an extra day of rest in a tough 17-games-in-17-days grind to open the 2020 campaign. He did his job and then some, limiting the White Sox to a pair of runs on five hits (two home runs) with no walks and four strikeouts. He needed just 86 pitches to finish six in his quality outing.
“The fact that he got through six was huge,” said manager Francona post-game. “He gave up the two solo homers, but that was it. He pitched really well. We made some plays…Oscar’s play was…stating the obvious. I know that’s later in the game when Adam was out. That’s a game saver right there.”
TALE OF THE TAPE
The comparison between starting pitchers was the tale of the day on Tuesday.
Plutko’s quality start, combined with that of game one starter Aaron Civale’s own six solid innings, led the way for the Tribe. The two starters combined to work 12 innings, each giving up two runs apiece. They gave up 12 hits (three homers) and one walk with 13 strikeouts while throwing 128 of 186 pitches (69%) of their pitches for strikes.
All five Indians pitchers to start games this season have gone at least six innings and made quality starts.
The White Sox tandem of Rodon and Dylan Cease were far less helpful to their team’s cause. Together, they threw six total innings, allowing nine runs on eleven hits (including three home runs) with three walks and five strikeouts. Seventy-four of their 135 pitches (55%) were strikes.
Rodon was charged with five runs on four hits in three and two-thirds innings with three walks and four strikeouts. The first inning homer provided the bulk of the damage against him, and the final two runs that he allowed came courtesy of Mercado’s two-run single off of Cishek in the fourth.
BANGED UP ‘BERTO
Midway through the second game of the day, news broke that starting catcher Roberto Perez was unavailable while dealing with right shoulder soreness.
Prior to the second game, the Indians made a roster move with that knowledge in mind, selecting the contract of catcher Beau Taylor from the team’s Alternate Training Site while optioning outfielder Daniel Johnson to the same location. Taylor was signed to a minor league contract in the offseason by the Indians as depth behind Perez and Leon. Johnson notched his first Major League hit, a single to center, in game one of the doubleheader.
“The other day, there was a ball that went to the backstop and he went and got it and made a throw to first and he slipped. He kind of jammed his shoulder and I think as time progressed, I think he thought it would loosen up and it didn’t,” said Francona regarding Perez’s status, later acknowledging that he may already have had an MRI on the injury. “After the first game, the trainers kind of alerted me. When I say we were moving quick, we were moving quick. It was probably ten minutes before the game before that started getting moving, so we got Taylor here and we had to talk to Daniel Johnson.”
To make room for Taylor on the 40-man roster, reliever James Hoyt was designated for assignment.
The White Sox played both games without the services of outfielder Eloy Jimenez, who has been sidelined since leaving Sunday’s game in the second inning after experiencing lightheadedness following a collision with the outfield wall at Target Field the previous inning.
ONE MORE BEFORE THE ROAD
The pitching matchup for the series finale from Progressive Field has a revamped look after Francona adjusted his starting rotation on Tuesday. Right-hander Zach Plesac (8-6, 3.81 ERA last year) will pitch with an extra day’s rest while the Tribe goes for a series sweep. The White Sox will counter with righty Lucas Giolito (0-1, 17.18 ERA), who was tagged in his first start of the year against the Minnesota Twins, allowing seven runs on six hits while walking three and striking out three in a defeat.
Game time from downtown Cleveland is scheduled for 6:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images