The Chicago White Sox avoided a costly series sweep in Cleveland on Wednesday, rallying for four runs in the ninth inning against Indians closer Brad Hand and reliever Adam Cimber for a 4-0 win in an outcome contrary to the story through the first eight innings of the day.
After eight shutout innings of three-hit baseball from second-year right-hander Zach Plesac, manager Terry Francona went to his closer Hand in the non-save situation. He got into trouble right away, giving up a double off of the wall in left-center to Tim Anderson on the second pitch of the inning. Yoan Moncada worked a six-pitch walk to put two on and Jose Abreu loaded the bases on a 2-2 slider that plunked him in the foot. Yasmani Grandal put the first run of the game on the scoreboard with a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Anderson with ease. Catcher’s interference, charged to new backstop Beau Taylor, put Edwin Encarnacion on at first on the 2-2 foul ball to reload the bases. Francona hooked Hand for sidewinder Cimber, who got Eloy Jimenez to fly deep to center for the second out, but Moncada moved across for the second run of the inning. Luis Robert extended his hitting streak to six straight to open his Major League career with a two-run single to center to double the lead to 4-0. Leury Garcia flied to center after a stolen base by Robert to end the inning.
Alex Colome came on for the White Sox in a non-save situation of his own and got his three outs, but the Indians made him work for it. Jose Ramirez led off the inning with his third single of the night, but Francisco Lindor flied to left and Carlos Santana lined sharply to right for the first two outs. Franmil Reyes won an eight-pitch battle with an end-of-the-bat single past second to keep the inning alive with runners on the corners. Bradley Zimmer worked Colome for a nine-pitch walk to load the bases. With a chance for some heroics, Domingo Santana grounded out to end it.
The Indians’ modest three-game winning streak came to a close with the defeat, moving the club to 4-2 overall in 2020. The White Sox’s three-game skid also ended as Chicago improved to 2-4.
There were few scoring opportunities throughout the day as Plesac and White Sox ace Lucas Giolito were the story of much of the night. Both pitchers provided top notch efforts and quality outings while waiting for an offense to come through.
Plesac struck out a pair in a perfect first inning, while Giolito did the same to the Tribe, striking out Cesar Hernandez and Ramirez before getting Lindor to fly to left. Plesac made it six straight retired to start the game with a pair of groundouts and a lineout in the second.
C. Santana opened the bottom of the second with the first hit of the night, dropping a single into shallow center, but after a strikeout looking by Reyes, Zimmer grounded into a double play.
The White Sox got their first hit and scoring threat in the third against Plesac. Garcia singled with one out. Adam Engel struck out for the second out before Anderson singled just in front of Zimmer in left. Garcia made the curious choice to try to advance to third and forced Zimmer’s throw, which skipped away from Ramirez, allowing both runners to find their way into scoring position. With a chance to strike first, Moncada popped out to Ramirez.
Giolito pitched a perfect third inning and Plesac struck out the heart of the White Sox lineup in the fourth, getting Abreu, Grandal, and Encarnacion swinging before the Indians got their first real scoring threat put together. Hernandez worked the count from 0-2 to 3-2 before drawing a walk to start the inning. Ramirez laced a first pitch single to right to put runners on the corners. Lindor could not deliver, fouling off three pitches before striking out swinging on a high fastball for the first out. Santana grounded a 1-1 fastball to first, starting an inning-ending double play.
Plesac made it seven straight retired with an easy fifth inning and Giolito got the Tribe in order in the home half. Engel doubled to right to start the sixth, but Plesac retired the next three in order to strand him at second.
Cleveland missed its best chance to take the first lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth, falling short in a two-out rally attempt. After groundouts to the right side of the infield by Taylor and Oscar Mercado, Hernandez and Ramirez both singled to right to put runners on the corners. Lindor walked on four pitches nowhere near the zone to load the bases, but Santana flied out to medium-deep center to squander a key moment in the contest.
Plesac remained on the mound and continued to control the Chicago bats, setting down the order in the seventh and eighth innings to end his outing with nine straight batters retired. Evan Marshall contained the Tribe in the seventh, striking out Zimmer and D. Santana to end that inning, and left-hander Aaron Bummer followed the same recipe for success, getting a grounder before back-to-back strikeouts finished his inning of work.
PLESAC PITCHES A GEM
Plesac picked right up where the previous five starters in the rotation had left off on Wednesday, extending the team’s quality start streak to open the season to six straight with a dominating performance over the Chicago White Sox in a tough no-decision. Using a strong diet of fastballs and a filthy slider, Plesac worked a team-high eight innings, allowing just three hits while striking out a career-high eleven batters.
“I thought he was tremendous,” said Francona during his post-game presser. “I know it was really hard to see for the first five, six innings. But both pitchers kind of matched each other. Plesac, he pounded the strike zone, he changed speeds. He was tremendous. So was the other guy.
“I thought [Plesac] threw really good offspeed pitches. The ones he threw, his change ups, his breaking ball. They were quality, I can agree with that.”
Five of his eleven strikeouts came on three pitches. He needed just 98 pitches to clear eight frames.
After being shelled for seven runs on six hits in his short season-opening loss to the Minnesota Twins, Giolito looked much more like his 2019 All-Star form on Wednesday as he blanked the Tribe over six scoreless frames. He allowed four hits and walked two while striking out six and did not factor in the decision. His predictable pitch mix of fastball up, changeup down, was still too tough for the Tribe to get anything going against him.
The White Sox bullpen once again shut down the Tribe attack, with Marshall and Bummer each working perfect innings with two strikeouts. Colome was a little less effective, giving up two singles and a walk in a scoreless inning, but he got the job done nonetheless.
John McNamara, who managed for a pair of seasons in Cleveland as part of six different managerial gigs over four decades, died at the age of 88 on Tuesday in Tennessee.
McNamara led the Boston Red Sox to the American League pennant in 1986 and was in man in charge of the team best remembered for the Bill Buckner grounder that ultimately changed the course of the World Series that year. After his managerial tenure in Boston ended in 1988, he returned to the dugout as the skipper of the Indians in 1990. He took the Tribe to a fourth place finish in the American League East with a 77-85 record in his first season, but he was dismissed after an abysmal 25-52 start to the 1991 season before he was replaced by Mike Hargrove.
Starting catcher Roberto Perez was placed on the 10-day injured list by the Indians on Wednesday with a right shoulder strain. He will continue to work out with the team’s extended roster in Eastlake at their alternate training site, but will not throw a baseball for seven days before being re-evaluated.
Outfielder Daniel Johnson, who was optioned to the Tribe’s ATS between games on Tuesday, was recalled to take Perez’s place on the roster. The catcher Taylor, whose contract was purchased and added to the 40-man prior to game two of Tuesday’s doubleheader, will serve as the backup to Sandy Leon.
TO THE LAND OF 10,000 LAKES
The Indians will get right back to work on Thursday as the team begins its first road trip of the season with a four-game set in Minnesota against the Twins. Right-hander Shane Bieber (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will be the first to the mound for the Tribe after striking out 14 batters over six shutout innings in his season opening win over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night. The Twins have not formally announced a starter for the game at the time of this story.
The White Sox will take Thursday off before opening a three-game series in Kansas City against the Royals.
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