Mike Clevinger and four relievers held Cincinnati to just three hits, while Cleveland baserunners hustled home for a pair of fifth inning runs to give the Indians a 2-0 shutout victory over the Reds on Wednesday night.
There wasn’t much offense to talk about in the third straight matchup between the two Ohio clubs, but the Indians took advantage of their four hits and some aggressive base running to swipe away a win at the expense of the visiting Reds.
Neither team was able to get much going in the early going. Both Clevinger and Reds starter Tejay Antone retired the side in order in the first. The Reds got a pair on in the second on a Jesse Winker single and catcher’s interference that put Nick Senzel on with one out, but on a 1-2 pitch in the dirt to Josh VanMeter, catcher Sandy Leon caught Senzel in no man’s land between first and second for the second out. VanMeter struck out to strand a runner 90 feet from home.
The Reds threatened again in the third, but Clevinger worked his way out of the jam. Freddy Galvis drew a leadoff walk. After a fly to center by Tucker Barnhart, Shogo Akiyama doubled to left to put runners on second and third. Facing the guts of the order, Clevinger got the destroyer of all baseballs of late, Nicholas Castellanos, to foul out to Carlos Santana at first before Joey Votto flied out to left to leave two more runners on base.
The rookie Antone retired the side in order again in the second, whiffing all three outs around a two-out single the opposite way by Bradley Zimmer.
The Indians put together their first bid for a scoring opportunity in the third, but fell short. Leon walked on four straight to open up the frame before Oscar Mercado popped out to third. Cesar Hernandez had himself a five-pitch walk to put two on. Jose Ramirez singled to center just past the outstretched ungloved hand of Galvis in shallow left-center to load the bases, but Francisco Lindor grounded to second, kickstarting a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play.
Clevinger had a quieter fourth, walking Eugenio Suarez to start the inning before a pair of flyouts and a strikeout. Antone erased a leadoff walk by Santana on a double play ball by Zimmer in the bottom of the frame.
Clevinger needed 16 pitches to retire the side 1-2-3 in the top half of the fifth before the Indians ended four and a half innings of scoreless play from both sides with a productive and aggressive home half of the fifth against Antone. Another walk, this time to Jordan Luplow, put the leadoff man on base. Leon grounded to first, where Votto had a chance to cut down the lead runner with the slow moving catcher coming down the first base line, but he opted for the sure out for the first out. Manager David Bell called upon his bullpen, bringing on Michael Lorenzen, but his first six pitches missed, walking Mercado and falling behind Hernandez. The count evened up to the Tribe second baseman before he slapped a single through the left side of the infield to score Luplow from second with the first run of the night. Ramirez grounded the next pitch back up the middle. Shortstop Galvis flipped to VanMeter at second for the force for the second out, but with the speedy Ramirez charging down the line to first, there was little chance at a double play. Mercado, however, got the green light from his third base coach on the potential double play grounder. VanMeter faked the throw to first, readjusted to fire to the plate, and threw to Barnhart’s right. The catcher had to dive back across his body, but a perfect slide let Mercado touch home before Barnhart’s glove hit him, giving the Indians a big second run. Lindor kept the inning going with a single to left-center before Santana grounded out to second to strand a pair.
The wheels started to fall off of Clevinger in the sixth, pitching with his first lead on the night. He lost the dangerous Castellanos on the 3-2 pitch to put another leadoff runner on. Votto flied to right for the first out. On an 0-1 pitch to Suarez, Leon fired the called ball down to first, where Santana effectively blocked the bag with his foot and applied the tag. The call of out on the field was not overturned despite replay challenge by Bell and clear objection from Castellanos that the crew in New York got the call wrong. Suarez drew a walk on five pitches and Winker did the same on six, sending Indians interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. out to the mound for reliever Dominic Leone. He threw five pitches, striking out Senzel on a slider out of the zone to leave two more men on base.
Oliver Perez retired the side in order in the seventh, while fellow left-hander Amir Garrett worked around a two-out walk by Hernandez after the stretch. James Karinchak got the pesky top of the Reds lineup in the eighth, striking out pinch-hitter Phillip Ervin swinging to open the inning. Castellanos extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single to right, but Votto grounded into a 4-5-3 double play on the shifted infield to end the frame. Garrett and Brooks Raley handled the bottom of the eighth in order to sound the Final Countdown.
On to face the middle of the Reds order looking for his second save in as many nights, Brad Hand came on to close out the ball game. He struck out Suarez looking on a tough fastball on the inside corner before getting pinch-hitter Matt Davidson to fly to left for the second out. He lost Senzel on four straight to bring the tying run to the plate in Curt Casali, batting for the first time after entering as a defensive replacement for Barnhart in the seventh. Three straight offspeed pitches from Hand froze the Reds’ backup backstop looking to send both clubs home for the night.
The Indians improved to 7-6 on the season and 5-2 at home. They clinched at least a split in their four-game set with the Reds. Cincinnati is now 5-7 on the year and 2-2 away from Great American Park.
CLEVINGER’S COMMAND INCONSISTENT
There were some significant improvements to Clevinger’s stat line on Wednesday night. Most notably, he prevented the first inning long ball damage that had plagued him over his first two starts this year. He lasted five and two-thirds innings while throwing just a hair over 55% of his 103 pitches for strikes. He pitched from behind to 12 of the 23 batters that he faced and needed an average of four and a half pitches per batter. The high pitch count and five walks, plus the brewing mess in the sixth, led to an earlier exit than he desired. Despite that, he limited the Reds to just two hits, kept them out of the runs column, and struck out four on the night to earn his first win of the season.
“He was mixing his pitches early,” said Alomar Jr. “First batter right away swung at the first pitch, so after that he started mixing his breaking ball. He had a pretty good breaking ball, very sharp. He slowed down their bats a little bit. He had much better command with his secondary pitches today.”
The Indians starting staff has made quality starts in eleven of 13 games. The two exceptions both belong to Clevinger.
BENCHMARK SAVE FOR HAND
Hand’s save was his fourth of the season and the 46th of his Indians career. With that save, he joined Sid Monge for the most saves by a left-hander in franchise history.
WALKS HURT ANTONE
Walks were not just exclusive to Clevinger. His counterpart, the 26-year-old rookie Antone, suffered a similar fate in a comparable outing. Antone lasted just four and one-third innings, pitching from in front of nine of the 17 batters that he faced. Of his 82 pitches thrown, 56% of them were good for strikes. He allowed a run on two hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
It was Antone’s first career start after allowing a run on one hit with a walk and five strikeouts in his Major League debut on July 27, when he entered in long relief against the Chicago Cubs.
TITO REMAINS OUT
Indians team president Chris Antonetti addressed the media prior to Wednesday night’s game to give an update on ailing manager Terry Francona, who was replaced for the fourth straight game by Alomar Jr. in the dugout.
“Tito is in the process of feeling better,” said Antonetti. “He won’t be here tonight. It’s going to be a few more days until he’s ready to rejoin the team, but we remain hopeful that’ll happen in the not-too-distant future. Beyond that, I’m not gonna go into a lot of detail out of respect to Tito’s privacy, given that it’s a medical condition.”
TRIBE AT THE PLATE
Seven of nine Indians starters reached base safely via hit or walk. Hernandez led the way with three trips to the base paths, drawing two walks and reaching on a single as the only Cleveland player to reach base more than once. Two of the team’s six walks led to Tribe runs on the night, as both Luplow and Mercado reached on free passes before coming around to score.
“I asked him what he was doing on that play, I didn’t consider that play the best…,” said Alomar Jr. about Mercado scoring from second on a ball that never left the infield. “He said that he read the guy charging the ball and turning. I’m going to have to look at replays to see if he saw that. He said he let his instinct play and it paid off. Sometimes, when we don’t hit, we have to take some chances and run.”
Hernandez and Ramirez each got credit for RBI courtesy of the hustle of their teammates.
WHO’S ON THIRD
The Indians made some changes to their coaching staff on Wednesday to assist Alomar Jr. with his current temporary role as the team’s skipper. Tony Mansolino, minor league manager and an infield coordinator at the Tribe’s alternate training site in Eastlake, took over third base coaching duties for the Indians. Mike Sarbaugh, who has coached the position for Francona since 2013, will shift into the dugout in a pseudo-bench coach role, joining Mike Barnett (previously the team’s Major League Replay Coordinator) in helping out Cleveland’s interim manager.
Kyle Hudson, officially the Major League Staff Coordinator on Francona’s staff, has been filling Alomar Jr.’s position as the team’s first base coach.
NO MOOSE LOOSE
The Reds were without second baseman Mike Moustakas, who was held out of the lineup after suffering a bruised left quadriceps during the Reds’ 4-2 loss to the Indians on Tuesday night.
ONE MORE BEFORE THE ROAD
The Indians will conclude their blink-and-you-missed-it two-game homestand to wrap up the home-and-home set with the Reds on Thursday night in a 6:10 PM ET first pitch.
Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (1-1, 3.75 ERA) will make his third start of the season. He made a second straight quality start his last time out, but he allowed three solo homers in a loss to the Minnesota Twins. The Reds will turn to righty Luis Castillo (0-1, 4.50 ERA), who will look to bounce back after a rough start against Detroit in a second consecutive start against the Tigers in his last appearance on Friday.
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