One game removed from taking the night off at the plate, the Cleveland Indians bats burst out for six runs in the fourth inning to pace Zach Plesac and the Tribe to a 7-1 win on Saturday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Indians added to their quality start tally, posting their 14th in 16 games as Plesac provided Cleveland with six shutout innings on the mound. The bats needed a few innings to get going, but they ultimately did in a much-needed outburst at the plate, making up some for a scoreless performance the night before in a 2-0 loss to the White Sox in the series opener from Chicago.
Chicago opted for a bullpen game on Saturday to fill the void in the rotation caused by several starters simultaneously sitting on the injured list. Righty Matt Foster was the first to get the call and he retired the side in order in two innings of work, working around a leadoff walk by Carlos Santana in the second as he was thrown out trying to advance on a dropped pitch by Yasmani Grandal.
Plesac set down the White Sox 1-2-3 in the first, but needed to work some to get out of the second. Grandal opened the inning with a single to right. Plesac struck out Nomar Mazara and Luis Robert while piling up whiffs quickly. Leury Garcia kept the inning alive with a single to right, but Plesac got Danny Mendick to foul out to first.
Right-hander Drew Anderson set down the Tribe in order in the third, recording a pair of strikeouts in his White Sox debut. The hometown boy Plesac had to battle again in the bottom of the frame as Adam Engel led things off with an infield single. After two outs in the air, Jose Abreu singled to shallow left to put two on with two outs. Plesac took matters into his own hands, striking out Grandal swinging to strand two more base runners.
The Indians struck first in the fourth as they broke the game wide open against Anderson. Cesar Hernandez saw four balls off of the plate for a leadoff walk. Jose Ramirez popped out to third for the first out, but Francisco Lindor fouled off five straight pitches before doubling to center to put a pair in scoring position (aided by an impressive slide by Lindor into second base). With Santana at the plate, Anderson uncorked a wild pitch, allowing Hernandez to score the game’s first run. Santana drew a walk on a passed ball by Grandal, which allowed Lindor to score the second Cleveland run. Franmil Reyes worked the count to 2-2 and got another fastball and belted it over the wall in center for a two-run shot, doubling the Tribe’s lead to 4-0. Domingo Santana kept the train moving, blooping in a single to center before Jordan Luplow broke his 0-for-21 skid at the plate, catching a fastball down the middle and shipping it over the wall in left for the second two-run homer of the inning, giving the Indians a 6-0 advantage.
Ian Hamilton came on to stop the bleeding and struck out Beau Taylor before an infield single by Delino DeShields. Hernandez lined out to first to prevent any further damage as the tenth batter of the inning.
The White Sox stranded another runner in scoring position in the fourth as Plesac worked out of a jam again. Robert doubled to left with one out and moved to third on a groundout to second by Garcia. Mendick could not deliver, grounding to short to leave Robert stranded.
Cleveland had a chance to add to its lead in the fifth, but failed to score. With two outs, C. Santana walked and moved to second on a wild pitch before a single to left by Reyes put runners on the corners. D. Santana grounded into a fielder’s choice force at second to end the inning.
Plesac struck out two more in a perfect fifth and was back in the center of the diamond in the sixth, wasting a two-out walk by Mazara as Robert grounded out to second for the inning’s final out.
D. Santana added his name to the home run list for the day with a monstrous shot to lead off the eighth against sidewinder Steve Cishek. His first of the year extended the lead to 7-0. Chicago got the run back in the bottom of the inning, as Yoan Moncada took Cam Hill deep on his second pitch of the afternoon to make it 7-1. After lineouts by Eloy Jimenez and Abreu, Grandal walked. A double by Mazara put two more runners in scoring position, but Hill struck out the tough Robert to add to Chicago’s village of stranded runners.
Phil Maton wrapped up the game for Cleveland, giving up a two-out single in a scoreless ninth.
For the third time this season, Plesac provided the Indians with a quality effort on the mound. He worked six shutout innings, giving up five hits and a walk while striking out seven. He had a couple of stressful innings midway through his outing, but he was able to prevent damage and give his team an opportunity to get to work against the White Sox relief corps. He got 16 swings and misses on the day.
“It’s the second time he’s done it,” said Cleveland’s interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. in regards to Plesac’s performance. “He throws strikes. Getting ahead in the count. Keep the hitters in between because he had good separation in his pitches and a lot of depth on the changeup. Also, his breaking ball was on point. He did what he’s been doing all year and keeping us in the game, giving the offense the opportunity to score some runs.”
“I think I used the slider more. It was just working good for me off of the fastball plane,” said Plesac. “I threw some good curveballs, too…I had guys guessing.”
Plesac is now 1-1 on the year with a 1.29 ERA. The Indians moved to 9-7 with the win and flip-flopped spots in the standings with the White Sox.
Foster was the best of the bunch to the mound for the White Sox on Saturday. He worked two hitless and scoreless innings, walking one and striking out three. Things went downhill right after, as Anderson was charged with seven runs on four hits with two walks and two strikeouts, giving up a pair of long balls in an inning and one-third while taking the loss. Zack Burdi made his Major League debut in the sixth inning, giving up a hit and striking out a pair to bring an end to a lengthy stint away from the diamond due to Tommy John surgery and a dislocated knee.
The White Sox are now 8-7 on the season and just 2-5 at home.
Eight of nine Indians hitters reached base safely over the afternoon, with just Taylor (0-for-4, four strikeouts) left out of the fun. Lindor had a single and a double and scored a run. D. Santana did the same, hitting his first home run of 2020. C. Santana did not get a hit, but he walked three times to push his season on-base percentage to .424 (despite a .174 batting average).
Reyes hit his second homer of the season and added a single in four trips to the plate. Once looking lost at the plate, Reyes has come on over the last five games, going 7-for-19 at the plate with two homers, four runs scored, six RBI, and three multi-hit games.
“More quiet, less rotational. He’s using his hands more,” said Alomar Jr. about Reyes’ adjustment at the plate. “He’s not collapsing on the backside like he was before. When you collapse on the backside, your shoulders are pointing up. Everything that wiggles, you can’t hit it. Also up and in.”
Luplow ended an 0-for-22 drought at the plate with his big fly to cap the six-run fourth.
“I think Luplow was taking good at bats, even though he was striking out here and there, but he was going deep in counts, taking better swings,” said Alomar Jr. “Kind of had a good feeling that he was going to do something today.”
Engel led the White Sox with two hits in four trips. Mazara and Grandal each had hits and walks in the loss. As a team, Chicago went 0-for-5 at the plate with runners in scoring position while stranding nine base runners.
Prior to the game, the White Sox selected the contract of Anderson and recalled Burdi from the team’s alternate site in Schaumburg. Left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer, who left Friday’s game with an arm injury, was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left biceps strain. Pitcher Brady Lail was designated for assignment.
The series finale and rubber match is slated to be a good one and was moved accordingly to ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast. The White Sox will send staff ace Lucas Giolito (1-1, 5.17 ERA) to the mound for his second start of the season against Cleveland. He struck out a season-high nine batters in a win over Milwaukee on Tuesday. Shane Bieber (3-0, 0.83 ERA) will take his first look at the White Sox this season in his fourth start of the campaign. He has struck out 35 batters over 21 2/3 innings with just three walks in three straight quality start wins to begin what is quickly turning into a Cy Young-caliber performance.
Game time from Guaranteed Rate Field on Sunday night is scheduled for 7:08 PM ET.
Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images