Civale Goes the Distance as Santanas Bring Bats in Support; Indians 6, Pirates 1

After a little extra use over the last couple of games, the Cleveland Indians bullpen was due for a break. Aaron Civale was up to providing that extra rest for his teammates, as he allowed just five hits in a complete game 6-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.

Civale packed his A-game for the Tribe’s series at PNC Park as he made his fifth start of the season in the middle game of three between the Indians and Pirates. He kept his pitch count to a minimum, surpassing his previous career high of seven innings with ease, while effectively using all four quadrants and commanding the bottom of the zone. The Pirates struggled to find their way to first base and only one time on the night did they get a runner into scoring position as Civale captured a big victory.

Opposing Civale was left-hander Steven Brault, who drew the starting nod for the Pirates in what appeared to be on the surface as a bullpen game. Instead, as he had done in limited work so far this season, he stymied the Indians, allowing just four base runners. He did not allow his first hit of the game until his final inning of work in the fifth.

Brault walked Cesar Hernandez to start the game on five pitches, then retired nine in a row until an error at short by Kevin Newman allowed Jose Ramirez to reach to start the fourth. He was wiped out on a double play grounder off of the bat of Francisco Lindor.

Santana & Reyes – Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

While the bats needed half the game or so to get warmed up, Civale handled his business to keep Cleveland square in the ball game. Keeping the ball down and his pitch count at a minimum, he retired the side in order in the first and did the same in an eight-pitch second, striking out Bryan Reynolds for his first K of the night. The Pirates logged the first hit of the game in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out single from Jacob Stallings. Adam Frazier flied to center to end the inning.

Civale set Pittsburgh down 1-2-3 in the fourth before the Indians’ bats started to heat up. Back-to-back singles the opposite way by Franmil Reyes and Jordan Luplow put the first two runners on. But as luck would have it, Domingo Santana perfectly squared up a ball and lined it back into the defensive Brault’s glove. He tossed over to first to erase Luplow on the 1-3 double play, then got Roberto Perez to ground to second.

Civale worked around a two-out single by Jose Osuna before the Indians finally struck through with a big inning as Pirates skipper Derek Shelton turned to his bullpen, bringing on Lithuanian right-hander Dovydas Neverauskas for the sixth. After a foul out by Delino DeShields, the top of the order got to work as Hernandez doubled deep to left-center to extend his hitting streak to six in a row. Ramirez walked on four straight before Lindor struck out swinging for the second out. In stepped Tuesday night’s hero Carlos Santana, who packaged up a 3-2 cutter from Neverauskas and delivered it over the wall in right field for a three-run home run. His second big blast in as many nights gave Cleveland a 3-0 lead.

Civale allowed his third hit of the game in the bottom of the sixth as Stallings singled for his second knock of the night, but a double play ball by Frazier took the wind out of the Pirates sails before a strikeout by Newman.

The Indians missed out on a scoring opportunity in the seventh against Geoff Hartlieb. Luplow drew a leadoff walk and Perez joined him with a base on balls after a D. Santana strikeout, but Hartlieb struck out DeShields looking on a slider before Hernandez grounded out to first.

Civale breezed through an eight-pitch seventh before the Indians doubled their fun in a big way in the eighth against right-hander Tyler Bashlor, making his first appearance of the season after being recalled on Tuesday. Ramirez drew a leadoff walk and swiped second before Lindor struck out. He picked off third before C. Santana was cut down swinging with the second out. Command eluded Bashlor as he walked Reyes and pinch-hitter Tyler Naquin to load the bases and D. Santana found pay dirt as he skipped a double down the left field line and into the corner to clear the bases, making it a 6-0 game. Bashlor hit Perez with a pitch before Nick Mears came in and struck out DeShields.

Civale set down the Pirates in order again in the eighth, giving him eight straight retired. After a quiet ninth from the Tribe, Civale came back out looking to finish the game off, but pinch-hitter Cole Tucker drilled a double off of the wall in right-center. Frazier lined out sharply to Lindor on the 100th pitch of the night from Civale for the first out. Newman slapped a single the opposite way to right to put runners on the corners to extend his hitting streak to eight straight. Josh Bell launched the first pitch that he saw to the warning track in right to score Tucker from third to break up the shutout, but Civale closed out the complete game by getting Colin Moran to fly to center.

The Indians improved to 15-9 on the year with their fifth straight victory and have now won seven straight road contests. The Indians are now 11-0 when scoring three runs or more. The Pirates are now 4-16 on the season and are just 2-8 at home.

Civale – Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Civale was on cruise control for much of the night, rarely having to put together any significant number of pitches or work in any stressful innings. His toughest inning of work was the ninth, the first time that the Pirates had a runner reach second (and the first time that they had more than one runner on base in a trip to the plate). He established a new career-high for innings pitched, passing the seven that he worked two starts ago in a loss to the Chicago White Sox on August 7.

“If I can give the bullpen a break any day, that’s obviously the goal,” said Civale. “First complete game since high school, so that’s pretty cool. I followed the game plan and tried to go out there and get as many innings as I could. I know the bullpen helped cover a lot yesterday. It’s fun to be out there and good to have [Perez] back.”

“That was great. That was what the doctor order, a deep game,” said interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr.. “We just gave him the opportunity to finish the game because he worked so hard. On top of that, the bullpen needed a rest. Great performance, no walks, struck out six guys, and threw a lot of strikes.”

As Alomar Jr. noted, Civale struck out six, issuing no walks and allowing five hits, two of which came in the ninth. He allowed just one late run, the lone blemish on a solid outing overall.

“Heart’s definitely going, a little bit more than the rest of the game,” Civale shared in regards to coming out for the ninth inning with a complete game and shutout on the line. “I know it looks like I’m just out there, but the heart was going. You know what’s on the table. You don’t pitch in the ninth too often as a starter, so when you go out there, you’re just trying to finish the game. It was nice to be on the field for some handshakes for the first time.”

In five starts this season, Civale is 3-2 with a 2.91 ERA with 32 strikeouts and just three walks over 34 innings of work.

Brault did not factor in the decision despite a solid start for the Buccos. He worked a season-high five innings in his fourth start of the season. The 28-year-old held the Indians scoreless on just two hits, walking one batter and striking out three while throwing 80 pitches.

Despite putting up six runs for the second straight night, it did not necessarily come easily for the Tribe with the sticks. The team had just five hits on the night, but three were for extra bases and were instrumental in the scoring. Hernandez doubled, drew two walks, and scored a run. Ramirez walked twice and scored twice. C. Santana slammed in three with his third home of the season while increasing his RBI total in the series to eight. Reyes and Luplow both singled and walked, with Reyes touching home once. D. Santana got off the schneid with his three-run double late.

The Indians drew eight walks on the night. The club was just 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left six. The Pirates had just five base runners. Stallings had a pair of singles. Newman singled in the ninth to extend his hitting streak. Osuna singled around two strikeouts. Tucker completed the perfect game for the nine-spot against Civale, pinch-hitting after Stallings’ 2-for-2 day with a double of his own to start the home half of the ninth.

The Indians will go for a second straight series sweep and a sixth straight win on Thursday night in a 7:05 PM ET start with their ace on the mound. Righty Shane Bieber (4-0, 1.30 ERA) will look to stay perfect for the Tribe in his sixth outing of the campaign. Fellow right-hander Trevor Williams (1-3, 3.98 ERA) will make his fifth start for the Pirates while looking to build on his good results in August thus far.

Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

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