Plesac Picks Up Where He Left Off as Tribe Rolls Past KC; Indians 10, Royals 1
Bob Toth | On 02, Sep 2020
Zach Plesac pitched six quality innings in his return to the Cleveland rotation and Franmil Reyes recorded hits in all five of his at bats as the Indians routed the Kansas City Royals by a 10-1 final on Tuesday night.
One night after losing via eighth inning bullpen collapse, the Indians eliminated any doubt early by chasing Royals starter Matt Harvey after retiring just four batters. The Indians put up five runs in the first two innings, using three long balls to do that damage, then matched that production later in the contest on the way to posting 17 hits in an offensive onslaught.
Harvey, making his third start with the Royals and with his rotation spot very much on the line, got himself into trouble right out of the starting gate. Cesar Hernandez singled to open the night’s play and trotted home one out later on a two-run home run by Francisco Lindor, giving the Indians an early 2-0 lead three batters into the game. After Carlos Santana grounded out to first, Reyes’ big night at the plate started as he caught a slider over the dish and belted it to right-center for his eighth homer of the season, making it a 3-0 game.
Plesac gave up a hit and recorded a strikeout in a quiet first inning before the Tribe bats got back to work. Josh Naylor, in his first start as an Indian, singled to left. Roberto Perez continued his climb out of mediocrity at the plate with a two-run shot to right to push the Indians lead to 5-0. Delino DeShields singled to second before Hernandez grounded into a fielder’s choice force at second. Jose Ramirez worked a walk to put two on and Royals manager Mike Matheny had seen enough as he went to the mound and brought on Carlos Hernandez, a 23-year-old right-hander making his Major League debut and first appearance above the Class-A level. He got the next two outs on flies to center as Cleveland stranded a pair.
Plesac was locked in after the Jorge Soler single with two outs in the first. He retired the side in order in the second with his second strikeout and got two more Ks in a perfect third. He started the fourth the same way, striking out Hunter Dozier and Soler swinging before a grounder to first by Ryan O’Hearn, giving him ten straight batters set down.
Hernandez saved the Royals bullpen with a big performance. He gave up a single to Reyes to start the third before getting the next three in order. He walked Ramirez with two down in the top of the fourth, but got Lindor to ground to first. Reyes got him again with a double to left-center with one out in the inning, but he was stranded at third after groundouts by Tyler Naquin and Naylor.
Plesac pushed his total to 12 straight batters retired in order as he got the first two men of the bottom of the fifth before the Royals threatened for the first time. Nicky Lopez singled to center and moved to second on a single to third by Bubba Starling. With a chance to cut into the deficit, Meibrys Viloria fell short as he flied to right to leave two men on base.
Chance Adams took over for the Royals in relief of Hernandez in the sixth, but a pair of hits and a wild pitch led to another run. With one out, DeShields singled to left. Adams’ wild pitch allowed the runner to advance to second. Hernandez grounded to third, holding DeShields at second for the second out, but Ramirez rapped a single to right. DeShields scored on the play, but Ramirez was tagged out trying to advance.
The lone blemish on Plesac’s scorecard for the night came in the sixth with a 6-0 lead. After retiring Whit Merrifield on a grounder to third, Plesac’s second pitch to Dozier was poked over the right field wall for a solo homer, making it a 6-1 game. Plesac bounced right back, getting Soler to fly out on the next pitch before O’Hearn grounded to short on the final pitch of Plesac’s return effort.
The Indians used a four-hit seventh to add three more runs to their tally. Santana singled with one down off of Adams. Reyes worked the count full before drilling a double deep to right to put a pair in scoring position. Randy Rosario came on in relief of Adams, but he left an 0-2 slider over the plate for Naquin, who lofted a sacrifice fly to left to make it 7-1. Naylor got his first American League RBI several pitches later, singling to center to score his former and current teammate Reyes from second to make it 8-1. Naylor motored all the way home from first a few pitches after that as Perez added to his big night with an RBI-double to right to give the Indians a 9-1 lead.
Not done, Cleveland got one more the following inning off of Rosario, when Ramirez homered to left-center with one out, and left runners on the corners.
Dominic Leone pitched a scoreless seventh for the Indians, working around a two-out single by Lopez. Making his Cleveland debut, Cal Quantrill got three straight outs in the air after a leadoff single by Viloria. After the Indians were held scoreless in the top of the ninth, Quantrill returned for the home half, striking out O’Hearn before a double by Maikel Franco. Ryan McBroom flied to right before Lopez struck out swinging.
The Indians moved to 22-14 on the season and 13-7 on the road. The victory, paired with a loss by the Chicago White Sox to the Minnesota Twins, moved the Indians back into a tie for first place in the division with the southsiders. The Royals dropped to 14-22 in 2020.
Plesac could not have scripted much better for his return to the Majors on Tuesday night, his first outing since his first win of the year in Chicago on August 8. He worked six innings, allowing a run on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts. He made just 90 pitches, throwing 62 for strikes. While he worked from in front less than 50% of the time, he made up for it with some great swing-and-miss stuff on the mound and some pinpoint command.
“For somebody that hasn’t pitched in competitive baseball, at the Major League level, he did fantastic. We’re very happy,” said interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr about Plesac’s return from his pandemic-related layoff.
“I thought he commanded all of his pitches tonight. His changeup was really good tonight,” said Perez. “Against these guys, I felt like these guys were going to be so aggressive. He hasn’t been here in two weeks and he didn’t look any rusty. It seems like he went down there and got his things straightened up and he was able to come back and not take it for granted. He battled tonight. It was humid, but I thought he looked pretty good.”
Plesac is now 2-1 on the season with a 1.33 ERA. The bullpen behind him allowed just three hits with a pair of strikeouts in three scoreless frames. That relief staff was down a man, as right-hander Cam Hill was optioned to the team’s alternate training site to make room on the roster for Plesac.
“I definitely had butterflies. The nerves were there,” said Plesac of his first game in more than three weeks. “I really just wanted to come in and give these guys a chance to win, to do my part and commit to each pitch and execute.”
Harvey’s clock is ticking in Kansas City as he struggled again on the mound. He lasted just an inning and one-third, charged with five runs on six hits, including three home runs. He walked one batter and did not strike out any in the loss.
Hernandez worked three and two-third scoreless innings of work, allowing a pair of hits and a walk with two strikeouts in his Major League debut. Behind him, though, things were less than stellar as Adams was tagged for three runs on four hits in an inning and one-third and Rosario added two more on five hits in an inning and two-thirds.
Reyes provided the Tribe lineup with five of its 17 hits on the night. He became just the third player this year to record a five-hit game, joining Toronto’s Bo Bichette and Washington’s Trea Turner. Reyes came up just a triple short of the cycle, instead tallying two singles, two doubles, and a homer in his career-day at the plate. He has now reached base safely via hit in seven straight plate appearances, the first to do so since Ryan Raburn in 2013.
“He’s not chasing that much. His body is under control. He’s been working in the cages very hard,” said Alomar Jr. “Franmil Reyes, if you notice, he runs the bases great. He goes out there full out. He’s not out there laboring. He puts a lot of effort into everything. Hitting wise, he goes to work really hard on it.”
Over his last 23 games, Reyes is hitting .402 with seven homers, 21 RBI, and 12 multi-hit games, according to Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio.
Lindor hit his sixth homer of the season as part of a two-hit day at the plate. Ramirez tied Reyes with his eighth homer of the day in a two-hit day of his own and he reached base safely twice more via the free pass. Naylor had two hits and two runs scored in his first start with the Tribe, and Perez and DeShields each added two hits apiece.
Dozier’s homer in the sixth was his fourth of the season. The Royals played without shortstop Adalberto Mondesi in the lineup as he works through a lengthy slump at the plate.
The rubber match of the three-game series is scheduled for a third straight 8:05 PM ET start on Wednesday night. The Royals will turn to Jakob Junis (0-0, 4.26 ERA) for his fourth start of the campaign and just his second since August 7. The right-hander struck out six in three and two-thirds innings his last time out. The Indians will call on right-hander Triston McKenzie (1-0, 2.70 ERA), who will make his third big league start. He allowed two runs on three hits in four innings in his last start, a no-decision against St. Louis.
Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images