Another Quality Start by Plesac Leads Tribe to Win Over KC; Indians 5, Royals 2
Bob Toth | On 07, Sep 2020
The Cleveland Indians tagged Kansas City’s Brad Keller for a season-high five runs and held off the struggling Royals in a 5-2 contest on Labor Day to move back into a first place tie with the idle Chicago White Sox.
Following the lead of Zach Plesac in his second start back in the rotation, the Indians scored a couple of runs early, added on in the middle innings, and tacked on some insurance late to knock off Kansas City in game one of four from Progressive Field this week. Plesac went seven innings, giving the Indians a solid quality start for the fifth straight outing to open his 2020 season.
After a scoreless first from both sides, the Indians got to work in the second inning against Keller with some perfectly placed base hits. Carlos Santana singled to right and moved up to second on a worm-burner rocket off of the bat of Franmil Reyes. Tyler Naquin grounded sharply towards Merrifield at second, but the ball glanced off of the heel of his glove and into shallow center field. Santana scored from second on the play and Reyes motored over to third. Josh Naylor dribbled a slow roller towards short, with Adalberto Mondesi getting the force at second and nothing more. Reyes scored on the grounder to make it a 2-0 game. Roberto Perez grounded a 2-2 pitch to second for an inning ending double play.
Plesac allowed base runners in every inning that he worked. He stranded Whit Merrifield after his leadoff single in the first. Edward Olivares singled with two outs in the second, but he was thrown out trying to steal second by Perez. Cam Gallagher singled with one out in the third and was left at first and Maikel Franco started the fourth with a single to left before he was forced on a fielder’s choice in an otherwise quiet fourth frame for Plesac.
The Indians added another run in the bottom of the inning. Francisco Lindor singled to center to kick start the offense against Keller. After Santana lined to left for the first out, Reyes shot a bullet up the middle and into center to place runners on the corners. Naquin lofted a sacrifice fly to left to score Lindor to extend the Cleveland lead to 3-0.
Olivares started the fifth with an infield single to third. Mondesi attempted to bunt the runner into scoring position, but Plesac made a nice play to cut down the lead runner. Mondesi stole second one pitch later, but he was left at second as Merrifield flied to Naquin in right.
The Indians left a runner in the home half of the fifth and the Royals did the same against Plesac in the sixth after a one-out single by Franco.
Cleveland had a scoring opportunity evaporate in the sixth with Keller still on the mound. Lindor singled and Santana laced a liner to right. Lindor got confused on the bases and tried to go back to first after touching second base, then failed to touch second base again on his way to third. The Royals appealed the call and Lindor was ruled out at second, leaving Santana deprived of a solid double to left and instead given a fielder’s choice. Reyes walked to put two on but Naquin grounded into a double play.
The Royals got to Plesac in the seventh. With two down in the inning, the scuffling Mondesi caught a 3-1 heater up and in and pulled it 458 feet over the right field seating for a solo home run. His first of the year made it a 3-1 Indians lead.
Three straight hits by the Tribe to open the seventh delivered the knockout punch on Keller. Naylor singled to second and Perez singled through short to put runners on the corners. Oscar Mercado singled to short to drive in Naylor to make it 4-1. Cesar Hernandez tried to drop down a bunt, but the Royals retired Mercado at second for the first out. Mike Freeman, on in the previous half inning to replace an injured Jose Ramirez, sent a fly to right deep enough to score Perez with the fifth run of the night. Jesse Hahn entered in relief for manager Mike Matheny and walked Lindor and Santana to load the bases, but Reyes flied to medium deep center.
Plesac departed after seven, with sidewinder Adam Cimber on for work. After getting Merrifield to ground to second, Hunter Dozier sent a drive off of the wall in center that bounced past Mercado for a triple. Franco delivered his third hit of the day with a single to center to make it a 5-2 game. Phil Maton took over and got Ryan O’Hearn on a comebacker to the mound before Alex Gordon popped up to Freeman in foul territory.
Tyler Zuber retired the Tribe in order in the eighth to leave it a three-run game. It was more than enough for Brad Hand, who, pitching for the third straight day, struck out the side on 15 pitches (13 strikes) to record his 12th save of the season in as many opportunities.
The Indians moved back into a tie for first in the American League Central Division at 26-15. The Indians are now 12-8 at home on the year and 21-2 when scoring three runs or more. The Royals lost for the seventh straight time and are now 14-28 on the season.
Plesac spent much of the game with runners on base after allowing seven hits (one in each inning that he pitched), but he limited the damage with no free passes and gave up just the one run scored on Mondesi’s first homer of the year. He struck out four and exited at 96 pitches.
“Super impressive. Throws a lot of strikes. He did when he was behind in the count,” said interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. of his starter. “His tempo is always good. He managed to come back in counts. When you don’t walk people and you have good separation on your pitches, that’s a good recipe right there.”
Plesac is now 3-1 on the year with a 1.32 ERA through five starts. He has struck out 34 batters in 34 innings while walking just two. All five of his starts have been quality outings.
“I feel good. I’m locked in. I think we’re all locked in,” said Plesac. “Not many games left, all we can do is focus on these next couple weeks and really tighten up and get ready for some big games.”
Keller pitched his deepest game of the year, but came away with his second loss of the season after allowing a season-high five runs (four earned) and eight hits. He walked one and struck out one. All eight hits that he allowed were singles. He has given up just one extra base hit in 34 2/3 innings of work this season.
In a bizarre scoring summary, the Indians had just one RBI-hit on the day (Mercado’s infield single in the seventh) and all eight of the team’s hits were singles. Both Reyes and Lindor had two hits, drew a walk, and scored a run. Reyes, who entered having destroyed Royals pitching this year, is now hitting .322 overall on the season. Santana had a hit and another walk to add to his league lead. Naquin plated two on a fielder’s choice and a sacrifice fly.
“Going out there with a plan and executing on my pitches when they’re hanging right there,” said Reyes about his approach against Kansas City this season. “It makes me feel good, knowing that my teammates are right there. We always play together, but now that all these guys are hot, too, it’s going to be great for the playoffs. I for sure know that we’re going to be there. We’re going to play hard and we’re going to compete.”
Ramirez left the game for precautionary reasons with left thumb discomfort and will likely be held out of the lineup on Tuesday.
“It’s a nagging thing,” said Alomar Jr. “It’s kind of wearing him out mentally, in my opinion. Today, he felt it again and we made the decision just to pull him out of the game and give him a chance to recuperate.”
Franco had three hits and an RBI for the Royals. Olivares had a pair of hits out of the seven-spot.
Game two of the four-game series from Progressive Field is scheduled for 6:10 PM ET on Tuesday. The Indians will send right-hander Triston McKenzie (2-0, 1.69 ERA) to the mound against KC right Jakob Junis (0-1, 4.32 ERA).
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images