It was another tough day at the plate for Cleveland as a quality start by Zach Plesac was wasted in a 5-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Saturday afternoon.
After putting up just two runs in support of a quality start from Shane Bieber on Thursday, the offensive efforts fell short again in game two of the 2021 campaign as the concerning Cleveland lineup card had little punch to it again. Plesac kept the game close in six innings of work on the mound, but the Tigers broke the game open late with a three-run seventh to erase all doubt.
The Tribe went down in order in the first before the Tigers jumped out to a two-run advantage in the home half. A one-out walk by Jeimer Candelario was chased by a triple to left-center by Willi Castro. The former Tribe farmhand scored three pitches later on a grounder to short by Miguel Cabrera.
Eddie Rosario put Cleveland on the scoreboard leading off the second. His more patient approach at the plate this season paid off all day, but started on the eighth pitch of his battle with Julio Teheran. Rosario caught a sinker and slashed it over the right field wall for his first homer with the Tribe, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
Plesac dealt with base traffic all afternoon, but unlike the results in the first inning, he was able to minimize the damage the rest of his outing. One runner reached in each inning from the second to the fifth until he avoided a potentially ugly situation in the sixth when three different Tigers reached on base hits. A big double play following Cabrera’s leadoff single that inning helped prevent more harm, as Nomar Mazara and Wilson Ramos each followed with hits of their own before Niko Goodrum struck out swinging on Plesac’s final pitch of the day.
As for the Tribe’s performance in defense of Plesac, there was little to show. Teheran retired the next three after Rosario’s homer in the second. Cleveland stranded runners on the corners in the third after a costly double play ball off of the bat of Ben Gamel. Franmil Reyes wiped out the first of two walks by Rosario with another twin killer in the fourth. Teheran walked Gamel in a quiet final frame in the fifth and Derek Holland issued a free pass to Rosario in the sixth before getting the next two outs at first.
After a scoreless relief appearance from Michael Fulmer in the top of the inning, the Tigers got to work against Nick Wittgren in the home half of the seventh. JaCoby Jones singled and Robbie Grossman walked. Jones scored on a double to left by Candelario to make it a 3-1 game. With a pair in scoring position, Wittgren got Castro to ground to second for the first out before Cabrera worked a walk to load the bases. Jonathan Schoop pushed the lead to 4-1 with a sacrifice fly to right and Mazara scored another with a single to center. Wittgren was hooked for Phil Maton, who got Ramos to line to right.
The Indians scratched out a run in the eighth, but missed out on a chance for more against the Tigers bullpen. Cesar Hernandez reached on an infield single against Tyler Alexander. Jose Ramirez joined the hit club with a single to right-center that put runners on the corners. Rosario chipped in with his second RBI of the day in a perfect day at the plate with a sacrifice fly to center to make it a 5-2 ball game. Bryan Garcia took over on the mound for Alexander and gave up a single to left to Reyes that brought the tying run to the plate in Josh Naylor, but he jumped on the first pitch and flied out to end the threat.
Cleveland Rule 5 pick Trevor Stephan made his Major League debut in the bottom of the eighth, striking out a pair around a walk of Grossman and a single by Candelario. Garcia came back out for the multi-inning save for manager AJ Hinch and closed the door on the Tribe lineup, sandwiching a pair of fly outs around a strikeout of Roberto Perez in a quick nine-pitch frame against the bottom third of the lineup.
Teheran earned the win for the Tigers with a relatively uneventful effort. He worked five innings, allowing a run on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts on 90 pitches. His counterpart Plesac worked six, giving up two runs on six hits with two walks and four strikeouts on 94 pitches. The difference in the day came down to the bullpens, as Wittgren allowed three in a rough trip to the center of the diamond.
Detroit had a pair of three-hit days from Candelario and Mazara. The former added a fourth safe trip to the bases with a walk and he scored two of the Tigers’ five runs. Rosario was the lone hitting star for Cleveland, hitting his first homer, adding a sacrifice fly, and drawing a pair of walks.
The Indians will look to avoid the sweep on Sunday from Comerica Park. Aaron Civale will open the day for the Tribe, while left-hander Tarik Skubal will counter for the Tigers.
First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
Photo: Mark Cunningham/Getty Images