Any conversations of Zach Plesac’s demise were silenced on Thursday, as the third-year right-hander took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and the Cleveland bullpen held off late threats by Seattle as the Indians knocked off the Mariners, 4-2, from T-Mobile Park.
A dominant start from Plesac spoiled a pair of Major League debuts for two top Mariners prospects, Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert. The outfielder Kelenic went 0-for-4 against Plesac, while the Tribe lineup did some early damage to the young left-hander Gilbert, who was tagged for all four runs in a short four-inning outing.
Plesac shut down the Mariners, but he did allow an early threat to transpire. After Gilbert retired the side in order to start the game, Plesac set down the first two batters that he faced before issuing back-to-back walks to Kyle Seager and Kyle Lewis. Ty France grounded to second to strand a pair, starting a stretch of eight straight retired by Plesac before another walk in the fourth. That runner was quickly erased from the base paths as the pickoff artist Plesac added another to his tally by catching Lewis off guard after his second walk of the day.
The right-hander Gilbert opened the second by retiring Eddie Rosario on a fly to left, but Franmil Reyes fly ball to center could not be contained by the playing field. The solo shot, his ninth of the year, gave the Indians a 1-0 lead. Josh Naylor followed the blast with a single to center and after a line out by Harold Ramirez, he moved to second on a wild pitch. That became a key play as Jake Bauers was able to drive him home with a single to left-center.
Cleveland doubled its advantage in the third with another big fly. Cesar Hernandez struck out swinging to start the team’s second looks at the young Gilbert, but Amed Rosario singled to right-center and stole second. Jose Ramirez worked the count to 3-1 before Gilbert left a fastball middle-middle. Ramirez turned it into a souvenir to right, giving the Indians a 4-0 advantage.
Gilbert allowed another runner in the fourth, striking out H. Ramirez with one out, but the batter reached on a wild pitch. Gilbert struck out the next two with his final pitches of the game.
Drew Steckenrider quieted the noisy Tribe bats in a pair of scoreless frames in the fifth and sixth. Plesac continued to mow through the Mariners, retiring ten in a row after his second walk of Lewis to bring his no-hitter into the eighth.
J.P. Crawford opened the inning and fell behind 1-2, but he placed a changeup perfectly back up the middle over the leaping glove of A. Rosario and into center field for the first hit of the game for Seattle. Luis Torrens grounded to short for the first out and Crawford moved 90 feet from the plate on a wild pitch. Plesac evened the count at 2-2 with a high slider, but Dylan Moore drove the next pitch out to left for a two-run shot, ending the shutout and cutting the Tribe lead in half at 4-2. Plesac got the next two batters on outs in the air to complete his strong start.
The Tribe was unable to add to its lead in the ninth, as Erik Swanson shut down the middle of the Cleveland lineup in order.
Emmanuel Clase took the mound looking for his eighth save, but he lost the strike zone in a hurry. After getting Mitch Haniger to pop out in foul territory to third and inducing a fly to left by Seager to get two outs on three pitches, he walked Lewis on five pitches. France drew a six-pitch walk to put the tying runs on base for Crawford. He got a free pass on four straight off the plate to load the bases, forcing manager Terry Francona to go back to his bullpen for emergency relief. Bryan Shaw provided exactly that, punching out Torrens on a 95 MPH cutter to leave the bases full of Mariners and sending the Indians to a big 4-2 win.
Cleveland moved to 21-14 on the season and 11-7 on the road. The Tribe has won four straight and nine of its last ten. Seattle dropped to 18-20 and just 9-9 at home in 2021.
Plesac continued his strong bounce-back after a handful of rough starts early in the season by firing eight great innings. He allowed just two runs and two hits in his final inning of work while walking three on 96 pitches. He improved to 3-3 on the season. He fell just six outs short of ending the longest no-hit drought in MLB, one dating back almost 40 years to Len Barker‘s perfect game against Toronto on May 15, 1981.
The Tribe spoiled the highly anticipated debut of Gilbert, who worked four full frames while allowing four runs on five hits with no walks and five strikeouts. He was expected to be on an 85-pitch limit for the game, but he departed after 71.
Ramirez’s homer was his eleventh of the year, giving him sole possession of the long ball lead in the American League.
The two clubs will get back to work in game two of a four-game set on Friday night. Right-hander Chris Flexen (3-1, 3.78 ERA) will open activity for the Mariners, while Aaron Civale (5-0, 2.91 ERA) looks to remain perfect on the year for the Tribe.
First pitch from Seattle is scheduled for 10:10 PM ET.
Photo: Steph Chambers/Getty Images