Game #13 Observations: Clevinger Shuts Down Cincinnati, Indians Get Just Enough Offense to Top Reds 2-0
CLEVELAND - The formula for the seven wins for the Cleveland Indians has been just about the same each time.
Get great starting pitching, a good enough outing from their pen, and just enough offense to scrape by.
It was back on display Wednesday night at Progressive Field, as led by Mike Clevinger the team took home their second straight win, a 2-0 decision over the Cincinnati Reds.
The win puts the team back over .500, and also puts Clevinger in the win column for the first time after he suffered his first loss of the season Friday in Target Field against the Twins.
The offense scored a pair on RBI’s from Cesar Hernandez and Jose Ramirez in the 6th, and the pen again did its job as Dominic Leone, Oliver Perez, James Karinchak and Brad Hand all pitched in coming on in relief.
Hand picked up his fourth save, and minus the meltdown a week ago against the White Sox in a tied game, has been more than good enough thus far in 2020.
The team will look for the sweep against Reds ace Luis Castillo on Thursday, but for now here are some observations from Wednesday’s 2-0 shutout win as the team wins over their Ohio rivals for the second straight day.
Clevinger Chops Down the Reds
Indians number two starter Mike Clevinger has spent the first few starts of 2020 trying to find himself, and it seemed Wednesday he took another step closer to doing that.
The Tribe pitcher went 5.2 innings, throwing 103 pitches (57 strikes) and allowed just two hits and no runs in the eventual 2-0 win.
He walked five batters and struck out four, but the bigger news is that his secondary stuff was the best he’s had all season, which helped out a great deal in the win.
“He was mixing his pitches early,” Indians acting manager Sandy Alomar said.
“His breaking pitches were sharp, he slowed down their bats and he had better command with his secondary pitches today.”
One great example of how Clevinger mixed and matched came in the third inning against veteran Joey Votto.
With runners on second and third and two outs, it would have been easy to pitch around Votto and walk him.
Instead on a 3-1 count he threw him an 83 MPH slider which Votto went after, popping it up into short left field for the last out of the inning.
Clevinger could have challenged him with a fastball, but thought better of the situation and won.
“You’ve got to put your ego aside and that’s a very good big leaguer,” Clevinger said.
While the pitchers knee continues to get better, there will be times he needs to be creative in getting players out, and the situation with Votto worked out to perfection.
The Indians have to continue to do whatever they can to manufacture runs, and Wednesday night it was some heads up baserunning that scored them their second run.
The runs came in the fifth inning, as Jordan Luplow walked, followed by a groundout by Sandy Leon.
Oscar Mercado drew a walk, and then Cesar Hernandez singled to left to score Luplow from second to make it 1-0.
What happened next was the gamble of the night, as Jose Ramirez hit a grounder to shortstop Freddy Galvis.
Galvis went to second for the force, but Mercado never stopped running, as he hit third base and determined he was going to try and score.
The speedy Mercado executed a perfect slide, scoring just ahead of the tag and putting the Indians up 2-0.
It was a play that reminded many of Kenny Lofton’s similar gamble in game six of the 1995 ALCS in Seattle against Randy Johnson and the Mariners when he scored from second on a wild pitch.
“As soon as I saw Jose hit it about ¾’s way to third I made up my mind, but once I made up my mind I was going to go for it,” Mercado said.
“Sometimes in the game of baseball you’ve got to take some chances, sometimes you just have to manufacture runs, I took a risk and luckily it paid off.”
The play not only paid off with a run, but it also pumped up the Indians dugout at the same time.
“That got the juices going, he never second guessed it,” Clevinger said.
Sometimes in baseball you can catch teams sleeping and you have to take chances.
For Mercado and the Indians, it was the perfect situation at the perfect time, and it paid off with a Mario coin that made it 2-0.
“It was just kind of those things I kind of blacked out and went for it, it probably wasn’t the smartest of plays, but it worked out,” Mercado said.
“It’s part of my game I am always trying to force things, be smart but at the same time be aggressive, I know the guys at the top of the lineup are really good hitters, and anyway possible they are going to put the ball in play, so when I am on the base paths I want to make things happen, that’s the way I play the game,” Mercado said.
Pen Steps Up Again
After throwing well in the Tribe’s 4-2 win in Cincinnati on Tuesday, the bullpen was sharp again on Wednesday as the team used four relief pitchers to close the door on the 2-0 win.
First up was Dominic Leone, who threw to just one batter in the 6th after Clevinger was pulled, but he struck out Jesse Winker with the last out of the frame.
Next up was Oliver Perez, who needed just 10 pitches to get out of the 7th inning, getting a strikeout, flyout and groundout.
James Karinchak came in next, and once again “Wild Thing” was excellent, needing eight pitches to get three outs, striking out one to set up closer Brad Hand in the 9th.
Hand did allow a walk, but also struck out two and got catcher Curt Casali to strikeout looking to end the game.
The save was the fourth for Hand, his second in two days, and just like Tuesday in Cincinnati his velocity was better, and his stuff was just more explosive than in his first few outings.
The way the pen has been the last two days could not have been drawn up any better.