Game #18 Observations: Cubs Pound Indians 7-1 as Pen Can't Stop Chicago Offensive Onslaught

Matt Loede

CLEVELAND - On the heels of losing ⅖’s of their starting pitching by being placed on the “restricted” list Tuesday, the Indians return to Progressive Field was an ugly one, as they were beat up by the surprising Chicago Cubs 7-1.

Mike Clevinger was scheduled to be Tuesday’s starter, but due to his selfish act in the Windy City over the weekend going out Saturday night with fellow pitcher Zach Plesac, the team turned to Adam Plutko to get the start.

Plutko wasn’t bad mind you, allowing just a run, but he was only able to log four innings of work, having to give way to a pen that didn’t throw nearly as good as their numbers had indicated thus far in 2020.

Oliver Perez was just fine for an inning, but Cam Hill, Phil Maton and newly called up lefty Logan Allen were not good, allowing six runs on four hits with two walks and a K in the six-run loss.

The setback breaks the Indians modest two-game winning streak from the weekend against the White Sox, and Wednesday they will wrap up the short two-game set against the Cubs at 7:10pm ET.

For now, here’s a look at a couple thoughts and observations about a night to forget at Progressive Field.

The Blame Game

Sure it would be easy to put the blame for Tuesday’s 7-1 loss on the three pitchers out of the pen who clearly did not throw well, but that would be taking somewhat of an easy way out.

A lot of social media on Tuesday night put the blame for Tuesday squarely on the shoulders of the pitcher who should have be on the hill to start the game - Mike Clevinger.

Not only was Clevinger a massive distraction along with teammate Zach Plesac for breaking the team’s rules over the weekend leaving the club’s hotel and going out with a group of friends, but he also forced the team’s hand in having to sit him down in favor of sometimes starter/sometimes reliever Adam Plutko.

Again Plutko wasn’t awful, and in four innings he actually threw the ball well enough to allow just one run, but it was the fact he had to be out there that should infuriate Indians fans.

“I thought he battled like crazy," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Plutko. 

"He was at like 79 after four, it was a battle, but he had only given up one, it could have been worse, he was as good as he could be."

Figure that the 29-year-old Clevinger this season in three starts has a 3.24 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, and he’s struck out 15 and walked 10 to this point.

You have to think that he would have given the Indians at least six or seven innings, and given the team a boost in morale that could have been important in looking to get to Cubs hurler Jon Lester.

Instead about 6:30pm ET we finally got a chance to hear from Clevinger via a statement which talked about making the mistake of “violating the protocols but the biggest mistake of all was not immediately coming clean to my teammates. I owe them better.”

Maybe the biggest apology should go to the guy who overcame chronic myeloid leukemia to pitch this year in Carlos Carrasco.

Imagine if Carrasco gets sick and it’s due to the selfish act by Clevinger and/or Plesac. It’s not as far fetched as one may think.

For now you can say it was Adam Plutko only giving the team four innings, you can put the blame on the pen which allowed six runs, or you can say Clevinger let this team down.

Tuesday's Indians starter wasn't shy when asked how Clevinger and Plesac would earn the team's trust back after the game.

"I think that’s a question for Mike and Zach, they hurt us bad, they lied to us, they sat here in front of you guys and said things they didn’t follow through on," Plutko said.

""I’ll let them say how they are going to earn your trust back, their grown ass men and they can sit here and say how they are going to fix it.” 

You’re probably not wrong on blaming any of them for the outcome of Tuesday’s affair.

The Perils of the Pen

You could almost feel the threat of a blowout coming when Cam Hill entered the game in the 6th inning.

Hill, who made the team out of “summer camp,” had been impressive before Tuesday’s outing, throwing six innings of one run ball on two hits.

He was off his game against the Cubs, and it came apart rather quickly for the team and the 26-year-old reliever.

It started with a walk to leadoff man Kris Bryant, and then after a flyout an infield single to Javier Baez.

Then Hill hit Kyle Schwarber in the foot to load the bases, and the next batter, Willson Contreras hit a sac fly to center to make it 2-0.

The big hit came next with two outs, a line drive single to center by Ian Happ which made it 3-0.

The flood gates were open, as Hill was pulled for Phil Maton, who had yet to allow a run in four innings of work.

That would change in the first batter he faced.

Jason Heyward clubbed a three-run homer to right (359 feet), scoring Schwarber, Happ and himself to make a somewhat close 3-0 game into a runaway 6-0 affair.

Lefty Logan Allen, who got the callup on Tuesday from the Indians alternate training site, came in next, and started the inning with a walk to Jason Kipnis.

He then hit Bryant, got a double play, but then threw a wild pitch that allowed Kip to score (where have we seen that before?).

All in all a pen that came into the game with a 1.51 ERA, third best in baseball, was roughed up pretty well by a lineup that has gotten the Cubs off to an 11-3 start.

The combined ERA of Hill, Maton and Allen on Tuesday was an ugly 13.50.

Some may say that the pen was due for a night like this, but no matter they are never easy to swallow.

Another Tough Night for the “O”

Cubs starter Jon Lester knows all too well about rough nights at Progressive Field, as going back four years ago he was beat up for three runs on six hits in 5.2 innings in game one of the World Series, a game the Indians won 6-0.

Tuesday was another story, as the anemic Indians offense was back again, barley putting up a fight it seemed against the Cubs veteran lefty.

Lester went six good innings, allowing a run on three hits with two walks and four K’s.

He had a couple fast innings which didn’t help matters as Indians arms from the sixth on seemed to have plenty of trouble getting Cubs batters out.

“He’s a different Lester than maybe we’ve seen 15 years ago, he cuts the balls in on the righties, and we’re kind of in that mode we’re trying to hit everything, but some of these guys are pretty good and he just expanded in and expanded away,” Francona said of Lester.

One run on four hits isn’t going to get it done, and it was another step backwards for the offense after seven runs on Saturday and five on Sunday in Chicago.

Granted the Cubs seemed like a pretty determined bunch the way they hit the ball on Tuesday, but it would have been nice to put up a bit of a fight on offense for the Indians.

Instead it was yet another tough night to watch this team flail away at trying to come up with good contact, something they had a tough time doing against Lester while it shouldn’t have been that tough.