Game #5 Observations: Indians Gain Sweep of Sox in Doubleheader as Plutko Shuts Down Chicago in 5-3 Win
CLEVELAND - For the first five days of the shortened 2020 season, not much has gone wrong for the Cleveland Indians.
Sure you can point to the goofy extra innings debacle that took place on Saturday in the team’s only loss, but considering thus far that’s their only blemish there’s a whole lot more good than bad happening for this ball club.
That fact was on display again in game two on Tuesday of their traditional doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox, as the same winning formula continued for the Indians in their 5-3 win.
That formula is simple, yet effective. Get very good starting pitching, come up with a couple key hits when needed, and get a pretty much spotless performance from your bullpen.
The result in game two was about the same as in game one, as starter Adam Plutko getting a spot start went six solid innings, making two mistakes, both of which were solo homers.
Other than that, he was good, maybe not as dominant as fellow starters like Shane Bieber or Carlos Carrasco, or even Aaron Civale who won game one, but in the end getting the “W” is all that matters.
Plutko did more than enough for that, allowing five hits, no walks and four K’s.
Just like in game one, the offense got off to a quick start, putting up a three-spot in the first and never looking back.
With a win on Wednesday in the series finale the Indians have a shot to wrap up their first homestand with a 5-1 mark, not too shabby and about as close to perfect as a team could get.
But they do have to get there first, and they will have to overcome the best pitcher on the White Sox in 2019 All-Star Lucas Giolito.
There’s a lot of time to worry about that, let’s share some thoughts on Tuesday’s second win with some observations of the game two victory at Progressive Field.
Plutko Does the Job
He wasn’t as overpowering as his teammates, but for Adam Plutko just the chance to build on what the other Indians starters had done was enough motivation for him to have a solid outing.
Plutko did just that, as he went six innings, throwing 86 pitches, 61 strikes and the most important thing is he kept the Indians more than in the game in the eventual 5-3 win.
“The fact that he got through six was huge, he gave up two solo homers but that was it, he pitched really well,” Indians manager Tito Francona said.
The 28-year-old started 20 games for the Tribe a year ago, and 12 games the year before that.
Last season with a myriad of injuries to the pitching staff he went 7-5, and was hopeful this season of making the rotation right out of spring training.
That didn’t happen, partly because of just how well both Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac threw in both Goodyear and during “Summer Camp.”
“Seeing what goes on always helps, but i was really confident, my plan that I was implementing was rock solid and I was confident in what I was doing, I just wanted them to pass the baton on to me and then for me to pass it on to the bullpen,” Plutko said.
Credit to Plutko who didn’t complain when the decision came down he would start 2020 in the pen, and just like that with a doubleheader early in the year he was right back in the rotation.
“That’s my role on this team, I’m not in the starting rotation, but that’s been my role ever since I’ve been here, that’s not a role for everybody but it’s my role and I relish it and I love it,” Plutko said.
He didn’t walk a batter in the win and struck out four. Plutko also retired 10 of the last 11 White Sox batters he faced.
Yes, it’s likely back to the pen for Plutko after this spot start, but having him ready at a moment’s notice like Tuesday night has to make everyone in the Tribe organization feel good.
Defense Wins Games Too
The Indians may not be sitting in first place with a 4-1 mark if not for the way their defense stepped up in the 8th inning on Tuesday, specifically center fielder Oscar Mercado.
The Indans second-year outfielder risked life and limb crashing into the center field wall where the “Blaster” sign is with two outs in the top of the 8th after Zack Collins put a charge into a Dominic Leone pitch.
Mercado did a great job going back on the ball, but if he doesn’t time the jump to the wall perfectly, either the ball drops behind him or he hits the wall before the ball lands.
If the ball would have hit and Mercado did not make the play, Nicky Delmonico, who singled home a run the batter before, likely would have been able to score to cut it to a 5-4 game.
Instead, it’s just another one in a long list of highlights for Mercado, who also came up big at the plate in the 4th with a two-run single that put the Tribe up at the time 5-1.
“That’s a game saver right there,” Francona said.
The Pen Doing Their Part
While a lot has been said about how good the Indians starting pitching has been, the bullpen also has done a solid job five games in.
Tuesday night it was Adam Cimber, Dom Leone and Cam Hill getting the job done, with Cimber and Hill both throwing shutout innings.
Leone needed some help as talked about before from Oscar Mercado to allow just one run, but in the end the threesome of Cimber, Leone and Hill allowed just one run on three hits over three innings.
Hill went from making his Major League debut Sunday to earning his first Major League save after Brad Hand got his second save of 2020 in the first game.
In the first game, it was James Karinchak, Nick Wittgren and Hand all working an inning each.
Hand allowed a run in the 9th, and Wittgren gave up a pair of hits in his inning of work, but again the pen did a nice job in holding down the Sox and not allowing the big inning.
Hill was able to get a 1-2-3 ninth, and Francona after the game admitted that it came down to either HIll or Phil Maton for the role of throwing that final inning.
“We were going back and forth between Maton and Cam, and Maton hasn’t pitched yet, but you start to think you have a two run lead and it might not be the best place to get a guys feet wet,” Francona said.
The Indians pen last season got off to a fast start before falling apart at times in the second half of the season.
Thus far in 2020 the returns have been solid on the unit as a whole.