Game #51 Observations: Zach Plesac Untouchable in Indians’ 1-0 Win Over Detroit
The Cleveland Indians’ bats certainly weren’t as thunderous Friday as they were the previous night. However, despite the dramatic drop-off in production, the Tribe was still able to bring home a 1-0 win over the Detroit Tigers.
Sure, scoring once isn’t as fun as bringing 10 across the plate. However, after the week Cleveland experienced, is anyone really in a place to complain about how it seals a win?
Of course not. Especially when it comes on a night featuring an absolutely stellar performance from Zach Plesac.
The Tribe starter kept Detroit off balance all game long with seven strong innings, ensuring even minimal run support would be enough to secure a victory. It was Plesac’s fourth win on the year, and the Indians’ second straight since bringing an end to their eight-game slump.
The bullpen almost burned Cleveland late in this one, as both James Karinchak and closer Brad Hand made things interesting in their respective appearances.
Karinchak, already dealing with a runner on first when he arrived in the eighth, walked the first batter he faced. However, he got Miguel Cabrera to chase a high fastball, striking him out to end the inning.
Likewise, Hand’s save attempt was put on shaky ground after he allowed a one-out triple to Daz Cameron. Yet, with the tying run 90 feet away, Cleveland’s closer shut the door with two straight K’s.
Here are a few more observations from the victory.
Plesac Puts on a Show
The reason Cleveland was able to prevail on such minimal production is pretty cut and dry -- Zach Plesac was dealing.
The line from his seventh start is easily one of his most impressive of the year. Plesac went 7.2 innings, allowing only five hits while striking out 11. It marked the third time this season he went an entire appearance without giving up a single run.
The highlight, in case you didn’t hear, was his pulling off the coveted “immaculate inning.”
The moment occurred in the second, as Plesac threw nine pitches, all for strikes, resulting in three K’s. The only contact Tiger hitters had to write home about came via three foul balls.
Plesac’s approach didn’t vary too much from what we’ve seen throughout the year. Detroit’s right-handed hitters were served a heavy dose of sliders, while Tiger southpaws spent the night dealing with mostly fastball-changeup combos.
To say the strategy worked would be selling it short. Plesac allowed mostly weak contact with his changeup, giving up six batted balls with an average exit velocity of 76.7 mph. Meanwhile, he was able to generate a 50% whiff rate with his slider.
Plesac also finished the night with just one walk. Even more impressive, in 48.2 innings pitched this year, he’s yet to fall behind 3-0 in the count.
Overall, Friday night represented a much-needed bounce-back from Plesac, especially after enduring his first rocky outing of the season last weekend in Minnesota.
Where’d the Offense Go?
If you thought Cleveland exploding for 10 runs on Thursday would result in the offense coming alive, you were sadly mistaken. Once again, RBIs were at a premium for Indians hitters.
Cleveland finished the night with just five hits. Most surprising was how little damage the team was able to put up against Tigers starter Michael Fulmer.
Fulmer entered Friday night with a 9.27 ERA in eight starts. Both his average exit velocity (91.7 mph) and hard hit rate (48.1%) rank in the bottom 6% of the league, per Statcast.
Yet, in three innings, Cleveland only hit Fulmer hard once. He allowed just one hit, one walk and struck out two during a relatively brief appearance.
The lack of impact at-bats continued from there. The Tribe’s lone run came when a fifth-inning triple from Delino DeShields Jr. (his first barreled ball of 2020) was followed by a Francisco Lindor sac fly.
Cleveland did have a chance to drive in some runs in the previous frame, loading the bases with two outs. However, before catcher Roberto Pérez could try to bring anyone home, José Ramírez made an ill-fated attempt to steal home. Despite almost pulling off the heroic move, he was ultimately tagged out, ending the threat.
The Tribe loaded the bases again in the top of the ninth. Unfortunately, a last-ditch effort to score insurance runs was brought to a halt with a César Hernández groundout.
Again, when you’re putting an eight-game skid further in your rear view, you don’t complain about how victories occur. Knowing that, there’s likely minimal hand-wringing occurring in the Cleveland clubhouse when it comes to Friday’s final result.
Carlos Gone Cold
Thanks to his uncanny ability to draw a walk (19.9% BB rate coming into Friday), Carlos Santana continues to boast a strong OBP in 2020.
As we know, though, hitting is a primary job requirement when you’re batting cleanup. Right now, that’s something Santana isn’t doing much of.
Cleveland’s first baseman went 0-4 Friday night, with two pop outs, a groundout and a forceout. He’s now gone hitless in his last four games.
Going back further, Santana has just four hits in his last 38 plate appearances, three of which occurred last Sunday against Minnesota. He has just two RBIs in that time-frame, and is now batting .194 on the year.
Santana still boasts imposing numbers when batting with men in scoring position, entering Friday with a 162 wRC+ in 60 plate appearances facing said situation. That kind of production from your cleanup hitter is obviously ideal.
Still, with the postseason now nine games away, Cleveland will surely want to see Santana heat up over the next week.
The Indians continue their series with Detroit Saturday night, as rookie Triston McKenzie takes the mound against Tiger starter Spencer Turnbull.