CLEVELAND, Ohio — On Tuesday night, right-hander Zach Plesac watched Jose Ramirez hit a walk-off homer in the 10th inning against the White Sox and felt he was dreaming.
He’d just spent 45 minutes in the float tank in the training room at Progressive Field to help him recover from his last start. He was in there for 45 minutes, floating on a bed of salt water listening to the sound of waves gently lapping on the shore.
“I wasn’t asleep, my eyes were open,” said Plesac. “But I felt like I was dreaming. I was having lucid dreams.”
When he got out of the tank and returned to the dugout to see what took place, Plesac felt like he was still in a daze, still dreaming.
Well, the dream continued Thursday night for Plesac, Ramirez and the Indians. Ramirez doubled home two runs in a four-run seventh inning as the Indians rallied to beat the White Sox, 5-4, and complete a four-game sweep.
The victory pulled the Indians to within a game of the second-place White Sox in the AL Central. If the Indians pass (or tie) Chicago in the final three games of the season they have a chance to host Tuesday in the three-game wild-card series. They finished the season 8-2 against the White Sox.
The Indians have won five straight and seven of their last eight since their eight-game losing streak. The White Sox have lost a season-high five straight.
“We know we’re gonna win ballgames every day,” said Plesac. “That’s how we attack each game. You feel the confidence, the buzz, yeah. It all feels like a dream right now. It’s something that’s completely new to a lot of guys, me, myself. It’s just coming down to we’re gonna stay present and enjoy these moments together because you never know when it’s gonna end.”
Plesac had just allowed three runs in the seventh as Chicago took a 4-1 lead. The White Sox had center fielder Delino DeShields pin-balling off the walls in left center and center field.
Yoan Moncada, with the score tied, 1-1, opened the seventh with a triple off the wall in left center. He scored on a hard grounder to first that Carlos Santana bobbled. After Jose Abreu walked, Eloy Jimenez doubled to deep center. The ball went off the heel of DeShields’ glove as he slammed into the wall. He quickly recovered to hold Abreu at third.
Plesac struck out Edwin Encarnacion, but Nomar Mazara sent a two-run single through the left side of the infield for a 4-1 lead. Cam Hill relieved and Yolmer Sanchez splattered DeShields against the left center field wall for the final out.
The dream, however, was just gaining momentum.
The Indians, after being held to one run on four hits in six innings by Dallas Keuchel, opened the seventh with three straight pinch-hit singles off Jimmy Cordero. Josh Naylor, Tyler Naquin and Mike Freeman had the singles to load the bases, but DeShields forced Naylor at the plate on a grounder to third.
It was the first time the Indians have had three straight pinch hits since — wait for it — 10-cent beer night at the old stadium on June 4, 1974. Ed Crosby, Rusty Torres and Alan Ashby had three straight singles in the ninth inning just before the umpires forfeited the game to Texas (courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau).
“We were kind of managing it like, ‘If somebody gets on, you’re gonna go hit. If this guy gets on, hit for Roberto (Perez),'” said acting manager Sandy Alomar. “And it played out that way. We were very fortunate that all three of those guys got hits. It set up the big inning. The guys kept fighting, hitting balls the other way. It was a fun inning to watch.”
Cordero retired Francisco Lindor on a fly ball to left to make way for Carlos Rodon (0-2), who was activated earlier in the day. Cesar Hernandez greeted him with a two-run single just over a leaping Sanchez at second to make it 4-3. Ramirez followed with a double off the wall in left center to put the Indians ahead.
Ramirez is hitting .365 (35-for-96) with seven doubles, 12 homers and 28 RBI in his last 26 games. In the four-game series against Chicago, Ramirez hit .417 (5-for-12) with three doubles, two homers and eight RBI.
“He was locked in that at-bat,” said Alomar. “Right now, the guys are team players. Everybody is rooting for everybody. It’s been a great run right now and the guys are really locked in and focused on trying to win games.”
Hernandez finished with three hits and three RBI. He’s been hitting in front of Ramirez all year and reaping the rewards.
“It’s a great spot to be in. I can’t complain about it,” said Hernandez, through interpreter Agustin Rivero. “I can see pitchers trying to make an extra effort to pitch to me. But at the same time I can execute my own plan, which is take the good pitch that I want to hit.
“If it’s not there I can also take the walk and it’s going to make it more complicated for them. So, it’s a really good spot to be in.”
The win went to Cam Hill (2-0), while Brad Hand pitched the ninth for his 15th save in as many chances. Hand retired the White Sox in order with two strikeouts.
Plesac opened with seven straight outs before Sanchez homered with one out in the third for a 1-0 lead It was Sanchez’s first homer of the season. He’d been out of work until the White Sox signed him as a free agent on Aug. 26.
The Indians countered immediately in their half of the third. Roberto Perez doubled inside first base off Keuchel with one out. Lindor kept the inning going with a two-out walk before Hernandez drew chalk down the right field line with a double. Perez scored easily and Lindor was right behind, only to return to third because the ball kicked into the stands for a ground-rule double.
Lindor stayed at third as Keuchel retired Ramirez on a grounder to short. Ramirez doubled with two out in the first, but the White Sox caught him breaking for third on a steal attempt for the third out of the inning.
Plesac allowed four runs in 6 2/3 innings. In two previous starts this year against the White Sox he hadn’t allowed a run in 14 innings.
The Pirates come to Progressive Field on Friday for the final series of the regular season. RHP Carlos Carrasco (3-4, 2.90) will face Pittsburgh’s Mitch Keller (1-1, 3.24) at 7:10 p.m. SportsTime Ohio, WTAM and WMMS will carry the game.
New Indians face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Cleveland Indians-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($14.99) and a 3-pack ($24.99). All MLB proceeds donated to charity.
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