CLEVELAND, Ohio – Indians pitcher Zach Plesac got just enough help from his offense Friday against Detroit and took care of the rest himself in a 1-0 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park.
Plesac was brilliant, tying a career-high with 11 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings and walking just one Detroit batter. After surrendering three home runs in his previous start at Minnesota, Plesac kept the Tigers off balance and rendered them helpless against his changeup in his second-longest outing of the season.
The victory reduced Cleveland’s magic number to clinch an American League playoff spot to five. The Indians hold the No. 7 seed in the AL ahead of No. 8 Toronto with nine games remaining.
In seven starts, Plesac (4-2, 1.85 ERA) has 50 strikeouts and allowed just four walks. His 12.25 strikeout-to-walk ratio leads the major leagues. He retired 13 batters in a row and 16 out of the last 17 he faced before a two-out single in the eighth by Victor Reyes ended his night.
Plesac labored a bit in the first inning, noting that his breaking pitches were not sharp early on. But the 24-year-old righty said he found his groove after that.
“My direction was good towards home, me and (Roberto Pérez) had a good mix, I really am just feeling comfortable with all my pitches right now,” Plesac said. “I feel like I can throw it at any time in the count and it’d be effective.”
Indians acting manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said Plesac’s changeup was as good as it’s been all year.
“The breaking balls were good, down in the zone, wipeout breaking balls, but his go-to pitch is the changeup.,” Alomar said. It’s pretty good.”
James Karinchak relieved Plesac and walked Willi Castro before striking out Miguel Cabrera on a 95 mph fastball to end the threat. Brad Hand pitched a scoreless ninth for his 13th save in 13 chances, tying Oakland’s Liam Hendricks for the most in baseball. He gave up a one-out triple to rookie pinch-hitter Daz Cameron, but struck out Jorge Bonifacio and Nico Goodrum to end it.
It was Cleveland’s league-leading seventh shutout. Indians starters have tossed a league-leading 35 quality starts in 2020, and the team is 22-13 in those games.
In the second inning, Plesac retired Bonifacio, Goodrum and Austin Romine on three strikes apiece. His “immaculate inning” was the third by an Indians pitcher since 2014 and the first since Carlos Carrasco accomplished the feat against Detroit at Progressive Field on July 7, 2017.
Plesac said afterward that he’d never heard of an immaculate inning before, but after the first strike to Romine, he knew he had a chance to accomplish something special.
“I was like, ‘Oh, wait I think we’re in the running for it,’” Plesac said. “Then I thought about throwing the slider right over the plate and they both caught the corner, so it worked.”
Cleveland got on the scoreboard when Delino DeShields tripled with one out in the fifth inning and Francisco Lindor brought him home on a sacrifice fly to center for his 26th RBI. DeShields, who also tripled in a loss to Kansas City on Sept. 9, has upped his power numbers recently, slugging .421 in his previous 15 games entering play on Friday.
“I just want to hit the ball hard,” Deshields said. “I just want to get on base any way I can. I know if my swing is right and I’m barreling the baseball more times than not those balls are going to drop.”
José Ramírez continued his torrid hitting pace from the last 15 games, collecting two singles in four plate appearances. Ramirez entered Friday’s game with 13 hits in his previous 29 at-bats with four home runs, six RBI and a 1.389 OPS.
The Indians had opportunities to score early, going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranding 10 baserunners. They loaded the bases in the fourth against Tigers reliever Tyler Alexander, but with two out and Roberto Perez batting, Ramírez was thrown out at the plate on an attempted straight steal of home as Romine applied the tag.
Next: The series continues Saturday as the Indians send right-hander Triston McKenzie (2-1, 3.91 ERA) to the mound against Detroit righty Spencer Turnbull (4-3, 3.94). First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. at Comerica Park. SportsTime Ohio, WTAM 1100 AM and WMMS 100.7 FM 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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