Shutting down any Major League Baseball offense is difficult — yes, even one that features Nicky Delmonico batting clean-up. But, for the most part, that’s what Adam Plutko did tonight in a start that he was never supposed to happen.
If the rain hadn’t wiped out yesterday’s contest between these two teams, Plutko probably would have been prepared to come out of the pen, but instead the Indians opted to keep Zach Plesac pitching in Lake County and they handed the second half of their doubleheader to Plutko.
And by golly, he did it.
It wasn’t total domination by any stretch — two home runs are still two home runs, even if they are both solo. Especially when one goes 421 feet. But Plutko’s six solid innings and four strikeouts helped keep the bullpen not get overtaxed heading into the series finale tomorrow. Because of his efforts, Adam Cimber, Dominic Leone, and Cam Hill were able to work three innings of relief and we all went (or stayed) home happy.
Plutko generated 11 swinging strikes on his fastball alone. It’s a pitch that topped out at 92.3 mph and is historically in the middle of the road in terms of spin rate and overall effectiveness. But tonight he continually pushed it up the zone and worked it against his excellent curveball.
Offensively, the heart of the order carried the Tribe. José Ramírez and Carlos Santana led the way with two hits apiece, and Francisco Lindor and Oscar Mercado from the nine-hole each added a hit. The latter also had a spectacular defensive play late that saved at least a run.
Although Jordan Luplow was blanked on the night, full credit to Terry Francona for putting him at leadoff against the left-handed Carlos Rodón. Luplow was a brilliant addition to the Game 2 lineup, and putting him — one of the best southpaw assassins in the league — in position to get the most at-bats was great. In fact, every Indians hitter on the night was selected specifically to target Rodón, in what should probably be classified as bullying. Nine batters, all right handed, one of them Carlos Santana. Brutal.
Santana was hitless on the season entering the day, but finished with two hits in each game and a two-run, 395-foot donger in the first inning of Game 2 to get the Tribe rolling.
The Indians’ domination of a casual Tuesday afternoon in July has put them in sole possession of first place in the American League Central. Soak it in.