How many great starting pitchers does one team possibly need? Aaron Civale has officially declare himself one of them for the Indians tonight with a complete game almost-shutout of the Pirates.
Civale teetered on the brink of pitching a Maddux for most of the game, including 91 pitches to his name entering the ninth. He finally started to show wear and tear in that final frame when he allowed his first and only run of the game after allowing two hits and a sacrifice fly to plate a run and prevent a shutout.
Even with the ninth inning struggles — or as most pitchers call it, still a pretty good inning — Civale looked outstanding tonight. He worked with a wide array of pitches over his 109 tosses: 39 sinkers, 26 curveballs, 19 changeups, 17 cutters, seven sliders, and one pitch that was probably incorrectly classified as a fourseam fastball.
His curve induced nine swings and strikes and his perfectly placed sinker (coupled with the framing of Roberto Pérez) was called for a strike 12 times. The movement on his fastball was just something else tonight.
Aaron Civale, Wicked 93mph Back Door Two Seamer. pic.twitter.com/lM88WaFfU1— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 20, 2020
There were no real jams for Civale to work out of until the ninth — just a smooth ride to his first career complete game.
Supporting Civale was the Brothers Santana and ... not a lot else. Francisco Lindor’s comeback tour was put on hold (or, more accurately, went up in flames) with an 0-for-5, three strikeout performance. Each strikeout came with at least one runner on base, though one came on a pretty bad call on a third-strike curveball that was well out of the zone.
Carlos Santana homered for the second night in a row and raised his batting average all the way to .197 with the hit. He didn’t walk, though, which is now the third game in a row he has failed to reach base via a leisurely stroll. Does this constitute a slump, even though he’s on a four-game hitting streak and two-game home run streak? You know what? I’m gonna say yes.
In the eighth inning, up 3-0, José Ramírez drew a walk and apparently wanted to help out his struggling teammate by putting himself in an RBI situation. José stole second — and his helmet flew off. Then he stole third — and his helmet flew off. Both times he plopped the helmet back on his head, and with no outs he waited for Frankie to bring him home. It never happened ... he struck out. As did Carlos Santana after him. It wasn’t until three batters later that Domingo Santana doubled and brought José — and a couple teammates who also worked walks — home.
With the victory, the Indians have won five straight and will go for the sweep over Pittsburgh tomorrow with Shane Bieber on the mound.