A two-run homer in the second inning proved to be the only damage off Mike Clevinger and the Cleveland Indians in a 5-2 win on Thursday evening over the visiting Kansas City Royals. The Tribe was outhit 6-5, but a pair of home runs behind another scoreless bullpen effort dwindled the team's magic number to four.
For the first time since August 13th, the 25-year old rookie pitched at least five innings with a final line of 5 IP 4 H 2 R/ER 2 BB 4 K (80 pitches, 47 strikes, 59%). Despite the no-decision, both manager Terry Francona and Clevinger himself were satisfied with the results.
"His (Clevinger's) stuff's good, maybe down a tick tonight," Francona said. "As he pitches more and gains more confidence, you'll see him attacking more."
Clevinger has now held his opposition to a meager .188 (9-48) batting average over his last three starts.
"I kind of didn't have my A-game, especially at first," Clevinger said. "We battled through those adverse situations."
Carlos Santana continued his offensive surge at Progressive Field with four runs batted in courtesy of a double and three-run homer. Santana now has 34 home runs and is batting .458 (11 for 24) with seven runs batted in over the course of the first six games played this home stand.
Jason Kipnis added his 23rd home run to break the ice in the first inning before Santana took the offensive wheel for the rest of the game. The Tribe is now a half game back of the best record in the American League.
Mike Napoli was held hitless and is now in the midst of a 0-20 slump.
With Clevinger and Jason Vargas both on limited pitch counts, the game quickly became a chess match between Francona and opposing manager Ned Yost in terms of bullpen management. Advantage Francona.
Dan Otero outdueled Dillon Gee in long relief by pitching two scoreless frames with two strikeouts and only one baserunner allowed. All eight of Otero's two inning relief appearances this season have been scoreless. Gee fell victim to Santana’s three-run bomb, the decisive hit of the ballgame.
"You try to stay as sharp as you can," said Otero. "Just be ready to go. Mentally you have to stay focused."
Bryan Shaw worked out of a one-out jam with Jarrod Dyson at third base by striking out both Eric Hosmer and Kendrys Morales, the three and four batters atop Yost’s lineup.
Cody Allen put the cherry on top of the series sweep with a clean ninth inning of work.
Central Division update
With Kansas City eliminated from playoff contention, the AL Central race has narrowed down to just Cleveland and Detroit.
The Tigers won game one of their doubleheader over Minnesota to maintain a seven-game distance from first place.
The Indians will open a three-game weekend series opposite manager Robin Ventura and the Chicago White Sox from Progressive Field on Friday at 7:10 PM.
RHP Trevor Bauer (11-8, 4.24) and RHP Miguel Gonzalez (4-7, 3.83) are the probable starters.
Bauer has a 3-2 record and 3.91 earned run average in 12 appearances (10th start) against the divisional foes. The team’s new number two starter will look to put an end to his September misery after allowing at least five earned runs in his last three outings.
Gonzalez is scheduled to make his fourth start since being activated from the 15-day disabled list with a groin injury. Since rejoining the ball club, the Mexican pitcher has a 2-1 record, 2.70 ERA, and 10 strikeouts in 20 innings pitched.