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Rookie Plesac unflappable in win over Yankees

By JOE NOGA • Jun 7, 2019 at 10:39 PM

CLEVELAND — Rookie pitcher Zach Plesac displayed poise and command well beyond his 24 years during his first two big-league starts for the Cleveland Indians.

But he did not come away with a win in either outing. Plesac reversed that trend Friday in a 5-2 Tribe win against the New York Yankees at Progressive Field.

Plesac (1-1, 1.86) was unshaken when the Yankees jumped in front on an RBI double by Clint Frazier in the second inning. He was unmoved by Aaron Hicks’ home run to right in the third.

He was practically unhittable after that.

The right-hander allowed just two hits following Hicks’ solo shot, including a stretch of 10 straight outs before Frazier singled off the end of his bat with two down in the seventh. Plesac finished with five strikeouts and one walk, allowing just the two earned runs in seven innings for his first major-league win.

Afterward, Plesac said he found success in trusting his pitches and executing the game plan that he had with catcher Kevin Plawecki.

"I’ve learned that my stuff plays and now it’s going to be up to me to move forward and learn about more guys and better pitches to make in certain counts and just grow,” Plesac said.

Plesac became just the third pitcher in Indians history to allow two runs or fewer in each of his first three career starts, joining Jeanmar Gomez in 2010 and Cody Anderson in 2015. Manager Terry Francona said he wished he could take credit for the youngster’s success, but the Indians’ player development staff deserved all the praise for preparing Plesac.

“I hope their chests are out a little bit, because they’re responsible for where this kid is at in his career,” Francona said. “And now we’re watching him get better like right in front of our eyes.”

Plesac limited the damage after Frazier’s double in the second inning with one out and runners at the corners. He got Giovanny Urshela to bounce back to the mound and tagged Kendrys Morales in a rundown between third and home. Then he retired Brett Gardner on a weak grounder to second.

“He threw some breaking balls tonight that were probably the best ones he’s thrown,” Francona said. "He didn’t always follow the glove, but he’s aggressive enough with his fastball where he’ll stand you up a little bit, whether it’s by design or not, and his fastball plays a little bit more than what you see on the scoreboard.”

Indians slugger Carlos Santana made sure Plesac’s efforts would result in a victory when he blasted a two-run homer to right against Yankees starter Domingo German (9-1, 3.86) in the sixth. Santana’s 12th home run put the Tribe in front 4-2 and gave him a team-high 39 RBI.

Nick Wittgren worked a perfect eighth in relief of Plesac and Brad Hand earned his 19th save in 19 chances when he struck out all three Yankees he faced in the ninth.

Jason Kipnis snapped an 0-for-21 skid in the second inning with a base hit, and added an RBI knock in the fourth when he drove in Oscar Mercado for the Tribe’s first run. Tyler Naquin’s solo home run to right in the fifth knotted the score at 2-2. It was Naquin’s second homer and first since April 12 at Kansas City.

“Getting the game tied, especially at home, feels better," Francona said. "Mercado’s speed helped Santana. It’s something they have to respect. (German) was slide-stepping and he left a pitch up to Carlos.”

Francisco Lindor’s leadoff triple in the eighth resulted in an insurance run for Cleveland when Kipnis brought him home two batters later with a sacrifice fly to deep center. It was Kipnis’ 15th RBI this year.

Up next

The series continues Saturday as Adam Plutko (1-1, 6.35) will start for the Indians against Yankees lefty C.C. Sabathia (3-2, 3.61). First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. The game will air on FS1 and WLKR 95.3 FM.

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