Any momentum the Cleveland Indians thought they had built with the previous night’s walk-off win was gone in a flash, as the Tribe suffered a 7-2 loss to their in-state rivals at Progressive Field.
Rookie pitcher Zach Plesac (1-2, 2.92) served up back-to-back home runs to Cincinnati’s Nick Senzel and Joey Votto to start the game. Eugenio Suarez and Curt Casali added solo homers to pull away from the Indians, who failed to come up with a big hit against Reds starter Anthony DeScalfani (3-3, 4.43).
It was the first time in franchise history the Indians allowed back-to-back home runs to lead off a game in Cleveland. The last time an Indians pitcher gave up back-to-back homers to the first two batters was exactly one year earlier, on June 12, 2018 in Chicago, as Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez went deep for the White Sox off Adam Plutko.
Manager Terry Francona suggested that Plesac’s 110-pitch outing in his previous start might have taken a toll on the 24-year-old righty.
“He just made some mistakes in the zone today,” Francona said. “He’s still really young. His fastball just plays up more than what the gun says because it’s got some life to it, so he gets away with some of them, also.”
Senzel and Votto became the first Reds players to lead off a game with back-to-back blasts since Alex Ochoa and Barry Larkin against Andy Benes of St. Louis on June 26, 2001.
Senzel later collided with second baseman Jose Peraza while catching Francisco Lindor’s leadoff pop fly to short center field in the first. Both players stayed down for several minutes while trainers tended to their injuries, but both remained in the game.
Tyler Naquin put Cleveland on the board in the second when he doubled over the head of Yasiel Puig in right, moved to second on a Jose Ramirez ground out and scored on Mike Freeman’s RBI grounder to first. Cleveland loaded the bases against DeScalfani in the third but could not score as Naquin bounced into an inning-ending double play.
Carlos Santana crushed his team-leading 14th homer to deep center in the eighth against Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen. Santana’s 14 home runs through 66 games matches his pace from 2016 when he hit a career-high 34.
Plesac settled in after Cincinnati’s opening barrage, setting down 13 of the next 14 batters he faced before a one-out double by Reds shortstop Jose Iglesias in the fifth followed by an RBI double from Peraza pushed Cincinnati’s lead to 3-1. He finished with six strikeouts and a pair of walks in 5 1/3 innings.
Plesac said it was the first time he could recall ever giving up two homers to start a game, but resolved to learn from the experience.
“Every day I’m learning, really," Plesac said. "Just taking that outing and looking on the things that affected me negatively and I’m gonna take it into tomorrow, my preparation moving forward this week and work on those things and be ready next outing.”
Iglesias struck out in the second and home plate umpire Lance Barrett ejected Cincinnati hitting coach Turner Ward, a former Indians outfielder, for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout. Votto, making his fourth career start as Cincinnati’s designated hitter, left the game with mid-back tightness in the fifth.
Cleveland’s bullpen entered the game with a major league-best 3.21 ERA, but allowed three runs including Casali’s solo shot off Nick Goody, and a two-run double by Iglesias off A.J. Cole in the eighth.
The Indians are off Thursday before embarking on a seven-game road trip to Detroit and Texas. They open a three-game series Friday against the Tigers. Adam Plutko (2-1, 5.19) will start Friday’s opener against TBA. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. The game will air on SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM.