He made his big-league debut in 2016, but still wasn’t a full-time starter. He didn’t start taking a regular turn in the rotation until 2017 and he won’t be eligible for arbitration until after this season.
Clevinger was making only his fifth start in an injury-riddled season on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium. Still, he managed to improve to 7-0 in his career against the Royals as the Indians claimed a 4-0 victory.
The Indians (47-38) have won three straight and eight of their last 11 games. They are a season-high nine games above .500, and enter Thursday alone in the second American League Wild Card spot. Cleveland is two games behind Tampa Bay for the first wild card, and trail the Minnesota Twins by seven games in the AL Central Division.
The win was Clevinger’s 30th of his career. That means 23 percent of his victories have come against Kanas City.
Clevinger (2-2, 4.44) threw six scoreless innings. In his last two starts, he’d allowed 12 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. In each of those starts he was activated from the injured list before the game.
Wednesday night Clevinger looked hale and hearty. He struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter, while throwing 67 percent (53-of-79) of his pitches for strikes. In 11 career appearances against the Royals, including 10 starts, Clevinger is 7-0 with a 1.45 ERA.
“I thought he’s the best he’s been,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Clevinger. “I thought he may have reached back on his fastball a little too much, but he could have kept going I think. But that was a good spot for him, and we didn’t push him too much and he can go from there.”
The win, however, wouldn’t have been possible without the speed and power of catcher Roberto Perez. That’s right, speed.
We’re not talking Usain Bolt, but Perez tripled to start the third inning and scored on a wild pitch by Danny Duffy (3-5, 4.28). It was Perez’s first triple of the season and fourth of his career.
“The energy that it gave the dugout was great,” Francona said.
Perez, with two out in the eighth, lined a two-run homer just inside the left field foul pole for a 4-0 lead. It was Perez’s 15th homer of the season. He had 22 career homers entering this season.
“Just getting that extra two runs there, what a big difference, especially with who Kansas City had coming up,” Francona said. “He’s kind of coming into his own and growing. He’s always taken a lot of pride in getting pitchers through the game, now he’s helping elsewhere — and good for him.”
Jason Kipnis gave Perez a chance to swing the bat against Kevin McCarthy by drawing a two-out walk.
Carlos Santana provided the Indians other run with a homer in the fourth. It was his 19th of the season as he continued to tune up for the All-Star Game Home Run Derby on Monday night at Progressive Field.
Santana hit a 1-2 pitch from Duffy for a 2-0 lead to reach base for the 26th consecutive games. It was his 29th career homer against the Royals.
Clevinger went 3-0 in five starts against the Royals in 2018. He is just one of two active pitchers who have at least six wins and no losses against the Royals. Lucas Giolito of the White Sox is the other.
As well as Clevinger does against the Royals, Duffy does just as poorly against the Tribe. The left-hander has lost 10 straight decisions to the Tribe. He is 2-11 with a 5.68 ERA in his career against them.
Nick Goody and Brad Hand followed Clevinger. Goody pitched two scoreless innings and Hand pitched the ninth.
“I know he had a tough time in Triple-A for a while, but since he’s been back he’s been missing bats,” Francona said of Goody.
Rookie right-hander Zach Plesac (3-3, 3.81) will face the Royals for the first time in his career at 1:15 p.m. on Thursday afternoon. The Royals will send veteran Homer Bailey (7-6, 4.87) to the mound. SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM will carry the game.
Plesac is coming off a resounding loss to the Orioles on Saturday at Camden Yards. He allowed seven runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings.The Orioles won the game, 13-0.
Bailey beat the Indians with seven scoreless inning on April 13. He is 3-0 in his last four starts.