The one thing he didn’t figure on wrestling with was one of baseball’s oldest foes -- rain.
Plesac, for the third time in nine starts, had a start interrupted by rain Tuesday night at Progressive Field. The Indians won the game, 8-0, over the Tigers to cut the Twins lead to five games in the AL Central, but a two-hour, seven-minute delay ruined an impressive start for the rookie right-hander.
Before rain halted the game in the top of the fourth, Plesac faced just nine Tigers. Victor Reyes walked to start the game, but Plesac picked him off first and retired the next eight batters. Plesac leads the big leagues with five pickoffs.
Plesac had one strikeout, a 7-0 lead and hadn’t allowed a hit when rain knocked him out. Plesac overcame a 69-minute delay against Boston in his big-league debut on May 28, but Tuesday night’s delay was just too long.
The Tribe’s bullpen was excellent in relief of Plesac. Tyler Clipper (two innings), Nick Goody (two innings) and Tyler Olson (two innings) completed the one-hit shutout. Detroit managed just two baserunners as Plesac and the bullpen faced just one batter over minimum.
“He did a good job,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Plesac. “It was three innings, and it was just too long to send him back out. He had gone down a couple times to stay loose, and then it just got too long. We told Clippard he would be going out first, and all three guys gave us two innings, and that was really helpful. That set us up nice where tonight didn’t hurt us for tomorrow.”
Goody (1-0), who struck out the side in order in the sixth, was credited with the victory.
“He’s missing bats, which when the weather gets warm, you need to have some of that,” Francona said of Goody. “In April and May, everyone is cold and if you keep the ball down and throw strikes, you’ll be OK normally. But when it gets hot, the ball carries more — and you have to miss some bats and have to have the ability to strike people out.
“But I just think his confidence is back and he’s been a big part of what we’re doing.”
The Indians (53-40) are 10-1 against the Tigers this year. The win allowed them to gain a game on the AL Central leading Twins, who lost to the Mets, 3-2. Cleveland also holds the second AL Wild Card and is just a game behind Tampa Bay for the first wild card position.
The Indians built a quick 7-0 lead against Tiger starter Ryan Carpenter (1-7, 9.30), who joined the team from Class AAA Toledo before the game. Carpenter is 0-2 with a 22.50 ERA (15 earned runs in six innings) against the Indians this year.
The Tribe took a 5-0 lead in the second with two out thanks to four straight hits by Jake Bauers, Tyler Naquin, Francisco Lindor and Oscar Mercado. Bauers, with Jason Kipnis on third, singled to left for a 1-0 lead. Naquin moved Bauers to second with a single to right.
The Indians caught a break when Lindor’s soft liner skipped off first baseman Brandon Dixon’s glove and rolled down the line for a double. Bauers and Naquin scored for a 3-0 lead. The ball may have sailed foul if Dixon didn’t put a glove on it.
Mercado followed with a two-run homer just inside the right field foul pole. It was his seventh of the season and third in the last two games.
In the third, Jordan Luplow and Jose Ramirez opened the inning with consecutive doubles for a 6-0 lead. Ramirez scored from second on Carpenter’s error on Kipnis’ grounder to first base. Carpenter dropped a flip from Dixon for the error.
When play resumed at 10:14 p.m., the game kicked into overdrive. Both teams were in swing mode with the only run coming off the bat of Naquin, who homered to center with two out in the sixth. It was Naquin’s eighth homer.
“I thought early on we were a little long, but then we started going the other way and started to get rewarded for it,” Francona said. “Naquin takes a bad swing or two, then hits one 400 feet. He just competes.”
The Indians and Tigers play the third game of this four-game set Wednesday night. Mike Clevinger (2-2, 3.99) will start for the Tribe, while Detroit sends Spencer Turnbull (3-8, 3.59) to the mound.
Clevinger, facing the Tigers for the first time this season, is 5-2 with a 2.18 ERA against them in his career. Turnbull is 0-3 in four career appearances against the Indians with a 6.60 ERA. He’s 0-2 against the Indians this year, losing consecutive starts in June against them.