Rookie Zach Plesac ended a mini-slump and Jordan Luplow and Franmil Reyes supplied the big hits Tuesday night as the Indians shut out the Mike Trout-less Angels, 8-0, at Angel Stadium.
Plesac struck out five and walked two to give the Indians their sixth complete game of the season.
“Obviously he was very good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “The first inning was his longest inning where I think he threw 20 pitches because he got behind a couple hitters. But after that, he pretty much worked ahead in the count and threw all his pitches for strikes.
“Tonight he put it together and his breaking ball was better,” Francona added.” He was able to slow down his delivery and take his bullpen approach to the game, and it paid dividends.”
The win kept the Tribe (85-61) five games behind the first-place Twins (89-55) in the American League Central.
In the Wild Card Game race, the Indians stayed one-half game behind the Oakland (85-60) for the road position, and 1.5 games behind Tampa Bay (87-59) for the home spot.
The Indians, who have won four of their last five games, have 16 left in the regular season. They finish this six-game trip Wednesday night in the season finale against the Angels. Then they return to Progressive Field for the final homestand of the season, starting with a three-game series against the Twins on Friday night.
It is their only chance at a head-to-head meeting with one of the three teams they’re chasing to make the playoffs. That’s probably a good thing because the Rays and A’s were a combined 11-2 against the Tribe this year. The Indians are 9-7 against the Twins.
The Indians ended Tuesday’s game quickly. Jordan Luplow hit a two-run homer off lefty Jose Suarez in the second inning and the offense really never stopped rolling after that. Francisco Lindor hit his 30th homer of the season in the seventh to become just the second players whose primary position is shortstop to have three or more seasons with 30 or more homers before he turned 26. Alex Rodriguez did it five times.
Luplow is the second California native to make good in as many days for the Tribe. Shane Bieber, on Monday, pitched seven strong innings to beat the Angels, 6-2. He had a cheering section of about 150 people from nearby Laguna Hills chanting his name throughout the game.
If their was a cheering section for Luplow, it was a lot quieter for the outfielder who played at Buchanan High School in Clovis, Calif. But the Angels heard his message loud and clear.
Luplow flipped his bat after his 12th homer of the season. All 12 of those homers, by the way, have come against lefties. When Luplow batted in the seventh, Trevor Cahill hit him in the shoulder with a pitch. Plate umpire Bill Welke must not have thought it was intentional because Cahill stayed in the game after both benches had already been warned in the third inning after Angel starter Jose Suarez (2-6, 6.94) hit Puig in consecutive at-bats.
He hit Puig in the back in the second inning before Luplow homered. Then he hit him in the foot in the third.
Welke warned both benches when Puig was hit a second time. Puig, bat in hand, walked slowly to first base, staring at Suarez. Manager Terry Francona came on the field to escort Puig to first base, while talking to Welke. Suarez and Puig exchanged words, but that was the extent of the dust up.
Suarez, 0-5 with a 8.65 ERA in his last eight games, looked rattled after hitting Puig to load the bases. He followed that by walking Luplow to force home the first of four runs in the inning. Reyes followed with a three-run double to left field for a 6-0 lead. Reyes, who added a sacrifice fly in the seventh, finished with four RBI.
Plesac (8-6, 3.64) was 1-3 with a 6.34 ERA in his last four starts. He allowed 15 earned runs on 24 hits and six walk in those four starts. It looked like the length of the season may have caught up to Plesac in his first taste of the big leagues.
That did not appear to be the case Tuesday night as Plesac pitched his first complete game shutout in the big leagues.
The Indians and Angels end their season series on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium. Right-hander Adam Plukto (6-4, 4.44) will face the Angels and lefty Dillon Peters (3-2, 4.45) at 8:07 p.m. SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM will carry the game.
Plutko will be making his second start against the Angels this season. He earned the win against them on Aug. 3 in a 7-2 victory at Progressive Field. Plutko allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings in that game.