Covering the Bases: Game 37
Some notes and quotes from Wednesday’s 8-7, 12-inning win.
FIRST: Before Wednesday’s game began, Indians rookie Mike Clevinger began heading out to the bullpen to get warmed up for his Major League debut. The pitcher started to walk to the ‘pen behind the center-field wall.
There was only one problem: That’s Cincinnati’s bullpen.
“He was going to the wrong bullpen,” Indians manager Terry Francona said with a smile. “Nap kind of grabbed him. He was pretty good. He goes, ‘I was just checking it out.'”
During his debut, if Clevinger was feeling any rookie jitters, the right-hander didn’t display it on the mound. In fact, following a leadoff single by Zack Cozart in the first inning, Clevinger held the Reds to a 2-for-17 showing through five innings.
“He looked like it was almost business as usual,” Francona said. “I’m sure on the inside it probably wasn’t.”
Clevinger confirmed as much.
“I felt the 30 minutes of puking of nerves got me really composed for when I went back out there,” quipped the pitcher. “That calmed me down.”
Clevinger had a large (and loud) cheering section behind the visitors’ dugout at Great American Ball Park for his big league debut. His parents, and a pair of step-parents, were on hand, along with Clevinger’s girlfriend and their newborn daughter. Both of his brothers were also there, alongside even more relatives.
“It was fun,” Clevinger said. “It was definitely something that’s indescribable. I won’t forget it.”
Over 5.1 innings, Clevinger was charged with four runs on five hits, and he ended with five strikeouts and one walk. He threw mostly four-seamers (45), but mixed in a changeup, slider, curve and cutter. The righty generated a dozen swings and misses, averaged 93.7 mph with his four-seamer and topped out at 96 mph on the day.
Clevinger’s first career strikeout came in the first, when Joey Votto swung through a slider. In the fourth inning, Votto was called out on strikes on a good changeup that started inside, but tailed back over the edge. The veteran eventually got the best of the rook, though, delivering a two-run double to deep center in the sixth.
Clevinger exited with a 4-3 lead in the sixth, but a three-run homer by Eugenio Suarez (off Zach McAllister) later in the inning saddled the rookie with a no-decision. Clevinger also allowed a homer to Jay Bruce in the fourth.
“I thought he was good,” Francona said. “I thought he followed the glove pretty well. I thought he kept his composure real well. I thought his pitches were good. He made a couple mistakes late, but I don’t care if you’re coming up from Triple-A or you’re a [veteran], that’s Major League stuff. And he’s only going to get better with experience.”
SECOND: After the Indians scored 28 runs on 36 hits in the previous two games against the Reds, Wednesday’s game was mostly the Rajai Davis and Francisco Lindor show.
Davis reached base three times, including launching a pair of home runs. The outfielder belted a solo shot in the third to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead and then came through with a two-run blast in the ninth to tie the game, 7-7. Lindor, who had three hits for the third game in a row, delivered a go-ahead, solo home run in the 12th inning.
Since getting a day off “to take a deep breath” on Sunday, Davis has gone 7-for-12 with three extra-base hits, five walks, seven RBIs and nine runs scored for Cleveland. That’s the kind of work he used to do against the Indians.
“It’s nice when he’s in our uniform,” Francona said.
In a 72-hour span, Davis has increased his season slash line to .250/.311/.420 from .211/.248/.330. I’d say that deep breath worked out just fine.
“Absolutely,” Davis said. “It’s always nice to step away and just not get in your mind so much and take a break and think about what has made you successful and get back to that focus that helped you to be successful at the start.”
As for Lindor, he’s gone 9-for-17 over the past three games. Through 37 games now, the shortstop is sporting a .325/.376/.437 slash line with 11 extra-base hits, 18 RBIs and 25 runs scored for Cleveland.
Francona was stunned by Lindor’s 12th-inning shot to center.
“That ball, I’ll tell you what,” Francona said, “he hit that ball and that had a little different sound. That was just a rocket. We needed something like that, because there was a lot of frustation.”
THIRD: Davis’ game-tying shot in the ninth inning doesn’t happen without the work one plate appearance earlier by Lonnie Chisenhall.
Facing the left-hander Cingrani, Cleveland’s outfielder worked 10 pitches. He saw eight fastballs and two sliders (Pitch 1 and Pitch 6). He fouled off five pitches, including two with the count full before finally taking the final fastball for ball in and off the plate.
“That was impressive,” Davis said. “I was really impressed with him and I had to let him know: ‘Hey, that’s an at-bat right there.’ He’s a tough lefty on lefties. The good thing is he got to see him a day before. It’s not like he hadn’t seen that arm angle. A big, tall guy. Lanky. He has a good fastball.
“He put some good swings and some tough swings on it, just to fight. He just kept battling. That’s all we can ask far, to have guys go up there and battle. That’s what he did.”
HOME: Another play that could go easily overlooked from Wednesday was the highlight-reel running grab made by second baseman Jason Kipnis in the bottom of the 12th inning.
Zack Cozart sent a pitch arcing high beyond first base and down the line in shallow right field. Kipnis sprinted to his left and tracked the fly ball, lunging and falling to the grass after snaring it from the sky.
“It’s one of the best plays I think I’ve ever seen him make,” Francona said. ” Considering the time of the game and where he started and where he ended. That was a great play. That play there, that’s a double. He closed a lot of ground. It’s like he willed himself to catch that ball.”
According to Statcast, Kipnis had a first step time of 0.12 seconds and he hit a top speed of 18.9 mph while on the run. In the process, he covered 81.2 feet with a route efficiency of 97.8 percent. That’s all technical mumbo jumbo for: It was really freakin’ good.
Lindor loved it.
“As soon as it was hit, I’m like, ‘Get it! Get it!'” Lindor said. “I just was watching him have his eyes on it the whole entire time, and the next thing you know he extends his glove and just boom, catches it. It was pretty cool and a game changer, a game changer at that point.”
EXTRAS: While there were a few hiccups (Kyle Crockett, Jeff Manship and McAllister didn’t have banner nights), the Indians’ bullpen played a big role in this win. Joba Chamberlain, Bryan Shaw, Cody Allen and Dan Otero combined for five shutout innings to help pave the way for the comeback and eventual win. After Shaw worked a clean ninth, and Allen retired all six batter he faced between the 10th and 11th, Otero held Cincy in check in the 12th. That meant he notched his first save since 2014.
Stay tuned for more…