CLEVELAND --- The Indians youth movement was on full display Sunday afternoon at Progressive Field.
Rookie right-hander Zach Plesac continued to impress and first baseman Bobby Bradley accomplished a number of firsts in his major league debut, as Cleveland completed a sweep of Detroit with an 8-3 victory.
The Indians, who open a three-game series against last-place Kansas City tonight, won for the 13th time in 18 games and for the eighth time in 10 tries.
Plesac’s outing appeared to be headed in the wrong direction when he allowed a home run to JaCoby Jones on his fourth pitch and consecutive hits from Nicholas Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera to follow.
But he retired six straight after that and surrendered only two hits the rest of the way.
“After the first three hitters, that’s a tough way to start the game,” manager Terry Francona said. “A line drive home run, a ball that goes to the wall that (Jordan Luplow) lost in the sun then got kinda mixed up, and then a base hit to right field. And he gathered himself. He stopped the damage right there and then he pitched from there.
“We’ve said a lot of times, he’s not the finished product, but he kinda fills up the strike zone with fastballs. They’re not always where he wants to throw ‘em, but he’s got enough life to ‘em and he doesn’t work behind very much, so he’s having success. When they make hard contact, he doesn’t shy away from the next hitter.”
Locking back in wasn’t a problem for Plesac, who became the first Cleveland pitcher to throw at least seven innings while allowing two runs or fewer in four of the first six starts of his career since John Farrell in 1987. He is the first pitcher in the majors to accomplish as much since Kyle Hendricks did it for the Cubs in 2014.
“I think through the first two innings, I was deep in my pitch count and I knew moving on to the rest of the game I had to attack early, try to get early outs, if I wanted to pitch late in the game,” said Plesac, who has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his six starts. “So that was really the gameplan after I got out of the first. I had to get the ball in the zone and try to get early outs.”
It didn’t take Bradley long to make an impact.
His double to the left-field corner in his first at-bat tied the game at 1 and sparked a five-run second inning that gave the Indians the lead for good.
“Unreal, right away he comes in and gets an RBI, gets a hit,” said Plesac, who was a teammate of Bradley’s at Triple-A Columbus this year. “It was a matter of time. He’s a beast. It’s really good to see him and I’m excited to be playing with him.”
“It was nice to see the way the crowd reacted to it,” Francona said of Bradley’s big hit. “You only have one first time. I told him like I’ve told Oscar (Mercado) and all the other younger guys, ‘This is great. We love this. You’ve got to be open to listening.’ There were some things that happened today that are firsts and I’m confident he’ll be ready to listen and try to get better.”
Bradley, who made a nice play on a foul ball over his head in the opening inning, didn’t get another hit, but he reached on a walk in the eighth and was showered with a loud ovation from the fans when he was lifted for a pinch runner.
“Just unreal,” he said of the reception. “I think it’s gonna kick in for me at some point today that today actually happened. I mean it’s a day I’ll never forget. I mean, just to be able to be up here and to be able to get a hit, it means the world to me. Just to be able to come up and help this team win is just such an amazing experience.”
Bradley was just a small part of the offense, which kept rolling after entering the day averaging over six runs in its last 17 games.
Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis each had two hits apiece and Carlos Santana hit his team-leading 17th homer in the fifth inning.
Over his last eight games, Kipnis is batting .448 (13-for-27) with five extra-base hits and 13 RBIs to raise his average from .207 to .240.
Santana reached safely for the 18th straight game and for the 36th time in 37 games.
“That home run (Santana) hit to right field was as pretty … that’s against the wind, that’s beautiful,” Francona said. “Kip hit a 99 mph fastball (for a single in the eighth). Just got the head to it like you’re supposed to and let the ball do the work. There were some good things that happened offensively.”
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