CLEVELAND — Right-hander Aaron Civale offered up another impressive outing in his second career major league start for the Indians on Monday night.
But without any run support, all it added up to was a 1-0 loss to the Rangers in the series opener in front of 17,690 fans at Progressive Field.
The defeat ended a three-game winning streak for Cleveland, which outhit Texas 8-5 in its 10th shutout loss.
Jose Ramirez led off the ninth with a double down the right-field line and advanced to third on Tyler Naquin’s sacrifice bunt, but with the infield in, Jason Kipnis grounded to first to hold Ramirez. A struggling Franmil Reyes lined to center to end the game.
After tossing six scoreless innings and allowing only two hits while striking out six in his major league debut in a 2-0 win over Detroit on June 22, Civale surrendered just a run on three hits and struck out seven over six innings.
He is only the second Indians pitcher to work six or more innings and allow a run or fewer while striking six or more over his first two big league starts, joining Luis Tiant (1964).
Texas got its lone run in the fourth after Elvis Andrus started the inning with a triple that center fielder Oscar Mercado got a glove on. Andrus scored on Nomar Mazara’s sacrifice fly.
“I thought he battled his rear end off,” manager Terry Francona said of Civale, who has limited the opposition to a .132 (5-for-38) batting average. “He had such good movement, kinda both ways, even though the first three or four innings he was almost strike-to-ball. I thought the last couple (innings) he really started getting a lot more comfortable.
“Like we’ve kinda been saying about all the young guys, he’s not afraid, he competes. He’s got really good movement on his off-speed pitches, especially. He’s still learning to try and elevate his fastball, when to do it and how to do it. But, man, when it’s all said and done, he gave up one run and Oscar, it hit off the end of his glove or it would have been no runs.”
The Indians squandered multiple scoring opportunities against left-hander Mike Minor.
They had five hits over the first three innings but failed to push across a run, with Ramirez ending the first and third innings with two runners on. Cleveland stranded four through three innings and eight for the game.
“I thought he did everything. I thought we kinda caught him at his best,” Francona said of Minor, who improved to 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA, holding the opposition scoreless for the fifth time in 23 starts. “He could elevate, he could spin the breaking ball to the back foot of the right-hand hitters and he had a change-up. We caught him on a bad night. He was really good.”
Right fielder Yasiel Puig and left fielder Jordan Luplow accounted for half of Cleveland’s hits, each with two.
Puig is off to a hot start for the Indians, going 6-for-17 with two doubles and two RBIs in his first five games since being acquired in the three-team trade with the Reds and Padres for Trevor Bauer.
It’s been the opposite for Reyes.
A day after striking out four times in four at-bats, Reyes struck out in his first two at-bats and went 0-for-4. He is 2-for-19 over his first five games for the Indians, striking out eight times.
Luplow left the game with what was announced as a right hamstring cramp after stealing third base in the seventh.
“The hope is that it was just a cramp,” Francona said. “We’ll get him scanned (this) morning. Obviously, we’ll see how he shows up, that’s probably the most important thing. But we’ll get him scanned and go from there.”
Right-hander Hunter Wood, who was acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay on July 28 and called up from Triple-A Columbus on Friday, made his organizational debut in the ninth.
He allowed a single to Mazara, but struck out two of the four batters he faced.
“That’s a tough spot to come in — middle of the order, just down one in a pretty good ballgame. I thought he really did well.”
Thanks to Civale and another effective night from the bullpen, the Indians were in it the entire game.
“That’s the mark of a good team,” Kipnis said. “When you have a good pitching staff and a good lineup, you’re gonna be in the game no matter what. That’s a fun place to be at. So you credit Civale and the rest of our ’pen, Woody and (Tyler Clippard). They did a fantastic job keeping them low-scoring, too, and giving us a chance to even be there at the end. We just came up short.”