By Brendan Ward
Terry Francona returned to the dugout Tuesday for the Cleveland Indians after dealing with some medical issues that forced him away from the team during their time in Minnesota earlier this month.
Down Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac from the incident over the weekend in Chicago, both the Indian’s and Francona’s return to Cleveland ended in disappointment, a 7-1 loss at the hands of the Chicago Cubs.
With Clevinger gone, Francona was forced to turn to Adam Plutko for his second start of the season. Plutko had a short outing, only going four innings, while giving up one run in the game.
On the other hand, the Chicago Cubs turned to veteran pitcher Jon Lester after the missed series over the weekend from the Covid-19 outbreak in the St. Louis Cardinals locker room. Lester was his usual self, pitching six innings, while only allowing three hits.
The first inning started very well for Plutko and the Indians, with the Cubs going down in order to start the game. In the bottom of the inning, a Francisco Lindor single and Carlos Santana walk had the Tribe threatening early. However, to no avail as Lester was able to strikeout designated hitter Franmil Reyes to get out of the inning.
The second inning opened up with a Kyle Schwarber strikeout and Plutko seemingly settling in on the mound. Wilson Contreras ended that feeling with a single to left field, followed by a walk by Ian Happ.
With a runner in scoring position, Jason Heyward delivered with an RBI single that fell just short of center fielder Delino Deshields Jr., bringing in Contreras from second. Despite giving up the run, Plutko got out of the inning with the next batter, forcing Victor Caratini to hit into a double play.
Former Indian Jason Kipnis started off the third with a lead-off double in his return to Progressive Field as a member of the Cubs. However, thanks to a highlight play by Delino Deshields Jr. to run down a short Kris Bryant fly ball, Plutko was able to retire the final three batters in the inning. On the other hand, Lester was dazzling for the Cubs, retiring the Indians in order in both the second and third inning.
In his fourth and final inning, Plutko only surrendered a single to Schwarber before forcing a double play off the bat of Contreras, and a ground out by Happ to second baseman César Hernández to end his outing. Carlos Santana, who has been drawing walks at a high rate, pulled a double to the right field corner for the Tribe’s second hit of the game in the bottom of the fourth.
Followed up by a Reyes walk, before Lester got the final two outs off the bats of Jordan Luplow and Domingo Santana.
Oliver Perez came in for the fifth inning, sitting the Cubs down in order while replacing Plutko.
Despite pitching still keeping the Indians in the game, the offense still failed to manufacture any help through five innings. Perez, despite pitching a good inning in the fifth was replaced by Cam Hill to start the sixth.
Things went downhill for the Indians in the sixth inning, loading the bases after four batters, Hill allowed the second run of the game, a Contreras sacrifice fly ball to center field, bringing Bryant home from third. Following that up with an RBI single by Happ, Francona made the call to the bullpen replacing Hill with Phil Maton, who immediately gave up a three-run homerun to Heyward to bring the deficit to six.
The Indians hadn’t allowed more than four runs all season, and suddenly found themselves in unfamiliar territory heading to the bottom of the sixth. Lester continued to pitch very well to start the sixth, starting the inning off with Ramirez flying out to right field, before a ball in the dirt bounced to hit Lindor sending him to first. Followed up by a double off the bat of Reyes to right field, Lindor made it all the way home for the Indians lone run in the game.
Facing a seemingly insurmountable deficit in the seventh, Francona turned to Logan Allen, who was called up earlier in the day for bullpen depth in the absence of Clevinger and Plesac to replace Maton. Allen gave up his only run allowed in the seventh on a wild pitch to Javier Báez that scored Kipnis from third.
Bradley Zimmer, who has been struggling at the plate, came in for Deshield Jr. to bat in the seventh, staying in the game at center field. Francona was now looking to make substitutions to allow some other guys to see some action.
In the ninth, Francona gave some defensive time to Mike Freeman at third and Yu Chang at shortstop, replacing Ramirez and Lindor respectively.
While turning to a recently added Tyler Naquin, and struggling Oscar Mercado in the bottom of the ninth to pinch-hit. Allen, in his first opportunity with the Indians, finished the game throwing three innings, allowing four hits, and one run in the Indians disappointing return to Progressive Field.
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