Plutko's three-batter stretch overshadows quality outing

Rookie righty was perfect following game-breaking homer in 3rd

Alex Hooper
August 18, 2018 - 7:43 pm
Aug 18, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Adam Plutko (45) delivers in the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Progressive Field.

© David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Aside from a three-hitter stretch on Saturday against the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians starter Adam Plutko was tremendous.

That three at-bat span in the 3rd aside, the only hit off of the right-hander was a Renato Núñez double slapped to right field with a 16% hit probability according to Statcast.

Accounting for that three-hitter run, unfortunately for Plutko, was too much for his offense to overcome.

With one out in the top of the 3rd inning, Plutko walked O’s nine-hitter Austin Wynns on four pitches, three fastballs and a slider low and away off the plate. The rookie hurler never challenged the rookie backstop.

It took one pitch, a fastball away to switch-hitting rookie Cedric Mullins, for Wynns to be moved up to second base.

The young center field laid down a drag bunt back to Plutko, but that was covered by first baseman Yonder Alonso, who expanded the jurisdiction of normal first basemen as he normally does. That left second baseman Jason Kipnis in no-man’s land between backing up Plutko and covering Alonso at first. By the time Kipnis broke to cover Alonso, it was too late.

With two on and one out, Plutko got ahead of Jonathan Villar, 1-2, before loading the count. His full-count offering was a fastball down broadway that was sent 101.5 mph at the optimal home run launch angle of 26 degrees into the seats.

Plutko was attempting to challenge the struggling Villar with Baltimore’s three biggest sluggers due up next, but lost his spot.

“Ultimately, you’ve got three guys behind him who have mid-teen home runs and a couple of those guys are really good power hitters and the wind was blowing in pretty hard from center and right, so I think overall he just beat us,” he said. “(Villar) did a better job on that pitch than I did.”

Manager Terry Francona agreed that the park was playing big, obvious from most balls hit in the air at Progressive Field, and confirmed by the 15-20 mph winds blowing the center field flags straight in.

From Villar’s game-breaking home run forward, Plutko was phenomenal. As a matter of fact, he was perfect, retiring the next 14 Orioles hitters that he face. On his way to a seven inning, quality start, Plutko also set his career high in strikeouts with six.

“I mean, he felt early on he wasn't commanding,” Francona said. “He was pitching behind, kind of paying for it. Then he really reeled it in and pitched like he can pitch. Pitched ahead, commanded his fastball, started using his breaking ball and really pitched well. So that was good to see.”

While Plutko will likely not replace the output by the injured Trevor Bauer, he has proven to be reliable as a fifth starter in 2018, especially at home. The 26-year-old is 3-1 with a 4.88 ERA in six appearances at Progressive Field.