Early offense and Zach Plesac lead Indians to 4-1 win over Royals

Tribe puts tough series against Mets in rear view

T.J. Zuppe
August 23, 2019 - 10:02 pm
Tyler Naquin and Francisco Lindor

Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images

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CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) — Following a three-game series against the Mets worth forgetting, the Indians didn’t make it back into Cleveland on Friday morning until 4 a.m., and manager Terry Francona had a word for how he felt waking up for their game later that day.

Unfortunately, we can’t print that here.

But the Men In Black — the Tribe sported black uniforms as part of Players’ Weekend around Major League Baseball — moved to black out the bad thoughts of a bad week in Queens, NY, topping the Royals in the three-game series opener at Progressive Field, 4-1.

Fittingly, four was the magic number for Cleveland’s offense, scoring four off Kansas City starter Jakob Junis in the bottom of the second inning. Tyler Naquin’s two-run single opened the frame’s scoring, and Francisco Lindor added the exclamation point with a two-run homer to right-center, Lindor’s 22nd round-tripper of the season.

“I thought we had good energy," Francona said. "That doesn’t mean you’re going to score runs, but it’s kind of what you look for. You don’t want to let games get away because you’re tired.”

That early offense was more than enough for Zach Plesac, who put a tough start against the Yankees in the past by limiting the Royals to just one run in 5 2/3 innings. The righty-handed rookie hurler allowed four hits and two walks, striking out five in his third start against the Royals this season.

Plesac worked his way around five “hard-hit” balls — Statcast’s term for balls hit with an exit velocity of at least 95 mph — lowering his season ERA to 3.40. He also recorded his sixth pickoff of the season by catching Brett Phillips following a walk in the third.

"Just watching film from the last game, seeing how I attacked and how I can have success [is crucial]," Plesac said. "I can build off that for my next start. I know those guys are making adjustments, too, based on how I did before. So you’re just kind of playing the chess game. I’m just trying to stick to my strengths, not get too cute and execute."

The matchup against Kansas City marked the Tribe’s first outside of a tough stretch against potential playoff squads. Cleveland went 6-8 against the Twins, Red Sox, Yankees and Mets, including a brutal sweep at the hands of New York earlier this week, one which, for the moment, knocked the Indians out of a playoff spot.

Lefty Brad Hand blew three saves during that stretch, the most recent occurring on Wednesday, a game the Tribe lost, 4-3, on a Mets walkoff. Hand had also allowed seven runs over his past four appearances.

"When you blow a few in a row, you want to keep getting out there," Hand said. "Keep getting opportunities and right the ship. Obviously, my past few haven’t been great. Just got to grind and keep with it and keep the same mentality."

Francona stuck with Hand on Friday, handing him the ball with a 4-1 advantage in the ninth. The lefty responded by allowing a soft single before enducing a double play and ground out to record his 30th save of the season.

“I was happy for him, man," Francona said. "Everybody was. He’s had a tough go. We need him and it was nice to see.”