Rays rough up Adam Plutko, scary collision leads to inside-the-park homer in 7-2 loss

Tampa Bay starter with 8.10 ERA holds Tribe bats to 2 runs on 4 hits

Daryl Ruiter
May 23, 2019 - 9:01 pm

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports


Cleveland, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – There was nothing funny about the sixth inning collision between Indians left fielder Oscar Mercado and center fielder Leonys Martin that resulted in a three-run inside-the-park homerun, but it was a scene straight out of Major League.

It was also somewhat emblematic of the season that the Indians are having.

The collision by Mercado and Martin, who were both going after a ball hit into the gap by Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier in the top of the sixth inning, resulted in a three-run inside-the-park homerun and effectively sealed Cleveland’s fourth straight defeat, 7-2 Thursday night at Progressive Field.

“It couldn’t have been placed any (more) perfectly,” Mercado said. “We both went at it full speed and it’s just one of those things where it’s tough to call, because you don’t know if you’re going to get to it and it’s just, like, a last-minute — we both reacted and dove. Unfortunately, it resulted in that, but it’s a learning experience.”

As Mercado dove for the ball running from left towards center, Martin slid as he ran to his right, inadvertently causing his knee to slam right into Mercado’s hip area.

“I knew I hit him pretty good. I knew it,” Martin said. “And I was trying to get up and find the baseball. But I knew I hit him pretty good.”

Martin didn’t hear Mercado as they charged the sinking liner.

“We just run hard to make the play,” Martin said. “That was a ball right in the middle, so it’s really tough. So, a ball in the middle, it’s hard to call it or whatever. It was right in the middle, man. It’s really tough to decide who’s going to catch the ball.”

Mercado remained down on the field for a few minutes while trainers attended to him, but he remained in the game and collected a hit in the bottom of the inning before being pulled for a pinch runner.

“We’re probably lucky one guy dove and one guy slid,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “If they both dove that might have really been bad.”

It didn’t take long for the Rays to slap Indians starter Adam Plutko around the ole ballpark Thursday night.

Plutko got lit up for seven runs on 12 hits – four of them home runs – in 5 1/3 innings to suffer his first loss of the season.

“Not my best day,” Plutko said.

Tampa Bay put it away with a four-run sixth, which included Kiermaier’s inside-the-park homerun that shook everyone up, including the Indians’ starter.

“I'm just glad they're both OK to be honest with you,” Plutko said. “At that point, it's less about the game and baseball and more about making sure your teammates are all right. So the fact they're both OK is the best thing. It's one of those situations where everybody else kind of saw it from a mile away. It was a train wreck.”

Rays left fielder Tommy Pham got the party started in the first by launching a 420-foot rocket over the left field wall for a 1-0 lead. Two batters later it became 2-0 when Plutko got taken out of the yard by right fielder Avisail Garcia.

“Way too many pitches were wandering over the heart of the plate,” Francona said. “I think it was maybe 5 and 1/3, 12 hits, that’s a lot of base runners.”

Willy Adames smashed the Rays’ third homer in six batters to lead off the second for a 3-0 advantage.

“It's kind of funny. Righties are hitting pretty well against me this year,” Plutko said. “Last year, if you look at the numbers, lefties kind of had their way with me. So [I'll] just kind of look at what was good today, build off that for the next start and go from there.”

Fooled again – Tampa Bay left hander Ryan Yarbrough, who entered the game with an 8.10 ERA, held Cleveland’s hitters to two runs on four hits in a career-high 7 1/3 innings pitched. The outing lowered his ERA to 6.46.

What made the lefty so difficult to hit?

“He’d cut it and then he’d throw a changeup off of that and we get into modes where we try to hit everything instead of being disciplined enough where you take part of the plate, because it’s hard to swing at a cutter in and then a changeup away,” Francona said. “What ends up happening is where kind of ... we’re trying to hit everything and we’re going to have to be more disciplined because it’s hard enough hit, let alone when you’re trying to cover everything.”

It’s been awhile – The last time a Ray circled the bases without a ball being hit over a wall was Denard Span, who did it at Boston and the last one allowed by the Indians was to Jeff Baker June 17, 2008 at Colorado.

Still streaking – Jason Kipnis has reached base via hit or walk in 18 straight games thanks to a sixth inning single.

On the board – After being retired in order four times in the first five innings, the Indians loaded the bases in the sixth setting the table for right fielder Jordan Luplow, who ripped two-out, two-run double down the left field line.

Unfortunately, it only brought the Tribe within five runs of the Rays, 7-2, and that's all she wrote for the offense.

Rough road – After this weekend series with the Rays life gets tougher for the Tribe where the Red Sox, Twins and Yankees await in the next two weeks.  

Treading water – Thursday night’s loss dropped the Indians to just one game above .500 at 25-24.