Civale goes distance in Tribe's 5th straight W

August 20th, 2020

The Indians knew their bullpen was short-staffed after a long night on Tuesday, so catcher Roberto Pérez looked to starter before Wednesday’s game and said they needed eight innings out of him.

Civale accepted the challenge -- and he decided to give him one more for good measure.

The 25-year-old was one out away from securing his first career shutout, but instead, he had to settle for a one-run complete game in his 15th career start. Civale held the Pirates to five hits with six strikeouts in the Indians’ 6-1 victory at PNC Park, extending the Tribe’s winning streak to a season-best five games.

Once again, Carlos Santana provided the deciding three-run blast -- one that was most assuredly fair this time -- in the sixth. Outfielder Domingo Santana gave Civale even more breathing room in the eighth with a three-run double.

“It’s very nice,” Civale said. “I mean, if I can give the bullpen a break any day, that’s obviously the goal. But first complete game since high school, so it’s pretty cool.”

In his young career, Civale had never gone beyond 7 2/3 innings in an outing entering Wednesday night. The righty has struggled in the early innings of his starts so far this season, having posted a 6.00 ERA in the first three frames of each of his first four outings. But against the Pirates, he was as efficient as ever, throwing no more than 16 pitches in any inning.

“[Pérez] gave me a simple cue in the bullpen about 15 pitches in,” Civale said, “and just kind of locked in and focused on that and was clear-headed the rest of the game. Just kind of followed the game plan and tried to go out there and get as many innings as I could. I know the bullpen covered a lot yesterday, so it was fun to be out there and good to have [Pérez] back.”

Pérez had missed two weeks with a right shoulder strain, and he was limited to watching his team on television during that time. While doing that, he was able to pick up a few things about Civale that he was able to work through on Wednesday, like having him throw more heaters.

“Just lately, he has been heavy [with his] cutter,” Pérez said. “I think his fastball is good enough where he can set guys up to throw his cutter. ... I've been talking to him lately about his pitch distribution, where he doesn't have to rely on his cutter that much. But tonight was a good example that his fastball is one of his best pitches, and I want him to trust it.”

Civale had 94 pitches under his belt after eight innings, and he was sent back to the rubber for the ninth.

“Heart is definitely going a little more than the rest of the game,” Civale said. “I know it looks like I’m just out there, but [my] heart was going. You know what’s on the table.”

A leadoff double poised the Pirates to break up the shutout after another single and sacrifice fly, but the Indians couldn’t have been more pleased to get nine innings out of their starter on 109 pitches.

“That was what the doctor ordered right there,” Indians temporary manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said. “We just gave him an opportunity to finish the game because he worked so hard, and on top of that, our bullpen needed a rest. Great performance. No walks, struck out six guys and threw a lot of strikes. That’s the main thing.”

"Honestly, watching it pitched from the side, it was really impressive,” Pirates starter Steven Brault said. “He was getting ahead of hitters, he had all his stuff working for strikes. He threw that slower curveball really well. It was just throwing people's timing off. I think he did a really good job tonight.”

Though he’s had some early-inning struggles this year, Civale has still struck out 32 batters with only three walks in 34 combined innings this season. The 25-year-old has never lost a game in which his offense has provided him at least three runs (5-0 across seven starts). He’s gone 1-6 in eight starts where he received two or fewer runs of support.

The Tribe remains undefeated (12-0) in games in which it has scored at least three runs, but thanks to Civale’s sterling performance, the offense hardly had to break a sweat.

“I told him before the game, ‘You know what? I'd rather you throw nine innings, strike out three or five, than going three innings or five innings and have 10 strikeouts,” Pérez said. “He agreed with me. He's a great kid, man. He's got a great future. I'm just glad I'm behind him.”

Up next
Every time Shane Bieber takes the ball, it's hard not to wonder, "What will he do next?" The 25-year-old will look to extend his perfect record to 5-0 on Thursday against the Pirates. Bieber joined elite company after his last start, as his 54 strikeouts are tied for third most through five outings by a pitcher in the Divisional Era (since 1969). Last time out, he tossed seven scoreless frames, allowing three hits with 11 strikeouts. Righty Trevor Williams will get the ball for Pittsburgh. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV.