DETROIT -- Aaron Civale has never indicated that he’s felt any rookie jitters. His pulse never seems to elevate, he has yet to give up more than two earned runs in an outing and he’s doing his best to hide the fact that he’s actually human.
The 24-year-old tossed a career-high seven innings in the Indians' 4-2 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday night, allowing two runs on six hits with five strikeouts. He became the fifth pitcher since earned runs became official in both leagues in 1913 to toss at least 5 2/3 IP and allow two or fewer earned runs as a starter in each of his first six career games.
“I like him, he pitches quick games,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said. “He throws a lot of strikes. It’s fun to watch because it’s literally around the zone and moving a lot. You don’t see too many barrels on him. For such a young age and not many starts under his belt, he has a lot of composure. He doesn’t really get too rattled and just does a lot of things right.”
Civale entered the night having yet to give up a home run in his big league career (29 2/3 innings), but the streak was snapped when Dawel Lugo led off the bottom of the fifth with a projected 391-foot homer. The following inning, the righty pitched himself into trouble for the first and only time of the night, giving up a single and a double to put runners on second and third with no outs. The Indians decided not to use a mound visit and Civale was able to limit the damage to a sacrifice fly.
“His heartbeat isn’t going any faster,” manager Terry Francona said. “The game isn’t going too fast. We just want to stay out of the way. Let him do his job. He prepares really well. He’s really knowledgeable. He listens to [pitching coach] Carl [Willis]. He follows [catcher] Roberto [Perez]. Just stay out of the way sometimes.”
The righty was 1-3 coming into his sixth start, but the record didn’t accurately reflect his performances. In Civale’s three defeats, the Indians have lost by scores of 1-0, 3-2 and 2-0. He entered the night having received just seven total runs of support while on the rubber this season, which was tied for the second-fewest in the Majors of pitchers with a minimum of five starts.
But the offense helped him snap his streak of three consecutive losing decisions Wednesday, beginning with a Kipnis homer in the second inning off Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann. Carlos Santana singled in a run in the sixth, Francisco Lindor homered in the eighth and Kipnis launched his second long ball in the ninth to give the Tribe some breathing room. In 11 games against Detroit this season, Kipnis has hit .341 with 12 runs scored, two doubles, one triple, four homers, 11 RBIs and two walks.
“It’s probably adjustment No. 100 by now,” Kipnis said of his power surge over the last two nights. “It’s a game of adjustments. You’ve heard it before, but it’s literally as soon as you stop feeling too good, you try to find the next thing that works. Just got to stay ahead of that wave and keep finding anything that you got that day.”
The cushion helped Civale earn his second big league win after securing his first against the Tigers in his Major League debut on June 22. He was called up that day to make a spot start in place of an injured Mike Clevinger.
“I've probably faced some of these guys as much as the other starters that have been here just coming up here, playing in [Triple-A] Toledo,” Civale said. “But it's just going into the game with a gameplan and sticking to it, and adjusting if you have to.”
Civale’s performance helped lift the Tribe to their 13th consecutive victory against the Tigers, outscoring Detroit 89-29 in that span. Cleveland has now won 28 of its last 35 games against divisional foes.
“I thought he was terrific,” Francona said of Civale. “He gave up a solo homer and then, with some traffic, he ended up giving up a sac fly, but he limited that. [He] goes seven innings, gives up two and just pitches kind of like a veteran. He mixes in the fastball. He’ll elevate. He’ll throw a cutter. He just really does a good job.”