BOSTON -- On May 28, 2019, Zach Plesac took the mound at a rainy Fenway Park for his Major League debut. Just over two years later, the right-hander returned to Boston in similar weather conditions Sunday afternoon for his first start at the historic ballpark since his debut.
In his 2019 outing, Plesac went 5 1/3 innings (one run on four hits with two strikeouts) in an Indians win. A performance good enough to earn the rookie a handwritten note, left in his locker by opposing pitcher David Price. Cleveland showed its support late, rallying with five runs in the ninth inning in a no-decision for Plesac.
Doing their best to mimic Plesac’s debut, the Indians again posted a five-run ninth on Sunday afternoon for a convincing 11-5 win over the Red Sox in the series finale to avoid the sweep.
“Being back here … it’s special,” Plesac said. “I mean it [was] my first start in the big leagues, and so far my last one. This is a special place to me, it’s always going to be a special place. … My buddy got to come in town for his birthday and he was able to make my debut as well. So, just special times, good memories and obviously it’s a blessing to be able to pitch in this ballpark.”
With showers rolling across Boston throughout the afternoon, the 26-year-old Plesac went five innings on Sunday, giving up three runs on eight hits while walking three and striking out five.
On paper, Plesac’s first Fenway start might look like the better outing, but the righty showed a lot of fight on Sunday, working out of jams and getting crucial strikeouts. His first of the day came in the second inning with two runners on, a three-pitch punchout of Jack López before retiring the next two batters. All three of the runs charged to Plesac came in the fifth inning, on RBI doubles from J.D. Martinez and Travis Shaw and a Kevin Plawecki RBI single. After a mound visit to regroup, Plesac fanned pinch-hitter Rafael Devers on a 2-2 fastball before striking out Jonathan Araúz on three pitches to end the inning and limit the damage.
“I felt that early in the game he was throwing the ball well,” acting manager DeMarlo Hale said. “[He] kind of ran into a little trouble in the fifth, but I thought that he was still competing and really trying to make pitches. I just felt good about him [being able to] get through it. … I thought it was a good opportunity to let him get through the fifth inning and he did.”
Cleveland entered the season boasting a strong rotation, one that was quickly depleted by injuries, with Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale and Plesac all sidelined early on. With Bieber on the mend, Civale scheduled to pitch vs. the Twins on Tuesday and Plesac having now won his last three contests, things are once again looking up for the Indians’ rotation.
Offense shows fight in late innings
Unlike in his first start, Plesac was backed by his offense from the start. Cleveland’s bats came out strong, stringing together hits against Boston starter Kutter Crawford, who made his MLB debut after being named the starter Sunday morning when Nick Pivetta was transferred to the COVID-19 injured list. After an explosive start, the bats went quiet with just two hits after the third inning until a ninth-inning spark resulted in five runs, courtesy of two RBI singles, a two-run double and a Boston error.
One night after delivering a clutch homer as a pinch-hitter, Franmil Reyes again sent a ball onto Lansdowne Street, this time in the third inning to pad the Indians’ lead. Reyes’ homer extended Cleveland’s home run streak to 19 consecutive games, the longest streak in the Majors this season. The designated hitter, back in the lineup after not starting on Saturday, went 4-for-4 with three RBIs in the finale, including the two-run double in the ninth.
“Sometimes you just need that breather,” Hale said of Reyes returning to the lineup Sunday. “Not really an off-day, but maybe not starting with your everyday guy to kind of get a different perspective, a different feel. He was cheering his teammates on yesterday and, you know, he came up in that big moment to tie the game. And it carried over to today. He was in a good place. I thought he had better timing, what we talked about. Those are the kinds of games he can impact, for sure. It’s good to see.”