OAKLAND -- The change in results was swift and dramatic for Adam Plutko on Saturday afternoon. The Indians starter went from flirting with perfection to strolling to the showers in the span of a handful of batters, and that stretch was sufficient in sinking the Tribe.On another cold day for
OAKLAND -- The change in results was swift and dramatic for Adam Plutko on Saturday afternoon. The Indians starter went from flirting with perfection to strolling to the showers in the span of a handful of batters, and that stretch was sufficient in sinking the Tribe.
On another cold day for the Cleveland lineup -- a trend this season on the road -- Plutko had little margin for error against an A's team that is red hot right now. Oakland pounced on the rookie right-hander at the right time, dealing the Indians a 7-2 loss at the Coliseum.
"I just started leaving the ball up a little bit," Plutko said, "and they showed how they can hit the baseball."
Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez each belted a solo home run, but that was all the Tribe's offense managed in the defeat, which dropped the American League Central leader's record to 1-4 through five games on the current nine-game road trip. Oakland, meanwhile, has rattled off 12 wins in 14 games in an effort to gain ground on the Astros and Mariners in the AL West.
Plutko took the mound on Saturday knowing that his place in the rotation could be shaky. Fellow rookie Shane Bieber has impressed the Tribe's decision-makers of late and sidelined starter Carlos Carrasco is nearing a return from the disabled list.
For the first five innings, Plutko answered the call in dominant fashion. The righty was perfect through his first four innings and allowed just one hit to the first 16 batters he faced through five. Plutko was precise with his fastball and balanced that with a slider, curve and changeup that was consistently creating weak contact early on against the A's.
Things fell apart on Plutko from there.
"I was extremely happy with the first four," Plutko said. "How could you not be? Even the fifth, I liked what I was doing. But the sixth, they came out, four straight hits, flexed their muscle and that's the game."
Franklin Barreto got things started for Oakland in the sixth with a double to left field off Plutko, who then surrendered a two-run, game-tying homer off the bat of Josh Phegley. Dustin Fowler followed with a scorched single to right field -- 107.4 mph off the bat, per Statcast™ -- and then came around to score on a double by Mark Canha.
Two batters later, Plutko was walking off the field after working 5 2/3 innings, in which he struck out three and walked one.
The push against Plutko also helped the A's dig into the Indians' bullpen, which surrendered four runs in the eighth inning to make things lopsided. A solo shot from Fowler and a two-run blast by Matt Olson off Dan Otero and Josh Tomlin, respectively, powered that outburst.
That was more than enough to support a solid showing from Edwin Jackson, who held Cleveland to the two home runs, both in the fourth inning, over 6 2/3 innings.
"He still, after all these years, maintains his velocity," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Jackson. "A lot of balls offspeed, in and out of the zone, and we're chasing. We're not earning enough fastballs right now, and, until we do, they're going to keep throwing balls out of the zone and making us go get them."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Anything you can do… Lindor put the Tribe on the board in the fourth, when he drilled a 1-1 slider just below the zone and sent it out to right field for a leadoff homer. Two batters later, Ramirez crushed a 2-2 fastball from Jackson to center for another solo blast to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead. Lindor now has 20 homers on the year, while Ramirez is now tied with Michael Trout for the second-most home runs (24) in the Majors. The Indians and Red Sox (J.D. Martinez, 25; Mookie Betts, 20) are the only teams in baseball to currently have two players with 20-plus homers.
Homer woes: After Otero set down the A's in order in the seventh, the righty was sent back to the hill to begin the eighth. Fowler then knocked a one-out homer off Otero to right that went a projected 437 feet and had an exit velocity of 107.1 mph, per Statcast™. That insurance blast gave the A's a 4-2 lead, ignited a four-run inning and marked the seventh homer off Otero in the pitcher's 29 2/3 innings this season. For context, Otero allowed eight homers total in 130 2/3 innings across the 2016-17 campaigns.
Last stand: Trailing 7-2, the Indians made one last attempt at a rally against the Oakland bullpen in the ninth inning. With one out, Michael Brantley singled, Ramirez was hit by a pitch and Edwin Encarnacion drew a walk against Santiago Casilla to load the bases. The A's then gave the ball to Lou Trivino, who entered with a 1.59 ERA in 28 outings. Trivino needed just three pitches to induce a game-ending, 3-6-1 double play off the bat of Yonder Alonso.
The Indians are one of MLB's best teams at home, hitting .283/.356/.486 with 6.03 runs per game and a 127 weighted runs created plus through 40 games at Progressive Field this season. Through their first 40 road games this year, Cleveland was batting .223/.291/.384 as a team with 3.78 runs per game and an 84 wRC+.
Right-hander Mike Clevinger (6-3, 3.03 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Tribe on Sunday, when the A's host the Indians in a 4:05 p.m. ET tilt at the Coliseum. Clevinger is 3-1 with a 2.54 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 39 innings in his past six turns. Oakland will counter with righty Frankie Montas (4-1, 3.68 ERA).
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook