CHICAGO -- When Jose Ramirez reached the mound in the seventh, the Indians third baseman pounded his fist hard in his glove and then gave starter Adam Plutko a slap on the back. The Indians pitcher was done for the night, and what a night it was at Wrigley Field
CHICAGO -- When Jose Ramirez reached the mound in the seventh, the Indians third baseman pounded his fist hard in his glove and then gave starter Adam Plutko a slap on the back. The Indians pitcher was done for the night, and what a night it was at Wrigley Field for the rookie.
In his debut as the Tribe's fifth starter, Plutko flirted with a no-hitter and helped guide Cleveland to a 1-0 victory over the Cubs on Wednesday night. The right-hander was promoted from Triple-A Columbus prior to the game and then baffled Chicago's bats for his second win in as many starts for the Indians this season.
"He's done a great job," Indians relief ace Andrew Miller said of Plutko. "That's a great lineup. This is not an easy place to come in and pitch against those guys and do what he did. I think he's shown he's capable of handling this stage, and that's pretty impressive."
The last win came in a spot start for Plutko. This time, it looks like the righty is here to stay.
Plutko labored some with his command early, issuing all four of his walks within his first eight batters faced through the first two innings. That included three to load the bases in the second, when Plutko escaped via a groundout from Cubs starter Jonathan Lester.
"He's been commanding the ball so well, whether it was the game with us or at Triple-A," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "It was nice to see [him not give in], because we know when he commands, he can be pretty good. But on a night when he didn't command real well, he still did pretty darn good."
Lester turned in a solid outing of his own, limiting the Indians to one run over seven innings of work. The lone breakthrough against the lefty came courtesy of Michael Brantley, who delivered an RBI single to score Rajai Davis in the third inning as part of a 2-for-3 showing that extended the outfielder's hitting streak to a dozen games.
Two batters prior to Brantley's single, it was Plutko's well-executed sacrifice bunt that moved Davis into scoring position.
"As soon as I got that bunt down in the third," Plutko said, "I felt like a lot more calm and everything kind of was a lot better. But I was really nervous to hit. So I think that was a large part of [the early jitters]."
The groundout by Lester to end the second was the first of 13 consecutive batters retired by Plutko, who held the Cubs to an 0-for-17 showing overall in his first six frames. That run ended in the seventh, when Anthony Rizzo ripped an elevated slider into the right-field corner for a leadoff double.
The pitcher did not realize he was throwing a no-hitter until the fifth inning, when he looked up at Wrigley's green center-field scoreboard as he walked to the plate to bat. When Rizzo broke up the bid, Plutko was not surprised.
"The last thing I thought I was going to do was throw a no-hitter against the Chicago Cubs," Plutko said. "That was not any pressure for me."
Plutko, who has replaced Josh Tomlin in the rotation, allowed two hits over his six-plus shutout innings, in which he struck out four and walked off the field after 85 pitches. As the pitcher approached the visitors' dugout, a collection of Cleveland fans clustered in the first few rows gave him a standing ovation.
From there, Francona approached the game like it was October. Miller covered five outs after taking over for Plutko and then Cody Allen registered a four-out save, preserving the Tribe's slim advantage and completing a sweep of the two-game stop on Chicago's North Side.
For Plutko, it was a night he won't soon forget.
"I was telling my wife last night that this place is just crazy," he said. "Being here last night helped out a little bit, but it's completely different when you're the one out in the center of the diamond in the middle of Wrigley."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Miller Time: After Rizzo ended Plutko's no-hit bid, Willson Contreras followed with an infield single that put runners on the corners with no outs. That prompted Francona to hand the ball to Miller. First, Javier Baez bunted back to Miller, who threw out Rizzo at the plate. The relief ace then struck out Addison Russell and induced an inning-ending groundout from Jason Heyward to preserve Cleveland's 1-0 lead.
Doubled up: Plutko's outing began with a six-pitch walk to Ian Happ, who then began heading to second on a fly ball down the left-field line from Kyle Schwarber. As Brantley made the catch in left, Happ slipped in his retreat to first. That gave the Indians left fielder time to fire a pinpoint throw to first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who stepped on the bag for an unlikely double play to thwart a potential Cubs rally.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With runners on first and second and one out in the second inning, Russell drilled a first-pitch changeup from Plutko over center field for what looked like a potential extra-base hit. Davis sprinted to his right, jumped at the warning track and made the catch for a critical out, hitting the ivy-covered brick wall on his way down.
"Huge," Plutko said. "I mean, that could've blown the game wide open right there and we could be talking about a loss right now instead of a win. Raj played unbelievable defense."
HE SAID IT
"He threw the ball really well, extremely well. To no-hit us through six is pretty impressive. It's one of the ones you chalk up and hope that it somehow evens out down the road. That's all you can do." -- Lester, on Plutko
"Getting through that second inning, it's the old terrible adage of like a boxer getting bloodied and hitting the corner and woozy, but he doesn't fall down. That's kind of how I felt after the second. I got to catch my breath real quick before the third and I feel like everything kind of worked out well from there." -- Plutko
Right-hander Mike Clevinger (3-1, 2.87 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for the Indians on Thursday, when Cleveland opens a four-game series against the Astros with a 6:10 p.m. ET tilt at Progressive Field. Clevinger faced Houston on Friday, taking the loss after giving up three runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings on the road. The Astros will counter with righty Charlie Morton (6-0, 1.94 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.