BALTIMORE -- The Indians had cruised through the first 23 games of June, owning the best winning percentage in the American League. A team that got off to an extremely slow offensive start to the season started to show signs of waking up as May came to a close, and it stayed hot over the next three weeks. Then, it landed in Baltimore.
On Saturday, the Orioles defeated the Indians, 13-0, at Camden Yards for the second consecutive night, making Cleveland the first team ever to be shut out by at least 13 runs in consecutive games, according to Elias. It was also Baltimore’s first series victory since April 22-24, against the White Sox.
“They beat the [heck] out of us,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “They hit better than us. They played better than us. They pitched better than us. And they managed better than me. This game will make you laugh sometimes. Sometimes, it’ll make you shake your head. Sometimes, it’ll about make you cry. You pick it up tomorrow and see if we do better.”
The Tribe had overcome its toughest stretch of the season thus far, taking series victories over the Twins and Yankees before splitting a four-game set with the Rangers, as they improved their record from 28-29 to 44-36. As they head into the final week before the All-Star break, Cleveland was set with a solid schedule to boost that record even more, facing the Orioles, Royals and Reds in the last eight games of the first half. But it was the O’s (a 5-19 June record entering Saturday) who’ve created a roadblock.
“That’s kind of the beauty of baseball,” infielder Mike Freeman said. “It can be a frustrating game. The best team doesn’t always win. Give credit to those guys, they swung the bats well. … Fortunately, they don’t get to take any of those runs and carry them over to tomorrow, so we’ll start with a clean slate tomorrow and be ready to go.”
Deja vu all over again
“It’s tough, you know?’ Plesac said. “You just have to make better pitches. You know, when they [have] plate discipline, they get to see more of your pitches and you leave one over the plate and they hit it. So got to tip my cap to them. … What they just did the past two days is unheard of, you know?”
Plesac had pitched to a 2.33 ERA over his first six career starts (38 2/3 innings), allowing just one run in four of those outings. But two homers and three doubles knocked the 24-year-old out of Saturday’s game before the end of the fourth.
“In some of his starts, he competes so well and he’s gotten away sometimes with not commanding because he throws strikes,” Francona said. “Today, he just really had a tough time, even when he got ahead. He either threw it down the middle or allowed them to get back in the count. He just didn’t throw it close enough to where he needed to and it kind of caught up with him.”
“I know that’s not going to happen all the time,” Plesac said. “It’s one of those things where I’m going to take this into my next start and get back to it.”
Freeman takes the mound
Back-to-back blowouts are not easy on a bullpen. After Adam Plutko ate up 4 2/3 innings in relief on 93 pitches on Friday, Francona turned to utility man Freeman to pitch the seventh and eighth innings. That was the earliest a non-two-way Indians player has ever entered as a pitcher in the Expansion Era (since 1961). It was Freeman’s second career pitching appearance. The first came on May 20, 2017, against the White Sox.
“Sometimes in that situation, you just kind of laugh,” Freeman said. “There’s kind of some odd occurrences that happened out there. If it helps us be more ready tomorrow in the bullpen to win a game, that’s kind of part of my job description.”