CLEVELAND -- The Progressive Field crowd rose to its feet and Mike Clevinger paused for a moment behind the mound, collecting himself amidst a standing ovation in the second inning on Saturday night. With a strikeout of the Red Sox's Jackie Bradley Jr., Clevinger put the 2018 Indians into the
CLEVELAND -- The Progressive Field crowd rose to its feet and Mike Clevinger paused for a moment behind the mound, collecting himself amidst a standing ovation in the second inning on Saturday night. With a strikeout of the Red Sox's Jackie Bradley Jr., Clevinger put the 2018 Indians into the record books.
Clevinger's called strikeout of Bradley in the Indians' 5-4, 11-inning win marked the 200th punchout of the season for the Indians' starter, making Cleveland the only team in Major League history to have four pitchers reach that milestone in the same campaign. Michael Brantley then capped off the historic day with a bases-loaded walk-off single that set off an on-field mob scene.
"It's an outstanding accomplishment," Brantley said of the rotation's record. "Those guys have been out there all year. They've been our horses, staying healthy for the most part, and going out there and giving us solid innings day in and day out. We're very appreciative of what they did. It's a team effort from top to bottom."
Clevinger joined ace Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer in the 200-K club for the American League Central champions.
The 2013 Tigers (Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander), 1969 Astros (Larry Dierker, Tom Griffin and Don Wilson) and the '67 Twins (Dave Boswell, Dean Chance and Jim Kaat) were the only previous teams to have three pitchers reach 200 strikeouts in the same season. The 2017 Indians came close, but Bauer (196 strikeouts) fell just short of joining Kluber (265) and Carrasco (226).
"I think that speaks to their work ethic, too," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "They prepare so well and they stay out there -- and it was kind of a cool thing to see. It kind of snuck up on me tonight when it happened, but those guys ought to be proud of themselves."
The Astros currently have two pitchers (Gerrit Cole and Verlander) in the 200-K club, with Charlie Morton (195) on the cusp of reaching the benchmark, too. Morton is slated to start against the Angels on Sunday.
This is the second season in a row that Cleveland's pitchers have made history. Last year, the Indians' staff as a whole set a single-season record for WAR (31.9 per Fangraphs) and became the only team in MLB history to average more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings. This year's Astros (10.5 K/9) are on pace to surpass the 2017 Tribe (10.1) in that category.
"It's the year after they set the record for WAR, among other things," said Indians reliever Cody Allen. "That's impressive. The writing's been on the wall for years. Any rotation that's headed up by a guy named Corey Kluber, who's got a couple Cy Youngs, guys just follow his lead. Then you have elite talents like Clev and Bauer, Cookie."
Heading into Saturday, the Indians' rotation led the Majors in WAR (21.6), with Bauer (tied for second at 6.0), Carrasco (fifth at 5.0), Kluber (sixth at 4.9) and Clevinger (seventh at 4.3) all in the top 10 in the American League. Bauer (12-6, 2.21 ERA and 217 strikeouts) and Kluber (19-7, 2.93 ERA and 205 strikeouts) are in the conversation for the AL Cy Young Award, with Carrasco (16-9, 3.35 ERA and 217 strikeouts) right behind them.
Overall on the night, Clevinger allowed two runs -- via solo homers by Rafael Devers and Blake Swihart -- but walked away with a no-decision after working five innings. The right-hander sidestepped the potential harm of five walks and ended with six strikeouts, giving him 202 on the season with one start remaining before the playoffs.
Clevinger appreciated the crowd's reaction to his achievement.
"It was a big moment in the game," Clevinger said. "I was fired up about [the situation]. Then I looked up and realized what happened, and I was like, 'Oh, gosh, that is the 200th,' and I had to step back and I wanted to get locked back in before I got back on the mound.
"It's special. A lot of people are going to say it's our division or whatever the case may be, but it's a lot of work, a lot of effort, and a lot of process that went into all of our stories and the way we got here. I'm just proud to be a part of this."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Running wild:Yan Gomes got the 11th inning started with a leadoff single and was replaced at first by the fleet-footed Rajai Davis. Greg Allen followed with a single to put two on for Francisco Lindor, who was looking to use a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Davis and Allen rendered that strategy moot by pulling off a double steal. The Red Sox intentionally walked Lindor, setting the table for Brantley's game-winning hit.
"Raj really did a good job," Francona said. "You know, he's still, at this age, he's fast, but he's smart out there. He didn't feel comfortable at first. He knew Greg was bunting, but then [after Allen's single], he knew he could get third. And Frankie did a good job pulling back."
Miller time: Relief ace Andrew Miller took another step forward on Saturday night by logging a season-high 31 pitches over 1 2/3 innings, in which he had one walk, one strikeout and one hit allowed. It marked the most pitches for Miller since he threw 39 in Game 5 of the AL Division Series last year, and the most in a regular-season setting since throwing 31 on May 15 last season. Miller was charged with one run after Tribe lefty Brad Hand surrendered a two-run, game-tying single to Andrew Benintendi in the eighth.
"The good part was he got to 30 pitches," Francona said. "I thought he pitched better as he got into his outing, I didn't think it was his best stuff we've seen. But again, he's been in three out of four days and he was hot last night. So again, it's good. We're able to do some things you couldn't even think of a while back."
Jose Ramirez drew three walks in the victory, giving him 101 on the season for the Tribe. Ramirez joins Bobby Abreu (2001, '04), Jeff Bagwell (1997, '99) and Barry Bonds ('92, '95-97) as the only players in MLB history with at least 30 homers, 30 steals, 100 RBIs, 100 runs and 100 walks in a single season.
HE SAID IT
"I thought both teams, they played really good baseball and kept playing. A lot of things happened and a lot of things were going on and both teams used a lot of players. But they played the game the right way and tried. That was good for us. It was a good crowd, playing a great team, and you find a way to win." --Francona, on playing a competitive game when both the Indians and Red Sox have sewn up their playoff positioning
Right-hander Adam Plutko (4-5, 4.32 ERA) will take the ball for the Indians for Sunday's regular-season home finale against the Red Sox at 7:05 p.m. ET at Progressive Field. Plutko previously faced Boston on Aug. 23, allowing five runs on five hits with four strikeouts and five walks in 4 1/3 innings at Fenway Park. Third baseman Josh Donaldson is expected to be in the lineup for the third consecutive game.
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.