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Clevinger, 'pen step up as offense struggles

Five Indians pitchers combine to allow two runs in finale loss
Special to MLB.com

CHICAGO -- With the Indians' potent offense, limiting the opponent to two runs in nine innings usually is the recipe for success. But despite strong work from starter Mike Clevinger and four relievers, they came up short Thursday as the White Sox pushed across a run in the bottom of the ninth in a 2-1 Cleveland loss at U.S. Cellular Field.

Clevinger allowed just one run on three hits before he left the game after four innings and 85 pitches. It was just his second straight start after being in the bullpen, and it has to be considered a positive step forward.

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CHICAGO -- With the Indians' potent offense, limiting the opponent to two runs in nine innings usually is the recipe for success. But despite strong work from starter Mike Clevinger and four relievers, they came up short Thursday as the White Sox pushed across a run in the bottom of the ninth in a 2-1 Cleveland loss at U.S. Cellular Field.

Clevinger allowed just one run on three hits before he left the game after four innings and 85 pitches. It was just his second straight start after being in the bullpen, and it has to be considered a positive step forward.

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"In a sense, yeah," the 25-year-old right-hander said. "But we came away with two L's in those two games, so I have to find a way to be more efficient."

Efficiency was the main reason Clevinger lasted only four innings. The first frame was a prime example. After retiring the first two batters, he loaded the bases before getting catcher Omar Narvaez to pop out in foul territory to end the inning.

"With Clev, his pitch counts, even on the 1-2-3 innings, it's 14, 15 because they're deep counts," manager Terry Francona said. "We got him up to [85]. He's building back after being in the bullpen."

The one blemish on Clevinger's ledger was a home run by Chicago slugger Jose Abreu on a 2-2 pitch leading off the fourth inning.

"I felt like he felt us going in a lot, so I felt like going away," Clevinger said. "But it just leaked back over the plate and he got it pretty good."

Of course, Abreu has done that to a lot of American League pitchers.

"He got out of that first inning," Francona said. "Two quick outs, a bouncing ball to right, walk, hit, but he got out of it. I thought he pitched pretty good."

The bullpen tossed four scoreless innings before Chicago walked off against Bryan Shaw (2-5) in the ninth inning.

Shaw, who got the final out of the eighth, was probably more unfortunate than anything else. Narvaez led off with a single to center, and pinch-runner Leury Garcia stole second base as Avisail Garcia struck out. Carlos Sanchez then followed with a bloop single to right to end things.

"It's a ground ball that found its way through and then a jam shot," Francona said. "But when you're on the road, that can make you go home."

The Indians literally went home after this one, and they will open a three-game series with the Tigers. Cleveland still has a six-game lead in the AL Central and it can reduce its magic number (which stands at 11) further.

"You know the fans are gonna be there, especially on Friday night," outfielder Rajai Davis said. "It's gonna be exciting and that's gonna be like our 12th man. It's gonna be a fun series."

John Jackson is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago.

Cleveland Indians, Mike Clevinger