BALTIMORE -- With a clubhouse full of pitching valedictorians, Mike Clevinger is testing himself every time he steps on the mound."If you're in class and everyone is making a 90 and you're making a 60 on the test, how good is that going to feel every single day?" Clevinger said.
BALTIMORE -- With a clubhouse full of pitching valedictorians, Mike Clevinger is testing himself every time he steps on the mound.
"If you're in class and everyone is making a 90 and you're making a 60 on the test, how good is that going to feel every single day?" Clevinger said. "Eventually, you're at least going to get to that 80 grade, and that's what the cool thing is about Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. They're setting the bar so high that even falling just a little bit short, you're going to be pretty damn good."
Saturday at Camden Yards, Clevinger took the Orioles to school, putting together arguably the best performance of his career, a two-hit shutout that propelled the Indians to a 4-0 victory.
"I'll tell you what," manager Terry Francona said, "That was really fun to watch."
Clevinger's dominant performance was boosted by solo home runs from Yan Gomes, Jose Ramirez and Yonder Alonso, as Cleveland continued its reliance on the long ball as the rest of its offense struggles.
At the start, Clevinger didn't seem to be on track for a dominant performance, as the Orioles made several loud outs in the first few innings and the Indians' starter struggled with his pitch count.
"It started off rough," Clevinger said. "I had 60 pitches through three [innings] and that wasn't efficient at all. I was trying to figure out a way to get deep into the game."
Clevinger's only issue came in the fourth, when he allowed a leadoff single to Manny Machado, and Chris Davis followed with a grounder into the shift that Francisco Lindor misplayed for a rare error, giving Baltimore first and third with no outs. But Clevinger bore down, getting Timothy Beckham on a shallow fly to left and inducing a ground-ball out from Anthony Santander to get out of the inning.
"It seemed like from there, he just started pounding the zone," Francona said. "He got a couple of first-pitch outs of innings, which is always really good, and started using all his pitches."
After giving up a sixth-inning single, Clevinger finished by retiring the final 14 batters he faced, often in quick fashion, as he and Gomes were in rhythm all game.
"The way Yan was calling and setting up the game, it kind of put them in attack mode later in the game," Clevinger said.
The first complete game of Clevinger's career stands in contrast to his last outing, in which he squandered a four-run lead in a no-decision against Toronto. After seven days off, Clevinger came back with a renewed focus, and the effort showed.
"He's been able to stick to his game plans and throw his plus pitches out there," Gomes said. "His progress and everything that he's doing has been really fun to watch."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Not only did Ramirez go 3-for-4 with a long home run, he made a fantastic defensive play in the eighth inning, diving to his left and getting up to make a perfect strike to first to rob Craig Gentry of a hit, continuing to show the value of both his bat and his glove.
"He's a good defender wherever we put him and it's nice to see him swing the bat too," Francona said. "We need him. He's so important to what we're doing."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Alonso became the first player this season to hit a home run over the right-field fence and onto Eutaw Street with his sixth-inning blast that gave Cleveland a 4-0 lead. Alonso is just the 54th visiting player and 94th player overall to hit the street. The 414-foot home run had an exit velocity of 112.3 mph, according to Statcast™.
HE SAID IT
"He's got a lot of life on his fastball. I don't think we struck out, what, two or three times all day? Is that true? I'm not sure if I had it right. Three. So, he got a lot of balls on the ground." -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter, on Clevinger
Corey Kluber (2-1, 1.52 ERA) gets the start in Game 3, a 1:05 p.m. ET matchup against the Orioles' Andrew Cashner. Kluber tallied a shutout in his prior outing at Camden Yards, last June 19. Kluber, who has 1,234 strikeouts, needs just one more strikeout to tie Charles Nagy for sixth on the franchise's all-time K's list.
Elliott Smith is a contributor to MLB.com based in Baltimore.