All signs seemed to be pointing toward Indians starter Zach Plesac snapping Cleveland’s no-hitter drought -- the longest in the Majors -- on Thursday night.
He forgot to pack his road cleats and the team’s equipment manager had to run and buy him a new pair at a local Dick’s Sporting Goods just before his start, so the story was already forming. And Josh Naylor wasted no time making one of a handful of strong defensive plays behind Plesac in the first inning by reaching into the stands in foul territory to make a brilliant catch.
“I felt the energy of it happening, you know what I mean,” Plesac said. “I definitely felt it in the air, especially when those plays are getting made behind me.”
But that feeling disappeared in the eighth inning after Plesac cruised through seven.
Although the Indians walked away with a 4-2 victory over the Mariners at T-Mobile Park, Plesac lost his no-hit bid on a line drive off the bat of J.P. Crawford that was just out of reach of Amed Rosario at shortstop before he gave up a two-run homer to Dylan Moore to snap his scoreless innings streak at 21.
“I thought he was obviously really good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “First inning had a couple walks, pitched around it and then for about seven innings, man, was about as good as you can be -- throwing all his pitches for strikes.”
It was an eventful evening that started with a text from equipment manager Brandon Biller, informing Plesac that he accidentally packed two pairs of gym shoes instead of his road cleats. Biller raced to the store and had to buy two pairs of cleats (sizes 13 and 14) that were close to Plesac’s actual size (13.5) and hustled back to get him acclimated to his new shoes. Though they had to stretch the size 13s out a little bit to fit his feet, they certainly didn’t hold Plesac back on the rubber.
“He picked me up some black low tops, and I rock the high tops, and especially all grays,” Plesac said, with a laugh. “I'm not rocking black cleats out there. But we did what we had to do. Shoutout to B-Biller for making the run for me to have some cleats to pitch today.”
Maybe it was the new cleats that led Plesac to an uncharacteristic two-walk first inning, but the 26-year-old righty was able to pitch around it. He issued another free pass in the fourth to Kyle Lewis, but his famous pickoff move assured that the reigning AL Rookie of the Year wouldn’t be a problem. Aside from that, Plesac didn’t run into any trouble until he faced Crawford in the eighth.
“I wish I could give [Rosario] just one inch of my height for that,” Plesac joked. “No, I mean, shoot, he made it a close play. I mean, he was playing in the right spot, the dude just made a good swing, J.P. did, and executed with what he was supposed to do with two strikes.”
Plesac’s outing was fun for the entire team. Franmil Reyes, who launched a second-inning solo shot, talked about how the club was excited to avoid Plesac so as not to jinx his no-hit bid. But what was even better for Cleveland was seeing Plesac’s work behind the scenes pay off.
When he sat down to address local media via Zoom after his last outing against the Reds, the first words out of Plesac's mouth were, “I mean, dude, I'm locked [in].”
Clearly, he wasn’t lying.
After a slow start to the year, owning a 6.75 ERA in his first four starts, Plesac has been nearly untouchable over his last four outings, pitching to 1.53 ERA. He worked with pitching coach Carl Willis on his mechanics, but it’s his mental approach that he credited for his dramatic change in results.
“I took thinking out of it, which I was doing a lot before, when my pitches were flat,” Plesac said. “Really, just finding that feel, squaring up home plate and executing my pitches, you know?”
If Plesac could’ve held on to the no-hitter, it would’ve marked Cleveland’s first since Len Barker’s perfect game nearly 40 years ago (almost to the day) on May 15, 1981, against Toronto. And after being on the losing end of two no-hitters already this season, to get one of his own would’ve been sweet revenge.
“I think if it would have been on [May 15], probably would have gotten more luck,” Plesac joked. “At the end of the day, we got the win, so that's all that matters to me.”