CLEVELAND — The Indians ensured that CC Sabathia’s final appearance in Cleveland would not be cause for a New York Yankees celebration Saturday.
With a large contingent of New York fans at Progressive Field that included members of Sabathia’s family, the Indians quelled the crowd by thumping the six-time All-Star and the Yanks 8-4.
Right-hander Adam Plutko allowed only two runs on three hits over six innings and Roberto Perez homered for the fourth consecutive game, as Cleveland notched its second straight win in its lone home series against New York. The Indians have won four of five.
Traditionally pitchers try not to focus on their counterpart, but Plutko couldn’t avoid it.
“Oh, I was paying attention,” he said. “I’ve been a huge fan of CC Sabathia for a long time and whether this is his last start at Progressive Field or not, to match up against him — that was pretty cool for me. It’s something I’ll remember for sure for the rest of my life. That was pretty awesome.”
The Indians managed only two hits over the first three innings against Sabathia, who plans to retire after the season. He struck out five over the span in his second start off the injured list.
But the Indians caught up to him in the fourth and kept on coming.
Carlos Santana and Jordan Luplow started the inning with hits and scored on a sacrifice fly from Jose Ramirez and an RBI double from Perez to tie the game at 2. Perez just missed a two-run homer.
Oscar Mercado hit a two-out, two-run homer on a 2-2 pitch from Sabathia in the fifth to put the Indians in front for good.
“He took two kind of wild swings on off-speed pitches and then it was nice to see him make an adjustment and stay through the ball and go to right field,” manager Terry Francona said of Mercado, who has scored 17 runs over the first 20 games of his career, the most by a Cleveland player since Alex Cole’s 17 in 1990. “Those are usually the guys CC kinda can carve up because he’s a veteran and he’s been doing it for a long time.”
With Sabathia in the dugout, Perez, the designated hitter, blasted a two-run shot an estimated 447 feet to the Home Run Porch in left field off Jonathan Holder. Catcher Kevin Plawecki followed with a solo homer two batters later to put Cleveland in front 7-2.
Perez’s homer streak is the longest by an Indians player since Mike Napoli went deep in five straight games in 2016.
“It’s always nice when you have a good week like this, especially swinging the bat,” Perez said. “I’m trying to lay off that slider down and away, which early I was chasing that pitch a lot. Right now I am swinging with confidence.
“(Sabathia’s) been in the league for so long. He’s been an All-Star. He’s probably gonna be a Hall of Famer. So when you get a veteran like that on the mound, he’s a competitor, you just want to go up there and compete. Today, we competed really well.”
In 14 career starts against the Indians, Sabathia is 4-4 with a 3.78 ERA.
“Honestly, I didn’t feel like I had anything today. I didn’t feel like my stuff was sharp,” he said. “My backdoor slider wasn’t good early. They were just missing the ball. I felt like that could have happened early in the game. (Catcher Austin) Romine did a really good job of calling the game, defense played well, I just had nothing today.”
Plutko, who was promoted from Triple-A Columbus prior to the game to make his third start for the Indians, allowed a two-run homer to Didi Gregorius four batters into the game, but nothing after that.
The right-hander surrendered only a hit after the opening inning, retiring 16 of the final 17 batters he faced.
“He settled down and started going on both sides of the plate, threw his change-up,” Francona said. “He pitched and he navigated his way through a really good lineup.”
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