CLEVELAND — Indians pitchers contained Reds hitters in the series opener, but it was a different story Wednesday afternoon at Progressive Field.
Cincinnati hit four home runs — three off starting pitcher Zach Plesac — and earned a split of the two-game interleague series by rolling over the Indians 7-2.
The Indians won 2-1 in 10 innings Tuesday.
Plesac’s outing began ominously, with the right-hander allowing home runs to the first two hitters — Nick Senzel and Joey Votto.
Ironically enough, the last time an Indians pitcher — Adam Plutko — allowed consecutive homers to start a game was the same date a year ago against the White Sox in Chicago.
It had never happened in Cleveland.
After allowing the homers, Plesac locked in and retired 13 straight before surrendering an RBI double in the fifth and his third homer — a solo shot from Eugenio Suarez -- to start the sixth inning.
“I thought maybe his last start took a little out of him,” manager Terry Francona said, referring to Plesac’s seven-inning effort in a 5-2 win over the Yankees on Friday. “He had never been out to 110 (pitches) before under major league circumstances. We tried to take that into account and get him out at like 80-something (Wednesday). But I don’t think anybody’s going to question his toughness or his competitiveness. He just made some mistakes in the zone today. And he’s still really young.”
“I was in a battle from the beginning,” Plesac said. “I was just getting around some sliders a little bit. That’s what kinda happens when you get tired, you kinda pull off some pitches and spin them and they don’t do the action you want them to do. Today I had a problem doing that, just pulling off some of those sliders that I left in the zone, and when I did that, they made damage to them.”
The two-homer start was jarring, but he was able to handle it.
“That’s the first time it’s ever happened,” Plesac said. “Ya know, it’s just, ‘Get back to it and lock back in.’
“Every day I’m learning, really. Just taking that outing and looking on the things that affected me negatively and I’m gonna take it into tomorrow, my preparation moving forward this week and work on those things and be ready next outing.”
Plesac got little help from the offense, which was pretty much nonexistent against the Reds — four runs over two games — after entering the series scoring more than six runs per game over the previous six games.
Cleveland got its first run off Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani in the second on Mike Freeman’s groundout to score Tyler Naquin, who led off with a double. Naquin was the only player in the lineup with more than one hit for the Indians, who advanced just one runner past second base from the third through seventh innings and totaled six hits.
“Coming in, I was kind of excited because (DeSclafani) was really struggling against lefties, but he didn’t,” Francona said of the right-hander, who entered his 13th start with a 4.70 ERA and with left-handed hitters batting .313 (36-for-115) with nine homers. “First inning, we squared up a couple. And then he got settled in and just started changing speeds and we had a tough time.”
Carlos Santana hit a solo homer in the eighth for Cleveland’s other run.
Despite the defeat, it was a successful homestand for the Indians. They had the opportunity to sweep the Twins, Yankees and Reds but dropped the final game of each series, settling for a 5-3 record.
“I think we’re competing,” Francona said. “We make some mistakes, but as long as they keep playing and trying to get better, we have to do that. And we will.”