CLEVELAND, Ohio – Mike Clevinger looked set for Monday night’s 60-game MLB sprint at Progressive Field. Likewise, several of his teammates.
The Indians lagged early, but rallied to beat the Pirates, 11-7, midway through a three-game exhibition series between the teams. The series ends Wednesday at PNC Field.
On his last departure, Clevinger said he found it difficult to trust his surgically repaired left knee during childbirth. There was no sign of Monday as he allowed three runs on four hits in five innings. Pittsburgh’s three came on a two-run homerun from Phillip Evans in the second and a first homer in the fifth by Guillermo Heredia.
Clevinger pulled out five of the last eight men he faced and looked set to take second in the rotation. Shane Bieber kicks off the season opener Friday night against Kansas City at Progressive Field. Clevinger walked one and threw 67% of his shots (43 of 64) for strikes.
“I thought he was doing a lot better,” said manager Terry Francona. “A few fast balls leaked in the middle, but his break balls were really good and he maintained his speed for all five innings. I thought it was a good step in the right direction.
Right fielder Jordan Luplow also looked ready for the season. Luplow, after missing last week with a sore back, had his first batting game of the night to complete a fifth inning by four runs. He narrowly missed another homerun in the seventh.
Luplow felt there was a chance he might not be ready to open the season.
“There were a few days where it was difficult to get out of bed,” Luplow said. “I thought it was more serious than it was. The training staff stayed with me and were confident that we would get there. So far, so good. “
Cesar Hernandez, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor were three other contenders calling for the season to start within the next five minutes. Hernandez started the fifth with a single. Ramirez walked and Lindor ran a home run in the right seats ahead of Richard Rodriguez for a 6-3 lead. The Luplow home run was 7-3.
Hernandez, Ramirez and Lindor, the roster’s top three hitters, were 5 for 8 with five RBIs. Lindor finished with four RBIs. When Hernandez, Ramirez and Lindor left after the fifth inning, the top of the order stayed warm. Mike Freeman, who replaced Hernandez at second, had a homeroom in the sixth and doubled in the eighth.
The bottom of the first started with Hernandez in singles 12 batting.
“I told him it was the best batting I’ve seen all year,” said Francona. “He probably saw 20 shots tonight. That batting in the first leads us straight to getting races.
Bradley Zimmer also had fun. He doubled up and made a single in his first two battles on all nine holes. He entered the game at .556 (10 in 18) with four homers and seven RBIs in eight intrasquad games since the start of Spring Training II.
He was deprived of a third hit on a superb Cole Tucker strike against the wall in left center field in the sixth. Tucker, normally a shortstop, is the older brother of Indians No.1 Carson Tucker.
The Indians pushed the lead to 10-5 in the seventh. Yu Chang, who replaced Lindor in the short term, made a single to start the seventh. Jake Elmore scored it with a double on the left field wall. Greg Allen chose to tag Elmore.
The enclosure couldn’t keep pirates away. Brad Hand gave Josh Bell a homer in the sixth. Nick Wittgren launched a basics-laden march in the seventh. Adam Cimber started the eighth and allowed four consecutive Pirates to reach the base. Colin Moran had a home run, while Evans doubled up and scored on a field hitting and a throwing error by third baseman Christian Arroyo to make it 10-7.
Hunter Wood picked up and gave up a shot on the field to Socrates Brito to charge the bases, then put out the next three batters. James Karinchak came in in the ninth and hit the side in sequence.
Jake Bauers first homer in the eighth for a score of 11-7. It was the Indians’ fourth home circuit of the game. They finished with 15 hits, including two each by Hernandez, Freeman, Lindor and Zimmer.
The Pirates took a 2-0 lead in the second on Evans’ two-run homerun. Colin Moran made a single to start the inning before Clevinger left a 2-2 fastball in the middle of the plate for Evans.
The Indians tied the score with two points in the third. Zimmer doubled the left field line with one out. Hernandez, who opened the game with a 12 batting that ended in a single against Trevor Williams, stole deep as Zimmer placed third.
Chris Stratton relieved Williams and Ramirez made a single against the right wall to make it 2-1. Lindor, with the Pirates’ defense shifted to the right, passed the left field wall to score Ramirez and make it a 2-2 game.
If you score at home, Ramirez recorded his first official lost Spring Training II helmet on the way home.
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