CLEVELAND, Ohio – Speed is a wonderful thing because it never crumbles. At least, that’s what any manager or coach will tell you.
Oscar Mercado’s bat is in crisis. His legs aren’t, and that’s one of the reasons the Indians beat Cincinnati 2-0 Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
New third base coach Tony Mansolino tried to stop Mercado, but was not very lucky. Called in from the Indians’ alternative training site earlier today because Mike Sarbaugh was needed in the dugout to help interim manager Sandy Alomar, Mansolino could only watch Mercado score from second base on Jose’s grounder Ramirez in the fifth inning.
Truth be told, the way Mercado was running, the only way he could have been stopped was with a flying tackle or a hamstring pull. The man was moving.
“I played for Manso (in Columbus) and he’s amazing,” said Mercado. “It was just one of those things where I passed out and just jumped in. If I’m thrown over there, I have every reason to get chewed. To be honest, it wasn’t the smartest game, but it worked.
The fifth round of two points made a winner for Mike Clevinger (1-1, 3.24). Clevinger pulled the Reds out in order in the first, which was a feat after allowing up five runs, including three homers, in the first set of his two previous starts.
“He was mixing his pitches early on,” Alomar said. “We thought they were going to be aggressive against him. The first batter of the game swung on the first pitch. After that he started to use his breaking ball. He had a good one, he was sharp and he slowed down their bats.
Clevinger was having control issues. He walked five in 5 2/3 innings, but he did not allow a run. He struck out four and allowed just two hits.
Reds rookie Tejay Antone (0-1, 2.08) held the Indians scoreless for four innings in his first start in the league. He walked Jordan Luplow to start fifth, and manager David Bell went to relief Mike Lorenzen after Sandy Leon bounced back from the top spot.
Mercado, reaching .121, worked Lorenzen for a walk and Cesar Hernandez scored Luplow with a single through the left side of the infield for a 1-0 lead. Ramirez, with runners in the first and second row, sent what looked like a double play to shortstop Freddy Galvis. He returned to second baseman Josh VanMeter, who forced Hernandez, and threw home plate. Mercado beat receiver Tucker Barnhart’s tag with a head-first slide inside the plate.
“Mansolino was trying to hold Oscar,” Alomar said. “Mercado said he saw the charge from the shortstop (Galvis). When he saw this he felt he would have enough time to score. It was a play on his part, but it wasn’t a specific play he normally would do.
“He was more aggressive because of the situation we’re in right now (not scoring points). He felt like we had to do something.
The Indians had two hits with runners in goal position Wednesday night. They had three on their six-game trip that just ended at Target Field in Minnesota and Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. In a sport where baby steps mean everything, this is called progress.
Their only other real chance to score came in the third. Leon and Hernandez walked and Ramirez broke a 0 for 16 slip with a single bloop in the center. The threat ended when Francisco Lindor ran aground in a double play.
The Reds have continuously pressured Clevinger.
Jesse Winker chose with an out in the second. Nick Senzel reached on a receiver’s interference call against Leon. The Indians have the worst batting average in the American League, but they already have two receiver interference calls against them. Do whatever you want with it.
Winker and Senzel attempted to advance over a piece of dirt. Winker was third, but Senzel was canceled 2-3-6 for the second start of the set. Clevinger pulled VanMeter out to complete the round.
Galvis walked over to start the third. Shogo Akiyama passed him in third place with a drive off the wall in left field. Clevinger retired Nick Castellanos, who entered the game with six home runs, on a yanking blow. Joey Votto, who beat the Indians with a two-run homer Monday night, fell to a ball on the left.
Clevinger opened the fourth as he did the third with another step, this time to Eugenio Suarez. He took the potential drama out of the inning by taking out the next three hitters.
The Reds put pressure on Clevinger again in the sixth. Castellanos walked to open the sleeve. Votto flew deep to the right, but Leon first pushed Castellanos away as Carlos Santana blocked him from the bag with his foot, while applying the tag. The Reds challenged referee Jerry Meals’ appeal, but the appeal was upheld after a one-minute and 35-second review.
Clevinger’s night ended when he walked Winker. Dominic Leone picked up and eliminated Senzel.
The Indian survey enclosure continued to perform well. Leone, Oliver Perez, James Karinchak and Brad Hand combined with Clevinger on a three-stroke shutout. All four relievers allowed just one hit with five strikeouts.
“They did a fantastic job,” Alomar said.
Hand won his fourth save and second in as many games against the Reds with a ninth goalless.
The victory means that the Ohio Cup remains in the possession of the Indians. The Indians lead the four-game series, 2-1, which means the best the Reds can do is tie with a win on Thursday. Since the Indians won the Cup last year, they retain possession.
The Indians and Reds will end their four-game streak on Thursday when right-hander Carlos Carrasco (1-1, 3.75) meets Cincinnati right-hander Luis Castillo (0-1, 4.50) at 6:10 p.m. at Progressive Field. SportsTime Ohio and WTAM will wear the game.
Carrasco is 3-0 with a 4.05 ERA in six career appearances against the Reds, including five starts. Castillo is 0-1 with a 1.50 ERA in a single start against the Indians.
New Indian masks for sale: Here’s where you can purchase Cleveland Indian-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($ 14.99) and a 3-pack ($ 24.99). All MLB profits are donated to charity.
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