The Cleveland Indians will turn to right-hander Zach Plesac to try and snap their four-game losing streak when they face the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night in Minneapolis.
Plesac (3-1) has won his last three starts, and his 1.32 ERA and 0.74 WHIP are even better than teammate and Cy Young Award front-runner Shane Bieber (7-1, 1.53 ERA, 0.87 WHIP). Bieber took his first loss of the season Friday night in a series-opening, 3-1 setback to the Twins.
Plesac allowed one run, a solo homer by Adalberto Mondesi, on seven hits over seven innings in his last start, a 5-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday. He struck out four without issuing a walk. That game was the most recent victory for Cleveland (26-19).
“Super impressive,” acting Indians manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said of Plesac’s performance. “He throws a lot of strikes. His tempo is always good, and he managed to come back in counts. When you don’t walk people and you have a good separation of your pitches, that’s a good recipe right there. And he’s looking good.”
It was Plesac’s second start since a three-week break and stint at the team’s alternate training site after breaking the team’s COVID-19 protocols during a road trip to Chicago.
“I think he’s the same guy, the same kid with more discipline,” Alomar said. “He’s the same pitcher. He’s always been a motivated kid. He goes to the mound to win and to compete. … He seemed to me like the same pitcher.”
Plesac has walked just two batters in 34 innings while striking out 34 this year. He will be starting against the Twins for the first time in his career.
Left-hander Rich Hill, who is 0-1 with a 5.27 ERA in nine career appearances and two starts against the Indians, will start Saturday for the Twins, who are on a hot streak.
Minnesota (28-18) has won eight of its last 10 games and is one game behind the first-place Chicago White Sox in the American League Central.
Hill (1-1, 3.86 ERA) pitched well while receiving a no-decision in a Aug. 25 matchup with Bieber at Cleveland, allowing one run on four hits and two walks over five innings. He fanned five in a game that Minnesota lost 4-2.
The Twins won the opener of the three-game series on a soggy Friday night at Target Field behind seven shutout innings from Kenta Maeda and home runs by Byron Buxton and Ryan Jeffers.
“That’s a pretty good guy to have in your book because it doesn’t get any better than Bieber,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said of the home runs by Buxton and Jeffers off the Cleveland ace.
Bieber allowed three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out eight over seven innings. His strikeout of Jeffers in the fifth inning was his 100th of the season in just 62 1/3 innings, breaking the major league record for fewest innings needed by a starting pitcher to record 100 strikeouts in a season. The old mark was 63 innings set by Max Scherzer in 2018.
“I felt good all night,” Bieber said. “It came down to me making two mistakes.”
A win Saturday night would not only give the Twins the series win but would also give Minnesota a 6-3 advantage in the regular-season series with Cleveland and the potential head-to-head tiebreaker come playoff time.
–Field Level Media