Chicago White Sox 4, Cleveland Indians 0

The good

One extended turn through the rotation, Cleveland’s pitching staff continues to deliver and keep expectations high.

A rainout forced Zach Plesac’s 2020 debut back a day, but it was a performance worth waiting for.

Plesac went the deepest of any of Cleveland’s starters, going eight innings, striking out 11, allowing three hits and not issuing a walk.

Cleveland’s starters so far in 2020:

39 innings pitched

54 strikeouts

Six earned runs

Three walks

28 hits

His 11 strikeouts were a career high.

Cleveland’s first six starters have all thrown at least six innings while allowing less than two runs, becoming the sixth team to accomplish the feat to start the season in the modern era. Other teams who accomplished that feat were Atlanta (1993), San Diego (1986), Cincinnati (1919) and the 1905 Cleveland Naps (Otto Hess, Addie Joss, Otto Hess, Earl Moore, Bob Rhoads).

The staff has also punched out 72 batters through the first six games of the season, the most by a Cleveland staff all time ahead of the 1966 team’s 67 punchouts through the first 6 games of the year.

Plesac did it with the slider, a pitch he relied on third most last year (18.8% of the time). 

In his sterling performance, he threw is 32 times and got 13 swings and misses on it (40%). That accounted for 13 of his 20 induced swings and misses.

He didn’t get any swings and misses on the fastball, not that he did much in 2019, but he got 12 called strikes, two of which were a called third strike.

He went to the slider 15 times in two strike counts, good enough for seven swings and misses, as well as five changeups, two of which were swinging strike three’s.

Also improved was his command. In the minor’s, Plesac had walk rates anywhere between 3% to 6.5% at each stop, save for his first year back from Tommy John, his first year in the minors. Last year in the majors, it was 8.4%. 

Also worth noting that Cleveland opted to pair Beau Taylor’s first start with Plesac while Roberto Perez is out with a sore right shoulder and giving Sandy Leon the day off. Taylor threw out 35% of runners in 51 attempts in 2019 between three spots, but Plesac’s pickoff move allowed him to control the run game and help Taylor focus on game calling and other aspects. Not that it mattered a ton because the White Sox only had about two strong base runners in the lineup in terms of steals.

The bad

Once again, Lucas Giolito proved he only needed two pitches to dominate Cleveland’s lineup. He threw 85 pitches, 81 of which were fastballs and changeups, which gave him 14 swings and misses. He gets those swings and misses because he can throw both pitches for strikes when he wants, where he wants and got 11 called strikes with the two pitches combined as well 

Jose Ramirez was responsible for three of Cleveland’s six hits overall, two coming off a fastball’s inside, and a changeup down the middle. All three were pulled hits. Cesar Hernandez had the other hit off of Giolito. The 6-9 spots, which included Cleveland’s three outfielder’s, went 0-13, and the outfield was 0-10. The outfield seems like it has more upside this year than it has in a while, but as a collective group is not off to a great start.

The ugly

Not the offense made it possible, but the great start, like Clevinger’s on Saturday, was waste due to issues late in the game.

Chicago didn’t need baseball to hand them a free base runner. Brad Hand came in a 0-0 game with zero margin for error, and allowed a leadoff double to Tim Anderson, issued a walk and then a catchers interference loaded the bases while he got one out. He topped out at 92 with the fastball and got one swing and miss with the slider.

His release point remained down from when it was an issue in 2019 in the second half when he had a tired arm, his velocity remained down and the command of his slider wasn’t there, which was better on Tuesday.

Still, it sounds like Francona will stick with Hand, like usual. Cleveland starts a four game series with Minnesota, on the road for the first time, Thursday. Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco and Aaron Civale will take their second turns in the rotation in the matchup.

Photo: USA Today

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