Mike Clevinger is proving to be a worthy member of the Cleveland Indians’ formidable rotation.
Clevinger pitched a two-hitter in his first career complete game, and the Indians hit three solo homers off Chris Tillman in a 4-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.
Jose Ramirez went 3 for 4 with his team-leading fifth home run . Yan Gomes and Yonder Alonso also went deep for Cleveland, which came into the game ranked second-to-last in the AL in runs and last in batting average.
Clevinger (2-0) hardly needed the offensive support. Pitching on seven days’ rest, the right-hander struck out three, walked two and allowed only one runner past first base.
It was an outstanding effort, one that fits nicely within a starting staff that includes 2017 Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer (who won 17 games last year) and unbeaten Carlos Carrasco.
“Metaphorically, if you’re in class and everyone else in the class is making 90 on the test, and you’re making 60s all the time, how is that going to feel?” Clevinger said. “So if eventually you can get up to 80, you’re going to be doing pretty good.”
He certainly deserved an “A” for this performance.
“Tell you what, that was really fun to watch,” manager Terry Francona said. “He’s a young pitcher who’s getting better.”
The only two hits Clevinger allowed in his 35th career start were singles by Manny Machado in the fourth inning and Chance Sisco in the fifth.
His previous longest outing was 7 1/3 innings, earlier this month against Kansas City.
“Six innings a start isn’t going to get you there,” Clevinger said. “As a starter, you have to figure out how to get deep in the game.”
While Clevinger is unbeaten in 11 starts since July 31, Tillman has experienced an opposite fate. This was his 22nd straight start without a victory, dating back to his first outing last season.
Tillman (0-4) gave up four runs, eight hits and a walk in six innings to lower his ERA from 11.91 to 9.87.
“He was better,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Obviously, there was very little margin for error with Clevinger.”
At this point, Tillman is happy just to be making progress.
“It was a big stepping stone,” he said.
Michael Brantley hit a run-scoring groundout in the first inning and Gomes connected in the fourth for a 2-0 lead.
The Orioles put runners on the corners with one out in the fourth, their lone threat against Clevinger, who responded by retiring Tim Beckham on a short fly to left and getting Anthony Santander to ground out.
Ramirez led off the sixth with a drive to right, and Alonso hit a two-out shot that landed on Eutaw Street beyond the right-field scoreboard.
Sisco threw out three Indians attempting to steal, the first Orioles catcher to pull off that feat since Matt Wieters in August 2012.
“There’s a lot of mechanics that do go into it,” the rookie said, “but once you do start feeling comfortable with those mechanics, it’s a confidence boost.”
Indians: LHP Ryan Merritt (left knee sprain) is on the brink of completing extended spring training in Arizona and moving to the next phase of the rehabilitative process. “He’s starting to feel pretty good,” Francona said.
Orioles: OF Trey Mancini was sidelined with a swollen right knee, an injury he sustained Friday night by sliding into the wall in foul territory chasing a ball. A CT scan came back clean, but Mancini received stitches and will be sidelined for a few days. … LHP Zach Britton completed fielding drills for the first time since he tore his right Achilles tendon in December. The closer hopes to return in June.
Indians: Kluber (2-1, 1.52 ERA) seeks to win his third straight start Sunday. In his last appearance against Baltimore, Kluber tossed a three-hit shutout last June.
Orioles: Andrew Cashner (1-2, 3.00) makes his fourth start with Baltimore. He’s 0-2 with a 9.90 ERA in two career starts vs. Cleveland.