Plutko, Miller pitch Indians past Cubs 1-0
By JAY COHEN, AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — Adam Plutko was nervous. Not about making his second major league start, really. It was all about stepping to the plate.
Once that was over, everything fell into place.
Plutko carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and Andrew Miller provided stellar relief work, helping the Cleveland Indians beat the Chicago Cubs 1-0 on Wednesday night.
“We know when (Plutko) commands everything, he can be pretty good,” manager Terry Francona said. “But on a night when he didn’t command real well, he still did pretty damn good.”
Plutko (2-0) was promoted from Triple-A Columbus to replace the struggling Josh Tomlin in Cleveland’s rotation. The right-hander issued each of his four walks in the first two innings, but settled down after a successful sacrifice in the third in his first at-bat since he was a junior in high school in 2009.
“I was really nervous to hit, and so as soon as I got that bunt down in the third, I felt like a lot more calm and everything was a lot better,” he said.
Plutko’s sacrifice set up Michael Brantley’s two-out RBI single, sending the AL Central leaders to their third win in four games. The Indians also completed a sweep of their two-game set versus the Cubs in their first appearance at Wrigley Field since they lost the 2016 World Series.
Brantley extended his hitting streak to 12 games, and Rajai Davis contributed two hits and a leaping catch against the wall in center , robbing Addison Russell of a likely run-scoring hit in the second.
“That could have blown the game wide open right there, and we could be talking about a loss right now instead of win,” Plutko said. “Raj played unbelievable defense.”
Chicago wasted a terrific start by Jon Lester (4-2) in its second straight loss after taking three of four last weekend in Cincinnati. The lefty allowed six hits, struck out four and walked one while lowering his ERA to 2.37 in his 10th start this year.
“Tonight was probably physically the best I’ve felt in a long time,” Lester said.
Plutko was even better. He retired 13 in a row before Anthony Rizzo led off the seventh with a double for Chicago’s first hit. Willson Contreras then reached on an infield single, chasing Plutko and putting runners on the corners.
But Miller came in and shut the door, preserving Cleveland’s 1-0 lead. He got some help when Cubs manager Joe Maddon called for a squeeze play and Javier Baez bunted right back to the reliever, giving him plenty of time to cut down Rizzo at the plate for the first out.
“High strikeout percentage versus Miller, and Javy’s possibly one of our best bunters,” Maddon said of his reasoning for the call. “I talked about it to him in the dugout. He kind of liked it, so we went with it.”
Russell then struck out swinging and Jason Heyward bounced to first, ending the inning.
Miller said he had a hunch he might see a bunt when he came in, recalling when he was in the AL East and Maddon managed Tampa Bay.
“It used to be a thing, it was almost automatic,” Miller said. “It was kind of, you almost prepared for it if you were in that division.”
Miller also got the first two outs of the eighth. After Kyle Schwarber singled, Cody Allen retired four in a row for his seventh save in eight chances.
Indians outfielder Brandon Guyer was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a neck strain after he got hurt in a collision with a fan. The injury occurred Saturday when Guyer went after a foul ball in Houston.
“When he went into the stands, he got like a forearm or something,” Francona said. “We checked him for concussions, but his neck is whiplash-ish kind of, so he hasn’t played since that. I think he could’ve if he had to, but we’re trying to be mindful of it.”
Indians: OF Bradley Zimmer (bruised left rib) hit in the cage, and Francona said he looked normal. “He’s got a couple more days of this,” Francona said. “Maybe sometime around Friday-ish, we’ll see about what to do with him.” … OF Lonnie Chisenhall (right calf strain) went 0 for 1 and scored a run in his second rehab game with Triple-A Columbus.
Indians: RHP Mike Clevinger (3-1, 2.87 ERA) starts Thursday night as Cleveland begins a seven-game homestand with the first of four against Houston. RHP Charlie Morton (6-0, 1.94 ERA) pitches for the AL West-leading Astros.
Cubs: Following an off day, RHP Kyle Hendricks (3-3, 3.40 ERA) starts the opener of a three-game series against San Francisco. LHP Derek Holland (2-5, 4.94 ERA) pitches for the Giants on Friday.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
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