CLEVELAND — The Indians overcame a substantial deficit and nearly beat the Blue Jays before falling in the first game of a doubleheader at Progressive Field on Thursday.
They got even in the nightcap.
With right-hander Adam Plutko on the mound for his season debut, Cleveland backed him with plenty of offense to roll to a 13-4 victory after dropping the opener 13-11 in 11 innings.
“You don’t show up trying to get a split, but after the way the first game went, we were thrilled with it,” manager Terry Francona said.
It was a long march to misery for the Indians in Game 1, with the first pitch delayed an hour and 50 minutes by rain.
The game was tied at 9 in the top of the 11th when left-hander Tyler Olson surrendered a grand slam to Yangervis Solartes, as Cleveland’s bullpen woes without Andrew Miller continued.
Olson retired the first two batters of the inning before allowing three straight to reach. Solartes connected on a 2-0 pitch, sending it over the wall in left field.
The Indians got their second straight subpar outing from right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who left his last start prematurely when his back tightened.
According to Carrasco, the back wasn’t an issue this time.
“I think the issue was locating my fastball. It was kind of off a little bit today,” said Carrasco, who allowed six runs on nine hits and three walks over 5 2⁄3 innings. “Every time I tried to throw my fastball it was getting hit. It was a tough game, but it is what it is.”
The Blue Jays led 5-0 into the bottom of the fourth when Cleveland’s scuffling offense found its groove in earnest.
The Indians batted around and took their first lead at 7-5, with Francisco Lindor hitting the first of his two homers in the game and each player in the lineup reaching base — except for Yan Gomes.
“On one hand, it’s kind of agonizing because you’re burning through pitchers, but on the other hand, guys keep playing,” Francona said. “That’s what we do here. That’s why I get proud of these guys. It was a hard game to win. We came pretty damn close.”
Carrasco pitched into the sixth, striking out the first batter before allowing a single to Curtis Granderson.
Right-hander Nick Goody replaced him and allowed a tying homer to Josh Donaldson on his first pitch. It was Donaldson’s first game off the disabled list.
Goody returned for the seventh but after throwing a pitch and allowing a leadoff single to Kevin Pillar, he left with an arm injury. He was diagnosed with right elbow inflammation and placed on the DL after the game. It appears to be a serious injury.
“It’s really tough. He’s part of the team. Every time I see something like that, I feel really sad,” Carrasco said. “I hope it’s nothing really bad.”
Game 2 was tied at 2 before the Indians exploded for nine runs in the fifth inning, getting a two-run home run from Jose Ramirez and a three-run double from Erik Gonzalez.
It accounted for the most runs in an inning for the Indians this season, surpassing the seven in the fourth inning of Game 1.
They became the first team to score seven or more runs in an inning in each game of a doubleheader since the Oakland A’s in 1975.
Ramirez and Gonzalez provided much of the offense in the nightcap, combining to go 6-for-10 with seven RBIs. Ramirez hit his eighth homer and drove in three runs, while Gonzalez drove in four with a pair of doubles.
The run support made for a comfortable night for Plutko, who was promoted from Triple-A Columbus prior to the game.
He allowed three runs — all on solo homers — and six hits, while striking out six and walking none over 7 1/3 innings.
“Boy, did he save our (butt),” Francona said. “Man, he commanded his fastball on both sides of the plate, spun a little breaking ball off of that change-up. He really pitched. That was really fun to watch. On a night where you’re kind of looking for some things to pick you up a little bit, boy, that was as big as it was.”
Because the teams were rained out April 15 during MLB-wide recognition of “Jackie Robinson Day,” they honored Robinson in Game 1, with all players wearing his No. 42 on the back of their jerseys.
The victory in Game 2 marked the 1,500th win in Francona’s career. He is the 24th manager in MLB history to reach the milestone.