PITTSBURGH — Aaron Civale struck out six and didn’t issue a walk while picking up the first complete game of his young career as the Cleveland Indians pushed their winning streak to five with a 6-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.
The 25-year-old Civale allowed five hits and narrowly missed a shutout when Pittsburgh pushed across a run with Josh Bell’s sacrifice fly in the ninth.
Carlos Santana broke open a scoreless game with a three-run homer in the sixth inning, one night after slamming a towering three-run blast to lift Cleveland to a 10-inning victory. Domingo Santana added a bases-clearing double in the eighth as the Indians improved to a season-best six games over .500 (15-9).
Santana turned on a full-count cutter from reliever Dovydas Neverauskas (0-3) and sent it over the right-field seats for his third home run of the season.
Pittsburgh’s National League-worst batting average dropped to .211 when it failed to muster much of anything against Civale. The Pirates have dropped 13 of 15 and their 4-16 record is the worst in the major leagues a third of the way through the abbreviated 2020 season.
Cleveland’s offense is no better than Pittsburgh’s, but a little goes a long way for AL Central contenders. The Indians, whose .200 team batting average is dead last in the majors, are now 12-0 this season when scoring three or more runs.
Having a dominant pitching staff helps. Civale gave the bullpen a break by working Cleveland’s team ERA to 2.61, the best in the majors. The Pirates failed to put a single runner in scoring position against the efficient Civale until pinch-hitter Cole Tucker doubled leading off the ninth.
Pittsburgh starter Steven Brault matched Civale out for out over five scoreless innings. Brault needed 29 pitches to get through a shaky first but quickly settled down. He didn’t allow a hit until consecutive singles by Franmil Reyes and Jordan Luplow leading off the fifth but escaped the jam by turning a double play in which he caught a line drive with a 110 mph exit velocity off the bat of Domingo Santana then threw to first to double off Luplow.
Pirates: RHP Kyle Crick (right shoulder strain) threw a live bullpen on Tuesday and is nearing closer to a return. … RHP Mitch Keller (left oblique strain) is playing catch and could begin throwing off the mound early next week. … IF Phil Evans, whose season ended following a scary collision with outfielder Gregory Polanco on Aug. 8, will have surgery to repair his fractured jaw.
Indians: RHP Shane Bieber (4-0, 1.30 ERA) will look to stay unbeaten in the series finale on Thursday. Bieber, who leads the American League with 54 strikeouts, is coming off seven shutout innings in a victory over Detroit last Saturday.
Pirates: RHP Trevor Williams (1-3, 3.98) picked up his first win of the season last Friday against Cincinnati. Williams is 6-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 14 career interleague starts.