CHICAGO — Revenge, they say, is best served cold. Zach Plesac likes it hot.
Plesac, facing the White Sox for the third time in his last four starts, threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings against his tormenters in a 5-0 win by the Indians on a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The White Sox battered Plesac for 12 earned runs on 14 hits in 5 2/3 innings the first two times he faced them this season. He didn’t even get out of the first inning on April 14 on the south side of Chicago.
Plesac (2-3, 4.78) was much better this time around. It was not a picture-perfect start. In fact, at times it was strange. But he set the stage for a combined four-hit shutout with Bryan Shaw, James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase throwing a scoreless inning each.
The White Sox came into the game hitting .452 (14-for-31) against Plesac this season. He held them to three hits, while walking four and striking out six.
“This was the series rubber match,” said Plesac after the Indians won the three-game series, 2-1. “That was the only thing on my mind. I had to win today. I wasn’t thinking about the last two starts. I wanted to put this team in position to win this series.
“It was a big game for me. A big game for us. All together it was a big win.”
While Plesac dominated into the middle innings, Jose Ramirez took over late. With the Indians leading 2-0 against one of the top offenses in the big leagues, Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the seventh to make it 4-0. It was his eighth homer overall and his third against the White Sox. All three have been game changers.
* April 15: Ramirez hit a two-run homer in the sixth for a 2-1 lead in what became a 4-2 win.
* Friday night: Ramirez homered in the eighth to turned a 4-3 lead into a 5-3 win.
* Sunday: Ramirez’s homer in the seventh was the 25th of his career against the White Sox. Three of his five hits against Chicago this year have left the ballpark.
“He’s one of the best players in the game,” said Indians manager Terry Francona, when asked what makes Ramirez so dangerous in the late innings. “I’m glad people are finally coming to realize that outside of Cleveland.”
Now for a look at just how unusual Sunday’s game was for Plesac.
In the third inning, Plesac nearly fell off the mound during his delivery and tried a pickoff throw to first base with no first baseman present. The White Sox, however, could not take advantage.
Plesac, working with a 1-0 lead, walked Adam Eaton with two out. Yoan Moncada, the next batter, worked the count to 2-2. On Plesac’s next pitch, he stumbled during his delivery and almost fell off the mound. He did hang onto the ball.
Then he tried to pick off Eaton at first base, but Jake Bauers had already backed up to play behind the runner. Plesac grabbed his head in dismay as the ball sailed into foul territory and Eaton went to second. From there he walked Moncada, prompting a visit from pitching coach Carl Willis. The conversation did not help because Plesac hit Jose Abreu on a 2-2 pitch to load the bases.
But just when things were at their worst, Plesac struck out Jake Lamb on three pitches to end the inning. Lamb was a late addition to the lineup when hot-hitting DH Yermin Mercedes was benched for reporting to the park late Sunday morning.
“Jake had told Zach he was going to play behind the runner,” said Francona. “It was just a brain cramp.”
Lucas Giolito (1-3, 4.99) took the loss. He allowed two runs, one earned, in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out eight and walked three. He’s 2-3 lifetime against the Indians.