ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – An 11-day break between starts proved to be just what Mike Clevinger needed. That and a start against the struggling Tampa Bay Rays.
Jay Bruce drove in his first two runs for the Cleveland Indians and Clevinger struck out nine in seven innings Saturday night in a 3-0 victory over the Rays.
Clevinger (6-4) won for the first time in four starts since the All-Star break. He gave up four hits and one walk in seven innings. The Indians chose to skip his turn in the rotation twice since back-to-back bad starts against the Angels and Red Sox in late July.
“It wasn't really like a banishment, it was kind like a breather,” said Clevinger, who pitched one inning of relief six days ago. “I just tried to take advantage of the time to find out where I was going wrong in those two starts.
“I might have been thinking too much internally, and there wasn't a lot of external focus at the plate.”
Manager Terry Francona said Clevinger's start was “so encouraging. We only got three (runs) and it looked like enough because of the way he pitched.”
Three runs have been more than enough to beat the struggling Rays, who were shut out for the fifth time in eight days, all at home.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Rays are the first team to be shut out five times in one homestand since the 1955 Baltimore Orioles.
It was 10th time the Rays were shut out this season, most in the majors.
“I don't have an explanation. We're in an offensive funk,” said manager Kevin Cash, who was asked if he is considering a lineup change.
“What would I do, take all nine of them out?” Cash said. “We're playing the lineup that we feel gives us the best chance to win right now and sometimes you've got to see it through some of these struggles.”
Bruce, acquired in a trade from the New York Mets on Wednesday night, drove in the first run with a two-out fly ball that dropped for a double between left fielder Corey Dickerson and third baseman Trevor Plouffe in the first inning.
After leading off the third with a double, Francisco Lindor scored on Chris Archer's two-out wild pitch to make it 2-0.
Bruce drove in another run with a single in the fifth after Jose Ramirez's leadoff double.
Cody Allen pitched the ninth for his 20th save, the fourth straight season he has reached that number.
Archer (8-7) gave up three runs and seven hits while striking out eight in 51/3 innings, ending his streak of 15 straight starts in which he pitched at least six innings.
Nine of the Rays' shutouts have come at home including five in their last eight games.
They have scored eight runs in eight games on their current home stand while batting .175 and striking out 87 times.