Plutko allowed two runs on five hits in six innings of work. He struck out four as the Indians completed a doubleheader sweep of the White Sox 5-3 Tuesday evening at Progressive Field.
“He pitched really well,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Every starter has gone at least 6.0 innings and allowed two or fewer runs through five games, which has powered the 4-1 start to the shortened season for Cleveland, who won the opener Tuesday afternoon 4-3.
“They’ve looked like they’re locked in and they are,” Plutko said. “We’re gonna win a lot of baseball games if we do that.”
The Indians wasted no time jumping on White Sox starter Carlos Rondon in the bottom of the first inning. Back-to-back doubles from Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor led to a quick 1-0 lead before Carlos Santana ripped his first home run of the season, a two-run rocket into the empty bleachers in left for a 3-0 advantage.
Santana went 4-6 in the doubleheader with a homer, two runs scored, two walks and two RBI.
“He loves to play. He doesn’t want to take an inning off, ever,” Francona said of Santana.
White Sox catcher James McCann homered off Plutko with one out in the top of the second to pull Chicago within two, 3-1.
Rondon’s night ended in the bottom of the fourth when he walked the bases loaded around a pair of strikeouts. Center fielder Oscar Mercado greeted White Sox reliever Steve Cishek with a two-run single to extend the Indians lead to 5-1.
“I’m glad I stuck to my approach and I got a good pitch to hit,” Mercado said.
Chicago first baseman Jose Abreu’s first homer of the season to dead center with one out in the sixth off Plutko trimmed the Indians advantage to 5-2.
The White Sox pulled within two in the top of the eighth. Abreu doubled and came home when left fielder Nicky Delmonico beat the shift and muscled a ball into left field off Indians reliever Dominic Leone.
Indians center fielder Oscar Mercado preserved the lead by running down a ball off the bat of DH Zack Collins at the base of the 19-foot wall in left center to end the inning.
“That's a game saver right there,” Francona said.
Mercado admitted he wasn't sure he actually caught the ball when he hit the wall.
“I felt like a good beat on it,” Mercado said. “It’s one of those things where the ball was carrying… I jumped and put my glove up. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I was going to be able to catch it.
“I think those guys [White Sox] might be tired of me. To be able to save runs for my team is nice.”
Cam Hill, who made his big-league debut on Sunday, was called upon for his first save opportunity in the ninth. He struck out a pair while retiring the side in order.
“I just wanted three outs and it didn’t matter how I got them,” Hill said.