Plesac weathers rain delay on ‘odd night’ at Fenway

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BOSTON — On Monday, the Guardians opened a four-game set against the Red Sox on a hot and rainy night at Fenway Park. A familiar setting for starter Zach Plesac, who made his Major League debut in similar conditions on May 28, 2019, in Boston.

In his first big league start, Plesac gave up one run on four hits over 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision that included a one-hour, nine-minute rain delay. Working around a 38-minute delay in Monday’s opener, Plesac surrendered three runs on three hits over five-plus innings in Cleveland’s 3-1 loss to Boston.

“It’s just one of those days you’ve gotta be adaptive,” Plesac said. “It was a hot, muggy day. Rain delay. I felt good for the most part. I hadn’t pitched in almost two weeks, just getting back out there, finding the groove, finding the rhythm. Command could have been better. I think at the end of the day we battled, we fought. It was a close game.”

Prior to Monday, Plesac had last pitched on July 15, when he gave up five runs (two earned) on six hits over 3 2/3 innings vs. Detroit. After his 10-day break, Plesac came out firing on Monday with a strikeout of Red Sox leadoff man Jarren Duran on three pitches. The right-hander retired the side on just 10 pitches, narrowly missing another 1-2-3 inning in the second because of a walk to Franchy Cordero.

Plesac’s first charged run came in the third inning on a Yolmer S?nchez single, which drove in Jackie Bradley Jr. right before the Fenway grounds crew came out running with the tarp ahead of the skies opening.

“I mean, it wasn’t even raining [yet], it’s kind of like they were anticipating it,” Plesac said. “I was ready to play until we literally couldn’t play. … I was just frustrated we shut that down. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to pitch or not coming out of the break. Luckily it only lasted like 40 minutes or whatever it was. Just one of those five-inning [outings], but it felt like eight.”

Once the skies cleared, Plesac retired Duran and Rob Refsnyder to limit the damage to just one run in the third. Plesac saw the most traffic in the fourth inning, with Alex Verdugo reaching on a throwing error by third baseman Jos? Ram?rez to lead off the frame. Verdugo advanced to second on a wild pitch before Plesac walked Cordero for the second time, prompting a mound visit. With arms warming in Cleveland’s bullpen, Plesac regrouped and struck out Bobby Dalbec to escape the jam.

“It was kind of an odd night,” manager Terry Francona said. “He didn’t give up many hits, there was some traffic. The fourth inning was really hard, they had a couple of grinding at-bats. … He went out and had a 14-pitch inning after that though. I thought, you know what, he’s working good and he’s grinding, and then he starts [the sixth inning with] the four-pitch walk and then the ball off the wall. I thought he competed like crazy.”

After making his debut on that rainy day in 2019, Plesac spent time going back and forth from the Minors to the big leagues for the remainder of ’19 and much of ’20. In ’21, Plesac pitched to a 4.67 ERA in 25 starts, missing all of June with a right thumb fracture. This season he’s had his health, but inconsistencies have led to a 4.09 ERA over 18 starts.

After a smooth month of June in which Plesac went 1-1 with a 2.10 ERA in five starts, July hasn’t been as favorable. The bumps in the road have lined up with the Guardians’ offensive slumps, with the bats giving Plesac just one run of support in three of his four starts this month. On a favorable night for hitters (87 degrees at first pitch), the offense managed eight hits but just the lone run on a Ram?rez RBI infield single in the fifth.

“Just growing, focusing on what we can control and just executing as well as we can,” Plesac said of outside factors such as the weather. “Sometimes you don’t come out on the good end of the stick, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to give it my [best] effort. Just going to continue to work this week, get better and just get ready for my next start.”