CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – The music was a little bit louder than normal in the Cleveland Indians clubhouse on Saturday night. The normally reserved Mike Clevinger was upbeat, almost jittery, following the team’s 14th shutout victory of the season.
Just about 90 minutes earlier, the defending American League Champions were being blanked by Jason Hammel, a member of the defending champion Cubs a year, tossing a perfect game to that point as a member of the Kansas City Royals.
With two outs, things looked to be getting worse for Clevinger and the Indians, as Lorenzo Cain rocked a two-out line drive into deep center. Center fielder Bradley Zimmer slipped on his second step, which was breaking in on the ball.
He recovered nicely.
“Oh, it was 1-0 in my head off the bat,” Clevinger said. “I don’t think we’re having the same conversation without that catch. It was crucial.”
The night’s winning pitcher said he was speechless after the grab, embracing Zimmer in the dugout and saying nothing.
The conversation certainly would have changed had Jose Ramirez not have run down a Texas Leaguer in shallow center an inning earlier with the bases loaded. Clevinger’s 4-0 decision may not have held had Gio Urshela not made two consecutive beauties in the 8th.
But still, it was Zimmer’s gem that stood out.
“I think I still underestimate the length of his legs,” Clevinger added. “Berto (Perez) behind the plate, Gio at third base, like, we have some of the best defenders I’ve personally seen in my experience playing.”
Zimmer made a similar play in Detroit on June 22nd, a three-star catch according to Statcast in which the 6-foot-5 rookie laid out completely.
The 22-year old was not willing to rank one ahead of the other, but said that the recurring theme of putting his body on the line has helped with safety.
“I feel like I’ve done it so many times that I’ve kind of mastered the tumble on the ground, so yeah, the groundskeepers do quite a good job out there so there’s a lot of cushion,” he joked.
And about that perfect game?
After a Yandy Diaz groundout in the bottom of the 6th inning, Zimmer stepped to the plate and smacked a single 100.6 mph off the bat to break up the perfecto. Roberto Perez ended the shutout two pitches later, with a 108.4 mph shot over the left field wall.
The kid brought the energy one more time in the 7th inning, beating out a groundball to first with a slide into the bag, albeit a dangerous one.
Zimmer said that teammates were asking if he was hurt following the slide, and idea which the long-legged speedster shook off.
His manager, Terry Francona, seemed fine with the effort play because of what it brought to the club.
“It’s exciting because the dugout, it’s almost like a slam dunk in basketball, where everybody gets revved up and brings some energy,” the skipper said. “I love that.”
More reaction to Zimmer’s catch
Royals CF Lorenzo Cain: “I thought it was going to get over his head,” Cain said. “I’d say he used every bit of that 6-5 frame to make a play out there. It sucks, but you tip your cap. He made a good play.”
Royals Manager Ned Yost: “He smoked it,” Yost said. “I didn’t think Zimmer had much of a chance. That was just a phenomenal play, one of the ones best you’ll see.”