CLEVELAND — After an extremely slow start to the season offensively, Cleveland Indians hitters have warmed with the weather. Cleveland will conclude its longest homestand of the season, 11 games, on Thursday with a doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Indians go into the twin bill coming off their biggest offensive explosion of the season in 80-degree temperatures Wednesday. It was a 12-4 rout of Texas, in which the Indians belted five home runs, three by designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, who had six RBIs.
It was a welcome outburst by Encarnacion, who came into the game hitting .171. Encarnacion has historically hit poorly in the cold weather, so the Indians are hopeful Wednesday could be a sign of better things to come.
“We’ve seen how hot he can get. He can put us on his shoulders,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “I know he isn’t happy with the way April went for him, so it’s good to see him smiling again. We’re a different team when he swings the bat like that.”
Cleveland’s offensive explosion on Wednesday was well timed because its bullpen has had heavy usage this week, resulting in two roster moves on Wednesday.
The Indians selected the contract of right-hander Ben Taylor from Triple-A Columbus, and right-hander Matt Belisle was designated for assignment. Taylor, 25, was 1-1 with three saves and a 3.48 ERA in eight relief appearances with Columbus. Belisle had a 5.06 ERA and no record in eight relief appearances with Cleveland.
Thursday’s doubleheader was necessitated by the Blue Jays and Indians having consecutive games in Cleveland postponed on April 14-15.
The Indians’ starters for the two games will be Carlos Carrasco (4-1, 3.08 ERA) and rookie Adam Plutko, who will be making his first major league start. Toronto will counter with Jaime Garcia (2-2, 5.40) and Joe Biagini (0-0, 4.76).
Plutko, 26, was an 11th-round pick by the Indians in the 2013 June draft. In five starts at Double-A Akron this year, he was 3-2 with a 2.35 ERA and held opposing pitchers to a .165 batting average. Plutko made two relief appearances for Cleveland in September 2016.
“Our reports are he’s commanding the heck out of the ball,” said Francona. “He had hip surgery last year, but he’s pitching well. He’s commanding the ball to both sides of the plate really well.”
Carrasco is coming off his worst start of the season in his last start, a 12-4 loss to Seattle on April 28. In that game, Carrasco pitched three innings, giving up five runs on five hits, with four strikeouts and one walk.
Carrasco’s only start against Toronto last year was a 6-0 win in which he pitched seven scoreless innings on three hits, with seven strikeouts and no walks. In six career appearances against the Blues Jays, he is 3-1 with a 4.80 ERA.
Garcia lost his last start, 7-4 to Texas on April 28. He pitched five innings and gave up five runs on five hits with five strikeouts and four walks.
Last year, as a member of the New York Yankees, Garcia made two starts against the Indians and he was 0-2 with a 5.59 ERA, which are also his career numbers against Cleveland.
Biagini, who has primarily been a reliever during his career, has made four appearances against Cleveland in his career, all in relief, and is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in those games.