Mike Clevinger may have thought his season was over a week ago in Akron, but on Monday, covered in ice water and shaving cream, the 24-year-old could hardly believe what happened.
“It’s unbelievable,” the Indians’ No. 15 prospect said. “I couldn’t have pictured it any better.”
Clevinger took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of his Triple-A debut and Columbus got two-run homers from Audy Ciriaco and Erik Gonzalez to advance to the Governors’ Cup Finals with a 5-0 win over Norfolk in decisive Game 5 on Monday night.
In his first International League start, the right-hander struck out a career-high 10 batters over 7 2/3 hitless innings before Major League veteran Shaun Marcum lost the no-hitter, but recorded the final four outs to seal the series and send the Indians’ top affiliate to the Championship Series against Indianapolis.
“This is definitely my best outing of the season so far, definitely one of the best of my career,” said Clevinger, who matched a career high in innings. “I felt fresh, I had a lot of days off, so I definitely felt good.”
The Clippers will host the Indians in Game 1 of the Finals at 6:35 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The team, which drew a franchise playoff-record 10,734 fans Monday, will again offer free admission for its Finals games.
The 24-year-old Clevinger threw 65 of his 102 pitches for strikes, popping up Audry Perez for the second out in the eighth before Clippers manager Chris Tremie pulled his starter in favor of Marcum. The former Blue Jays righty lost the no-hitter when the next batter, Michael Almanzar, hit a line-drive single to center field, but Marcum struck out Andy Wilkins to finish off the game.
“It’s great, it’s always nice to win a series,” said Tremie. “It was a tough series, they have a good ballclub. We grinded it out and had a good offense tonight and a great pitching performance, so we’re on a high note right now.”
Clevinger, who went 9-8 with a 2.73 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 158 innings over 27 outings at Double-A Akron this year, hadn’t thrown more than 104 pitches in a start this season. The right-hander, who missed most of 2012 and 2013 following Tommy John surgery, admitted he was a little let down when he had to hand over the ball just four outs shy of a no-hitter. He entered the game with a 100-pitch limit.
“I mean I was a little disappointed, I wanted to keep it going, I felt like I had it,” Clevinger said. “Pitch counts — it’s their call, whatever they feel is best, I’m with it.”
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