5 Rays pitchers no-hit Indians for doubleheader sweep

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Tampa Bay Rays reliever Josh Fleming pitches against the Cleveland Indians during the third inning in the second baseball game of a doubleheader Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in St. Petersburg, Fla.(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Five Tampa Bay pitchers combined for seven hitless innings, and the Rays beat the Indians 4-0 Wednesday for a doubleheader sweep.

Collin McHugh (two perfect innings), Josh Fleming (7-4 after allowing one walk in 2 2/3 innings), Diego Castillo (one out), Matt Wisler (one inning) and Pete Fairbanks (one inning) combined for the hitless performance in a game shortened to seven innings under pandemic rules.

The game will not go into the official list of no-hitters. MLB’s eight-man committee on statistical accuracy decided in 1991 that a no-hitter was a game of nine or more innings that ended with no hits.

Arizona’s Madison Bumgarner pitched a seven-inning no-hitter against Atlanta in the second game of a doubleheader on April 25, another that did not officially count.

“I don’t have a whole lot of opinions about it … I’ll probably leave that one to Bumgarner to talk about,” McHugh said. “We celebrated like it was. Really, that’s all that matters to us, is having a good time with it.”

There have been seven official no-hitters this season, one shy of the high set in 1884, the first year overhand pitching was allowed.

Cleveland had just three baserunners, including Oscar Mercado, who reached against Josh Fleming after third baseman Wander Franco and shortstop Taylor Walls collided on a routine grounder leading off in the third. Originally scored as an infield single, the call was changed one inning later to an error on Franco for running into Walls.

“I just assumed it was a hit,” said McHugh, who didn’t immediately realize after the final out that Tampa Bay had now allowed any hits. “So there was a little confusion on our part but we had a good time with it.”

In the fifth inning, Franco was credited with an infield single after third baseman Owen Miller made contact with shortstop Amed Rosario as he was fielding a grounder.

Major League Baseball could change decisions by official scorer Tim Clodjeaux.

“I mean, it’s kind of hard to understand how the one for them is a hit but ours is an error,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “I’m guessing that a couple days from now they’ll have to go back and un-celebrate that, They’ll probably change it, but that doesn’t change the fact, what the score was and what we did or didn’t do.”

Clodjeaux said after reviewing the play, without the contact Walls would have thrown Mercado out at first.

9.12 of the Official Baseball Rules states: “the official scorer shall charge an error to a fielder who causes another fielder to misplay a ball.”

Walls helped start a nifty double play to end the third when he slid to field Ernie Clement’s grounder. Franco also made a pair of nice defensive plays on fourth-inning grounders.

Walls put the Rays up 2-0 in Game 2 on two-out RBI singles off Sam Hentges (1-4) in the second and fourth. Yandy Díaz extended the advantage to 4-0 on a fifth-inning two-run single against Nick Sandlin.

Hentges gave up four runs and five hits over 4 1/3 innings.

Kevin Kiermaier homered and drove in a career-high five runs, Vidal Bruján had an RBI single in his major league debut, and the Rays win the opener 8-1.

Franmil Reyes homered for the Indians, who have lost nine in a row. He homered and tied a career-high with five RBIs in Monday night’s 9-8 loss to the Rays.

It is the the longest losing streak during Terry Francona’s managerial time with Cleveland. The Indians dropped eight straight from Sept. 8-16, 2020, and from June 2-10, 2013.

“We’re not, obviously, firing on all cylinders.” Francona said. “I think that’s an understatement.”

In the opener, Kiermaier had a two-run double in the first and connected on a three-run shot off J.C. Mejia (1-4) during the third.

“I’m starting to feel a lot more locked in and, hopefully, I can just find that consistency along the way,” said Kiermaier, who went 2 for 3 to raise his average to .239. “Just anything you can do to help the team win and create momentum for you and the boys out there, that’s what it is all about.”

Kiermaier’s second homer of the season gave Tampa Bay a 6-1 lead in the third and ended Mejia’s day. Brandon Lowe and Brett Phillips added solo drives for the Rays.

Michael Wacha (2-2) allowed one run, four hits and struck out six in six innings. Ryan Sherriff worked the seventh to complete a four-hitter.

Mejia gave up six runs, four hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings.

Bruján had a remarkable first inning in Game 1, which saw the 23-year-old take away a hit from Amed Rosario in the top half by diving to his left on a hard-hit grounder. Bruján followed that up later in the inning with an RBI single, then stole second and scored on Kiermaier’s double for a 3-0 lead.

The doubleheader included a makeup of a game postponed Tuesday night due to Hurricane Elsa.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Indians: OF Eddie Rosario went on the 10-day injured list with a right abdominal strain.

Rays: OF Manuel Margot (left hamstring strain) was placed on the 10-day IL and is expected to be out two to three weeks.

UP NEXT

Indians: RHP Zach Plesac (4-3), out since May 26 with a broken right thumb, will return to start Thursday night’s game against Kansas City.

Rays: Shane McClanahan (3-3) will start Friday night’s game with Toronto.

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