The Cleveland Indians have been waiting for the day top pitching prospect Triston McKenzie would make his Major League debut, and he didn’t disappoint Saturday night in a 6–1 Tribe victory. The right hander threw six innings, giving up two hits, one run and striking out 10 batters plus one walk while earning the win.
McKenzie, who had dealt with injuries the last two years, is 6-foot-5, weighing 185 pounds with a fastball topping out at 96, a curveball with good life and break, a change-up and slider. He used those pitches to send down the side in order in the first inning, including his first career strikeout on future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera, and again struck him out later in the outing.
McKenzie got through the second and third frames effortlessly aside from letting JaCoby Jones on base with a walk before he was erased on a steal attempt during the next at bat by Roberto Perez to end the second.
However, McKenzie had his first hiccup with one out in the fourth, with former Indians farmhand Willi Castro demolishing a change-up 445 feet to deep right field, putting the Tigers on the board first.
The Indians had two on with one out in the bottom of the inning, as Francisco Lindor and Franmil Reyes both reached on singles, but it fizzled out with Jordan Luplow striking out and Domingo Santana grounding into a fielder’s choice.
The same scenario played out in the sixth with nobody out and Jose Ramirez and Lindor on with nobody out. Carlos Santana lined out off Matthew Boyd, who gave up five hits in 5 ⅓ innings with six strikeouts and a free pass. John Schreiber came in and struck out Reyes.
Then with Luplow walked and the bases loaded, Domingo Santana hit a bases clearing three-run double to Left Center field to give the Tribe their first lead of the night. Roberto Perez proceeded to knock in Santana with an RBI hit to left for a 4–1 advantage.
Carlos Santana would add an RBI on a sacrifice fly to left in the seventh, scoring Cesar Hernandez. In the eighth inning, Cesar Hernandez lined a single into left center for a sixth run, scoring Greg Allen and proceeding to get caught in a run down to end the inning.
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A top prospect sighting
While Triston McKenzie was the star of the evening, Indians top prospect Nolan Jones, a third baseman drafted in 2016, watched the game from the top of the parking garage across the street from the field. He was there to support McKenzie as a friend and teammate.
Jones himself may not be far off from being on the big league roster, as he is at the alternate training site in Lake County and in the 60-man player pool.
McKenzie and history
The only other player in franchise history to strikeout 10 or more in his big league debut was Luis Tiant in 1964, who struck out 11 batters.
On a fun note, a friend of Triston McKenzie predicted his amazing debut.
Update on Delino DeShields
Delino Deshields was replaced in the top of the sixth by Greg Allen. DeShields left the game with what was termed as left hip tightness.