CLEVELAND, Ohio — Aaron Civale was one strike away from qualifying for his major league leading 11th win of the season Monday when disaster struck at Wrigley Field.
Civale had thrown seven pitches to Cubs infielder Eric Sogard with two out and a runner on base in the fifth inning. But when his seventh pitch missed off the plate inside, Civale shook his hand and flexed his fingers. He then signaled to the Cleveland dugout and manager Terry Francona to join him on the mound with Indians head athletic trainer James Quinlan.
Civale left the game after 4 2/3 innings and 71 pitches and was replaced by Bryan Shaw, who threw one pitch and got Sogard to ground out, ending the inning with Cleveland’s 3-0 lead intact.
It was not immediately clear whether or not a blister had flared up on Civale’s pitching hand, or if the injury was more significant. Civale batted in the top of the fifth inning, per National League rules. He saw six pitches in the at-bat, swinging at a 1-1 sinker from Adbert Alzolay before drawing a walk.
The Indians officially confirmed an injury to Civale’s middle finger on his right hand, but offered no further details.
Civale is the lone remaining starter from the Indians’ opening day rotation who has not missed time due to injury or poor performance. Staff ace Shane Bieber was sidelined by shoulder soreness a week ago, and righty Zach Plesac is working his way back from a fractured thumb suffered in late May. Logan Allen and Triston McKenzie, the other two starters in the opening day rotation, are pitching in Columbus.
In position to earn his first All-Star appearance, Civale was making his 15th start Monday. The Indians were 11-4 in his previous outings. He became Major League Baseball’s first 10- game winner in Wednesday’s 8-7 victory over Baltimore.
Besides leading the American League in wins, Civale began the day ranked first in innings (93), ninth in WHIP (1.06), 12th in ERA (3.48) and 12th in batting average against (.229). Civale had pitched at least six innings in 11 of his 14 starts, including seven innings or more seven times.
He’d held right-handed batters to a .220 average and lefties to a .239 mark. Civale has gotten better as he went deeper into games, limiting opposing lineups to a .284 average the first time through, and a .212 mark when facing them for a second time. When Civale faces a lineup for the third time in a game, he’s held opponents to a .182 average.
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