BALTIMORE (AP)—Through all the countless hours he spent rehabilitating an assortment of injuries, Scott Lewis never abandoned hope of pitching in the major leagues.
The sacrifices he made over the past five years paid off Wednesday night, when Lewis allowed three hits over eight shutout innings in his major league debut to help the Cleveland Indians beat the Baltimore Orioles 7-1.
Lewis (1-0) struck out three, walked none and retired the final eight batters he faced in a 96-pitch performance—67 of which were strikes. He came three outs short of becoming the first Cleveland pitcher since Luis Tiant in 1964 to throw a shutout in his major league debut.
Being pulled with a 7-0 lead didn’t bother him one bit.
“I can’t be disappointed about anything today,” he said. “I only pitched eight innings once before and that was a complete game loss.”
Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said, “We thought about taking him out after seven, but he coasted through the seventh effortlessly. We wanted to keep him under 100 pitches.”
Lewis underwent elbow ligament replacement surgery while at Ohio State in 2003 before being drafted in the third round by Cleveland in 2004. He was limited to six starts in 2005 because of biceps tendinitis, then spent most of the 2006 season on a limited pitch count before finally pitching a full season last year with Double-A Akron.
This spring training, however, Lewis strained a back muscle and was forced to stay in extended spring training until early June. He combined to go 8-4 with a 2.53 ERA for Akron and Triple-A Buffalo before finally making his way to the Indians.
The wait was well worth it.
“I always stayed positive. You can’t get caught up in whether you are going to be hurt all of your career,” he said. “I always had a vision in the back of my head and it came true. It was better than I had hoped. … I never expected to do this well. I had hoped to get deep into the game and maybe only give up a few (runs). I stayed pretty calm.”
In his last minor league appearance, one week earlier, Lewis gave up three runs in 5 2-3 innings against Bowie, Baltimore’s Double-A farm team.
He fared even better against the Orioles, allowing one runner past second base in becoming the first Cleveland pitcher to win in his debut since Fausto Carmona in 2006.
“I’ve never seen hitters look that bad against a young guy coming from Double-A,” said Alex Cintron, who had one of the three hits against Lewis. “We were fouling a lot of pitches and we missed a lot. I was kind of surprised.”
Masahide Kobayashi gave up three hits, including an RBI double to Aubrey Huff, in the ninth. Baltimore has lost 10 of 11, and has been outscored 89-31 in the losses.
Kelly Shoppach hit two solo homers and scored three runs for the Indians, who came in with a season-high six-game homerless drought. It was the catcher’s third multihomer game of the season, and that was only half his contribution to the victory.
“I have two jobs to do: Take care of him and to hit, too,” Shoppach said, referring to Lewis. “I am very happy for him to go out and handle the nerves the way he did.”
The Indians helped Lewis with plenty of run support. Cleveland got a first-inning run off Chris Waters (2-3) on a sacrifice fly by Jhonny Peralta, then went up 4-0 in the fourth. With the bases loaded, Asdrubal Cabrera hit a two-run double and Grady Sizemore followed with a sacrifice fly.
Shoppach homered off Waters in the fifth, then connected off Randor Bierd in the seventh. Cabrera added a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
The Indians tied an AL record when Gutierrez was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning. It was the 92nd HBP for Cleveland, tying the mark set by Toronto in 1996. … Baltimore has lost 15 of 17. … Shoppach has seven homers in his last 17 games. … Sizemore went 0-for-4 and is in an 0-for-19 skid.