CLEVELAND (AP) — Mike Clevinger held it together as long as he could.
But after finally getting back on a major league mound following elbow surgery, a lockout, knee sprain and a rainout that had delayed his return for San Diego, Clevinger couldn’t control his emotions.
“I wasn’t sure I was going to pitch again,” Clevinger said Wednesday, his voice cracking as he choked back tears. “So this is big.”
Clevinger had an impressive first start since having Tommy John surgery in 2020, and Manny Machado hit a two-run homer as the Padres edged the Cleveland Guardians 5-4 in the first game of a doubleheader.
Machado connected in the third inning off Zach Plesac (1-3), and Austin Nola delivered a go-ahead RBI double in the sixth as the Padres won for the sixth time in seven games — all on the road.
Steven Wilson (3-0) got the win despite walking two in the fifth, and Taylor Rodgers pitched the ninth for his 10th save.
Padres rookie MacKenzie Gore will start Game 2 against Cleveland’s Cal Quantrill.
It was a joyous return for Clevinger, who had surgery not long after pitching in Game 1 of the NLDS two years ago — just months after being traded from Cleveland to San Diego. Facing his former team and Plesac, one of his closest friends, the right-hander allowed three runs and four hits.
Clevinger was just an out away from potentially getting a win before being pulled after 95 pitches by manager Bob Melvin.
The win would have been a bonus, but that hardly mattered to Clevinger, who was thankful for the chance to compete again.
“It’s been a super long road and I can’t thank the people behind me enough,” said Clevinger, standing in the hallway outside San Diego’s clubhouse between games.
Clevinger, who spent four-plus seasons with…