Second Thoughts: Game #149 Twins 6, Indians 4
This loss officially dropped the Indians into sole position of last place in the American League central, a final step in the Tribe’s meteoric descent from first. It was essentially the status quo Wednesday, as Zach McAllister struggled once more against Minnesota and the Cleveland offense was unable to climb out of the perpetual hole they always seem to be battling. In the process of dropping the middle game of this series, the Indians allowed Twins starter, Liam Hendriks to come away with his first Major League win in 18 starts this season.
Twins topple McAllister again: Coming into this game, McAllister was 0-2 with a 7.72 ERA against the Twins in 4.2 innings pitched over two starts this season. It didn’t get a whole lot better in this contest for the Tribe righty. Even before he allowed a pair of runs in the 3rdframe, McAllister looked shaky early, lacking in consistently sharp location. Denard Span doubled, followed by a Jamey Carroll infield single with one out in the 3rd. Joe Mauer’s RBI single plated Span, followed by a Josh Willingham RBI single to score Carroll. McAllister showed once again that he is susceptible to allowing the big inning. He fortuitously evaded further damage by getting Justin Morneau to hit into an inning-ending double play, but just didn’t have the sharp fastball location or faith in his off-speed stuff to keep Twins hitters off his back.
In the 4th inning, it looked like McAllister might settle in a bit, as his fastball started to show better tailing movement, but he faltered again in the 5th. Mauer walked, and then Josh Willingham reminded Tribe fans once again what could’ve been by blasting a mistake pitch for his 35th home run of the season. The infuriating thing about the sequence was that McAllister had just gotten away with a fastball middle-up, but the very next pitch was verbatim to the first and Willingham didn’t miss. It was a sour note to end his start on, as he lasted just 4.1 innings, while allowing eight hits and four runs. Sure, McAllister had his share of bloops and bleeders that fell in for hits, but ultimately he couldn’t keep it together, so the stat sheet will show this as another clunker.
Tribe offense comes up short: Asdrubal Cabrera got the offense rolling early with his 1st frame solo homer to give the Indians the early advantage. He got a sinking fastball out and over the plate, allowing him to get full extension for a big fly. Much of the rest of the offensive push came from Vinny Rottino and Jason Kipnis. In the 3rd, Rottino drew a walk, and then stole second on the first pitch to Shin-Soo Choo. Choo grounded out, advancing Rottino to third base. Kipnis worked a full count and then came through with an RBI single by slapping a high pitch the other way. Fast forward to the 8th inning; the duo of Rottino and Kipnis followed a similar recipe. This time, Rottino smacked a leadoff double into the left field corner. After a Choo caught-looking punch out, Kipnis produced another hit with a runner in scoring position. The Indians second baseman got a first pitch fastball from Minnesota reliever Alex Burnett and shot it up the middle to trim the Twins lead to 6-3. Pinch-hitting Brent Lillibridge also got a first pitch fastball, which he singled to right to put runners on first and second. Following a Carlos Santana fly out that advanced Kipnis to third, Michael Brantley delivered the fourth and final run on an RBI single through the right side of the infield. The Tribe offense went 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position, but simply couldn’t garner enough opportunities to catch the Twins.
Hendriks good enough for win #1: Hendriks entered this game with an 0-7 record and an ERA north of six through 17 starts, but he made enough pitches to come away with his first big league win. The 23 year old Twins righty threw six strong innings of two-hit, two-run ball, connecting for strikes on 59 of his 97 pitches. In the first couple of innings he was pumping 87-89 MPH fastballs all over the zone, while flashing shades of command. As he got to the middle innings, he started hitting 91-92 MPH regularly, while his fastball started to tail away from left-handed Tribe hitters more. Hendriks threw first pitch strikes to 13 of 23 Indians hitters. His fastball, nor his off-speed stuff looked especially impressive, but it was dominant enough to only allow four base-runners, while racking up ten ground outs.
Rottino’s hustle plates a run, then saves a run: In the 3rd, Rottino worked a nine-pitch walk to lead off the inning. On the first pitch to the next batter, he got a great jump off Hendriks to steal second base. A grounder to short off the bat of Choo looked like it wouldn’t be able to advance Rottino, but he patiently waited for the throw to first, before safely bolting to third base. Kipnis’ RBI single cashed in on the alert base-running, which was psychologically significant because it tied the game. In the 8th inning, Rottino made a splendid diving catch to end the inning and rob Mauer of an RBI single. It was refreshing to see some heads-up hustle out of a reserve player.
Ugly 5th for Tribe pitching: Once McAllister exited after surrendering consecutive fat pitches to Willingham, the second of which he crushed for a deflating two-run shot, Chris Seddon entered the game unable to slow the Twins roll. He allowed three straight to reach on a walk and pair of singles, before Chris Herrmann grounded into an RBI fielder’s choice. In an inning where five straight hitters reached, Indians pitching was wild and ineffective. This was the turning point of the game, as Minnesota really seized control.
Hafner’s return: Prior to the game, Travis Hafner was activated from the disabled list and penciled into the 6th slot in the lineup. He went 0-for-3 with a hit by pitch and strikeout. He reached on an error in the 4th inning, but was gunned down later in the frame while trying to score.
3 Most Wanted
Pride: Fresh off a deflating extra-inning loss in Tuesday’s game, in which the Tribe had runners on the corners in the 10th with no outs, it seemed as if the weathered Wahoos might come into this game and roll over. To their credit, no egregious lapses in effort stood out in this game. In addition to the aforementioned Rottino and the always energized Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall also showed some integrity by running out an infield single in the 9th. Now that the Indians are alone in last, it’ll be interesting to see who shows up every day throughout the last two weeks.
A caught stealing: With two steals against the Tribe in this game, Minnesota is now an unbelievable 26-for-26 in stolen base attempts against Cleveland this season. This ties the mark for the highest number of consecutive steals against one team in a season without a caught stealing in over 60 years. This unambiguously embarrassing stat underscores the season long issue Indians pitchers have had with keeping opposing base runners from running wild.
Pitch around Willingham in the 6th: With two outs and a runner on second, the Indians had the perfect opportunity to pitch around Willingham, who was 3-for-3 heading into this at-bat. Instead of utilizing an open first base, Seddon’s low changeup caught too much of the zone, allowing Willingham to lace it to center for the RBI single. It wouldn’t have ultimately affected the outcome of the game, but it was a bone-headed play nonetheless.
Since they were worried about his injury history it would have made sense for hedging the bet and not having another contract hanging around the neck.