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Second Thoughts: Game #35 - Indians 5, Twins 4

Second Thoughts: Game #35 - Indians 5, Twins 4
May 15, 2012
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  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
CHW 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 1 5 8 1
MIN 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 3 0 4 5 0
W: J. Smith (3-1) L: M. Capps (0-2) S: C. Perez (12)


- The Tribe is staring down a crucial point in the season, after dropping three of four against Boston. If Cleveland continues its recent struggles for a pair of games at Target Field, full on panic might ensue for Tribe fans, in which case someone will need to get Ubaldo Jimenez into the Witness Protection Program, as his head will be craved most of all by the riotous Tribe fan base. The most troubling part of the series in Boston was how quickly the beautiful shot of Beckett being booed off in the 3rd inning transformed into three brutal losses.

- All of you who were rooting for Wheeler to be removed from the ‘pen, you got your wish Sunday afternoon, as the Tribe DFA’ed the troubled bullpen “janitor”.

- Cleveland purchased the contract of Jeremy Accardo from Triple-A Columbus. The 30-year old righty possesses a season line of 2.76 ERA/ 16.1 IP/ 16 SO/ 1.163 WHIP at Columbus.

- Choo in the leadoff spot tonight? Well, Manny gets an A for effort.

- Tribe hitters will take their hacks against washed-up Carl Pavano, who very recently underwent an MRI on his shoulder and it showed inflammation. Amazingly, the 36-year old, who has an ERA north of five on the season, is making the start tonight for the Twins, despite seeing his fastball velocity average in the 85-86 MPH range his last start, down from an average of 89 MPH last season. Please, Tribe hitters, don’t make Pavano look like Cy Young tonight.

The Meat & Potatoes

Well, this game wasn’t a relaxed viewing experience, but it ended in a Tribe win. Cleveland desperately needed a win to forget the Boston series, and despite some faltering from the bullpen, Cleveland pulled out a clutch one-run win over the team with the worst record in the majors.

Following a recent trend of futility, the Tribe wasted a double from Hafner to leadoff the second inning. It was good to see Pronk make some solid contact, but the trio of Santana, Brantley, and Lopez couldn’t come through. Santana struck out for the first out, which particularly hurt because it didn’t advance the runner. Cleveland really needs to get back to hitting with runners in scoring position.

Jeanmar Gomez dominated the Twins lineup last night, cruising through seven strong innings. The only real miscue Gomez made came in the third, when he walked the ninth hitter on four pitches, putting runners on 1stand 2nd, with one out. On an 0-2 count to Span, Gomez missed badly inside and the ball squirted off Santana’s glove for a passed ball. Cue the circus music, Santana proceeded to sail the ball over Lopez at third base, allowing the runner to score.

Outside of this unearned run, Gomez was in complete control for his seven innings of work, allowing a very modest three hits on a mere 97 pitches. He walked three and struck out a pair, while lowering his ERA on the season to 3.75. Gomez challenged hitters, pitching to contact all night long. He had control and sharp movement on nearly all of his pitches, while getting the starting pitching back on track after recent tribulations. Sure, it was against a sorry lineup, but it was pleasing to see Gomez bounce back nicely after his last outing.

In response to the Twins run in the bottom of the 3rd, Kipnis led off the top of the 4th with a single up the middle. I like Manny mixing it up and putting Choo in the leadoff spot tonight, but I would argue that Kipnis needs to be leading off until a better option presents itself. I know he’s a prototypical two-hole hitter, but jumpstarting the offense with a legitimate threat to get on base at the top of the lineup is the bigger priority than giving Kipnis RBI opportunities.

The clear-cut best hitter in the Tribe lineup, Asdrubal Cabrera, came through by following Kipnis’ leadoff single with a slicing liner into the left field corner for a ground-rule double, in spite of Cabrera’s lifetime 1-for-26 hitting mark against Pavano. Unfortunately, since Cabby’s double landed in the seats, it kept Kipnis at 3rd. First pitch swinging, Hafner grounded out to second, scoring Kipnis, and advancing Cabrera to 3rd. Santana followed with an opposite field sac fly, to give the Tribe a 2-1 lead. Brantley popped out to end the inning.

While it was good for Cleveland to score a pair in an inning where they had runners on 2nd and 3rd with none out, I can’t help but want more. This offense constantly seems to shoot itself in the foot when given legitimate big-inning opportunities. Without much speed or power, it’s imperative that this lineup is capable of stringing together several hits against a very beatable pitcher like Pavano.

In the fifth, Jose Lopez impressed with a leadoff laser to the left field corner. Then came the star-crossed Tribe first baseman, Casey Kotchman. Riding a .281 hitting clip over his last ten games, Kotchman crushed a fat changeup to deep right, pushing the Indians to a 4-1 lead. This sequence was encouraging, as the bottom of the lineup card read: Lopez-Kotchman-Duncan. Admittedly, I jumped all over them while watching each of their first at-bats, but for Kotchman to give a cruising Gomez a three-run cushion was huge, at least at that point in the game.

Fast forward to the Twins half of the 8th, Pestano enters the game with a three run lead, as most Tribe fans were likely kicking up their feet to count down the last few outs. Yet, the team’s biggest strength, its bullpen, faltered. And it wasn’t the lesser-feared Tribe pitchers who blew the lead, it was the fan-favorite duo of Pestano and Hagadone. Vinnie P walked the leadoff hitter, and then proceeded to retire Dozier and Mauer, as Span stole second off a one-hop throw from Santana to Kipnis. Willingham then smoked a liner past Lopez at third base to score Span. It’s hard not to believe that a healthy Hannahan, at the very least, knocks that ball down to prevent the run from scoring.

Pestano’s control issues from Thursday carried over to to last night causing Acta to pull him in favor of Hagadone. Right on time to sour Gomez’s dazzling start, Doumit clobbered a 2-0 fastball that was right down Broadway to tie the game and give Hagadone the blown save. Instead of succumbing to the crushing turn of events, Tribe hitters came right back in the ninth. Kotchman slapped a one-out single, followed by a terrible 3-1 swing from Aaron Cunningham to pop out for the second out of the inning. Kotchman took second on a wild pitch, and then scored the go-ahead run on a clutch two-out single to center by a scuffling Choo who had gone 0 for 3 with two strikeouts coming in to the pivotal at-bat. It was refreshing to see the offense pick up the bullpen last night.

Perez, mercifully, saved the dramatics for another day, and retired the Twins 1-2-3 for his 12th save of the season. Whew, that was a close one.

MVP: Jeanmar Gomez – 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R (0 ER), 3 BB, 2 SO, 0.86 WHIP

Defensive Play of the Game: Asdrubal Cabrera snagged a one-hop screamer in the 6th inning. In one swift motion, he picked the ball, spun, and made the throw to get the runner at first. He hotdogs on some defensive efforts, but the balls he gets to usually end with an out.

Offensive Player of the Game: None other than the star-crossed first baseman Casey Kotchman (2-for-4, HR, with two RBI, and a run scored). His two-run bomb proved huge as it extended the Indians lead to three until the bullpen’s troubles.

Optimistic Offensive Note: The bottom of the order went 3-for-11 (.273). Kotchman garnered two RBI, while Duncan amassed a pair of strikeouts. If Kotchman can somehow parlay his recent improvements into a nice month-long run and fortify the bottom part of the lineup, then Tribe fans will forget all about his dismal start.

Underrated Stat of the Night: On a Monday night, for the worst team in baseball, 32,313 fans showed up to Target Field to watch their Twins take the loss. Cleveland still has a firm grasp on the attendance cellar, averaging 14,291 through the first 18 home games, more than 5,000 behind 29th ranked Oakland. I know, Target Field is only in its third year of operation, but c’mon, this is just getting embarrassing.

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