Losing Streak Hits a Perfect 10, Tribe Pounded Again; Twins 14, Indians 3
By Steve Eby
If losing baseball games was an Olympic event, even the Russian judge would have to give the Indians a perfect 10.
The last time the Indians won a baseball game, the 2012 Summer Olympics hadn’t even started yet. The terrific and exciting comeback against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers that seems so long ago occurred the night before the opening ceremony in London. Since then, the Indians had lost nine in a row, mostly in embarrassing fashion. In comparison, the United States has won 63 medals in the Summer Games over the same time span. A 10-run second inning by the Twins on Monday night assured that the Tribe’s losing streak would continue, as Minnesota crushed Cleveland by a score of 14-3.
The Indians struck first, but squandered a golden opportunity to put up a crooked number against Twins starter Scott Diamond. After Indians starter Zack McAllister put up a scoreless first inning, Jason Kipnis led off the bottom of the first by reaching base on an awkward looking error by Minnesota second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo loaded the bases with back to back singles off of Diamond and the Indians looked to be in business with the bags juiced and nobody out. Just as the Tribe has done all season long, however, the production with the bases loaded was minimized as the Indians scored only one run on a double play ball hit by Carlos Santana. As if he was just following the trend of the past week and a half, McAllister gave the lead away immediately.
The combination of Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau tattooed Tribe pitching last weekend to the tune of a .348 batting average, four homeruns and 11 RBI in the three game series. Their dominance over the Indians continued and kick started the huge second for Minnesota, as Willingham led off the top of the second with a moonshot that landed on the back of the homerun porch to tie the score at one. Not to be outdone, Morneau followed with a homerun of his own, this one landing deep in the lower deck in right. From there, the wheels fell off for McAllister, as the Twins laced him and reliever Josh Tomlin all over the yard as walks and a crucial error plagued the Indians pitching staff again.
After the back-to-back jacks, Twins catcher Ryan Doumit laced a double to left and McAllister retired Nishioka on a groundout and Brian Dozier on a strikeout. Former Indian Jamey Carroll followed with a walk and then Denard Span grounded a ball to Kipnis that should have ended the inning and stopped the damage at two runs. Kipnis’ throw, however, pulled Santana off of the first base bag, scored Doumit, and opened the floodgates on McAllister. The bad throw also snapped a 56 game errorless streak for Kipnis.
Ben Revere lined an RBI single up the middle to extend his hitting streak to 20 games and Joe Mauer followed with a double in the left-centerfield gap that scored two more runs. Batting for the second time in the inning, Willingham then walked and Morneau got his second hit of the frame as his single scored Mauer. Tribe manager Manny Acta then pulled the struggling McAllister to bring in Tomlin, who was crushed last Friday night by the Twins in Minneapolis. Doumit wasted no time in welcoming Tomlin back to the mound by clubbing a three run homer to right, moving the score to 10-1 Twins and closing the book on McAllister. “He just didn’t make good pitches at all,” Acta said. “There were not many bloopers out there. Guys were squaring the ball pretty good.” By the time the dust had settled and the inning was over, McAllister had raised his American League leading total of unearned runs to 18 for the season.
The Twins did not let off of the gas after their big second inning. In the top of the fourth, Minnesota added two more runs on Morneau’s second mammoth homerun of the ballgame. The blast came on a 74 mph hanging curveball from Tomlin that Sports Time Ohio announcer Rick Manning described as “like a slow-pitch softball”. With a 12-1 lead, the Twins were putting up softball-like numbers.
Minnesota added another run in the sixth, this time off of reliever Tony Sipp. Revere beat out an infield single with one out for his third of four hits in the ballgame and Mauer followed by driving him home with a double into the right-center gap.
Diamond, meanwhile, had been cruising through the Indians anemic offense, setting the Tribe down scoreless through five after his somewhat-rocky first inning. The Indians finally got to him again in the sixth, as Santana blasted a two run homerun to the bleachers in centerfield, cutting the score to 13-3. It was Santana’s 12th homerun of the year and his seventh in his last 19 games and it, along with the unearned first inning run, would be all of the damage that Diamond and the Twins would surrender. For the night, the Twins promising young lefty would pitch seven innings allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits, walking only one and striking out three. The future appears bright for Diamond, as he now boasts a record of 10-5 with a 2.91 ERA.
Minnesota would conclude the scoring for the evening in the top of the eighth, as Tribe reliever Esmil Rogers escaped a bases loaded, nobody-out jam, allowing only a single run on a Willingham groundout.
“It’s an everyday thing,” Acta said. “I’m not putting together the 10 games. I’m not counting. I just can’t wait to win a ballgame. I’ve got to show up here with the same face, prepare myself and just keep (the players morale level) up. No one is happy losing, obviously, but you can’t start acting crazy and showing any weakness to the (players). We’re upbeat…and can’t wait to get to the ballpark tomorrow to try and win a ballgame.”
Acta’s optimism is welcomed, but not warranted. If the Indians had hit rock bottom on Sunday after blowing a three run lead with two outs and nobody on base in the bottom of the 10th, they must have brought an air hammer with them to the bottom of the hole because they are still digging. During the Olympic-sized 10 game losing streak, the Tribe has been outscored 88-31 and have lost six games by five or more runs. Four of those losses were by seven or more runs and 11-run losses to the Twins have bookended the streak. The Twins, meanwhile, have won eight out of eleven games over the same span and now sit only two games behind the reeling Tribe for third place in the AL Central.
“I worry about our starting rotation,” Acta said. “Somebody needs to out there and give us something close to a quality start. We’re going out there and every day before the fifth we’re down by 10. It’s hard. Somebody needs to get out there and set the tone.”
The series continues Tuesday night at 7:05 as Corey Kluber (0-0, 12.46) will try to set that tone for the Indians. The Twins will counter with Sam Deduno (3-0, 2.48), who dominated the Tribe in Minnesota on July 28.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images