Tribe Defense and Bullpen Kicks Away Victory on Way to 11th Straight Loss; Twins 7, Indians 5
By Mike Brandyberry
Indians Manager Manny Acta said they needed a quality start to snap their losing streak. Corey Kluber gave the Tribe just what they needed but it wasn’t enough as the Tribe committed three errors and allowed five unearned runs in the last three innings to grab defeat from the jaws of victory, 7-5.
Kluber out-pitched the Twins young right-hander Sam Deduno, putting the Tribe in position to snap their ten game losing streak. However, errors by Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis in the seventh and Casey Kotchman in the ninth helped paved the way to Chris Perez’s fourth blown save and extend the losing to eleven consecutive games.
“A hard one, tough, guys played their heart out, but unfortunately we were killed by some of the base runners we put on and then not being able to make plays late in the game,” Acta said. “We had a four run lead, but we gave up six runs due to the way we played defense late in the game.”
Minnesota would quickly put the Indians in an all too familiar hole in the first inning. After Kluber retired the first hitter, Ben Revere extended his hitting streak to 21-games with a base hit to right field. Revere’s streak is the third longest in the American League this season. After Joe Mauer walked and Josh Willingham flew out to left field, Justin Morneau laced a two-out base hit to right centerfield to score Revere and give the Twins a 1-0 lead before the Indians could even get to bat.
The Indians would battle back to tie the game in the bottom of the first, however. Jason Kipnis would be hit by the pitch to start the inning, then go from first to third base when Asdrubal Cabrera singled through the right side of the infield. With runners on the corners and no one out, Shin-Soo Choo narrowly avoided a 4-6-3 double play when he was able to beat the throw, forcing a fielder’s choice and scoring Kipnis. Carlos Santana would follow and this time ground into the same double play to end the inning, but leave the Tribe tied at one.
The Wahoo Warriors piled on in the second inning, giving themselves a rare early lead. Michael Brantley lead off the inning with a walk and after Casey Kotchman grounded out, Shelley Duncan crushed a two-run home run into the bleachers for a 3-1 Indians lead. It was Duncan’s 10th home run of the season.
Jack Hannahan followed Duncan’s blast with a single to set the table again. Ezequiel Carrera struck out and Jason Kipnis walked before Cabrera singled to centerfield to drive home Hannahan and give the Indians a 4-1 lead after two innings.
The Tribe would run Deduno from the game after only four innings. He didn’t have the dominance he had on July 28 in Minnesota when he allowed only two hits and one run over seven innings. On this evening Deduno would only survive four, allowing five hits and four runs, while striking out three on 87 pitches. While he worked in and out of jams, the crushing blow was Duncan’s homer in the second inning.
Meanwhile Kluber cruised for the Tribe, providing the quality start they so desperately needed. After allowing two hits in the first inning he would settle in. He avoided a jam in the top of the fifth inning when Denard Span doubled and Revere walked with one out, but Kluber induced Mauer into a double play to end the inning and extinguish the rally. Kluber has rebounded nicely from a six-run shellacking in the first inning of his first start in Kansas City.
“Kluber gave us what we needed today, despite not having good command and pitching behind in the count,” Acta said. “He made good pitches when he had to and took us into the seventh inning. Unfortunately our two strengths during the season, our defense and our bullpen betrayed us today.”
Casey Kotchman helped Kluber keep the lead, and his quality start, intact in the top of the sixth when Ryan Doumit doublEd High off the centerfield wall with two outs. Tsuyoshi Nishioka hit a one bounce smash down the first base line that Kotchman saved from being a double and flipped to Kluber just in time for the final out.
“I didn’t feel great,” Kluber said. “I was a little erratic, but I was able to make pitches when I need to. For the most part I was able to escape the damage I got into.”
Cleveland responded to the glovework and tallied another run in the bottom of the sixth when Kipnis led off the inning with a walk and with two outs Santana doubled into the right field corner to score him all the way from first base. Santana was thrown out at third trying to advance on the relay, but the Indians would extend their lead to 5-1.
Kluber started the seventh inning, but wouldn’t last long after allowing a double to Brian Dozier to lead off the inning. A groundball to Cabrera at shortstop that was bobbled and ruled an error put runners on the corners with no one out and finished Kluber’s night. When the book finally closed on his evening Kluber pitched six innings, allowing six hits, three runs—only one earned, while walking three and striking out three on 96 pitches.
“Obviously it gives you confidence in my second start,” Kluber said. “Even if I get in a jam, I can still trust my stuff to execute pitches.”
Tony Sipp entered the jam and promptly popped up Span on the infield and got Revere to ground out to second base. Revere’s grounder scored Dozier from second to make the score 5-2 Tribe, but Sipp would walk Mauer, forcing Acta to go to Joe Smith to face Josh Willingham. Smith would hit Willingham, one of the Indians’ biggest nemesis, to load the bases.
Still with two outs, Smith induced Morneau to ground to second base for what could have been the final out, but the ball rolled through Kipnis’ legs and two runs scored to cut the Tribe lead to 5-4. Chris Seddon would be summoned from the bullpen to retire Doumit on a ball deep in the hole at shortstop. Cabrera’s play to retire him was the toughest play of the inning that garnered three unearned runs and left the Indians clinging to a one run lead.
Vinnie Pestano worked the eighth inning, creating further tension with two outs. After retiring the first two hitters Jamey Carroll singled down the right field and Span walked to set the table, but Revere grounded to Cabrera at shortstop who very narrowly retired Span on the force play at second base to end the inning.
Chris Perez entered to record the save in the ninth, but losing streaks don’t die easily. With one out Perez gave up a single to Willingham, who would be pinch-run for by Darin Mastroianni and promptly stole second base. Morneau grounded to the normally sure-handed Casey Kotchman, but he let the ball carom off his glove and into the outfield, allowing Mastroianni to score and tie the game at five.
“It took a bad hop, obviously an unfavorable bounce off my wrist for us,” Kotchman said. “Actually it started off foul and kicked a couple times and took a bad hop.”
“When things are going bad, that’s what happens,” Acta said. “We go around the infield and three guys who have been tremendous and played good defense all year made costly errors. Those guys also made some good plays like Cabrera and Casey (Kotchman) made a couple earlier in the game. That’s the way the ball bounces and it’s just not bouncing right, right now.”
The damage was far from done though because Doumit doubled to the right centerfield wall and Nishioka hit a sacrifice fly to left field to give the Twins the lead. Dozier singled to shallow left field to score Doumit giving the Twins a 7-5 lead.
“After that play it is still a tie game, the game’s not over,” Perez said. “We still have a chance to win it if I make some pitches and get out of it. Yeah it sucks that he missed that ball, but it wasn’t an easy play.”
After Carroll singled and Span walked, Acta had no choice but to remove Perez from the game to a round of boos and another shattered opportunity at a win.
The mild-mannered Acta explained that he’s as frustrated as everyone player on the team, even if his emotions don’t seem to show it at times.
“When I flip tables, I just don’t do it in front of you,” Acta said. “When I say bad words—in both languages—I just don’t say it in front of you. I just know how to behave, it doesn’t mean I don’t do some of the stuff you are wondering about. We’ve done everything. I’m going to take I-90 and go home. I’m not going to crash into anybody because of what’s going on. I’m going to get ready for tomorrow and play the game.”
The Tribe’s losing streak now moves to 11 games and can tie the franchise record tomorrow afternoon against the Twins’ left-hander Brian Duensing (2-6, 4.39 ERA). The Indians are 10-24 against southpaws this season. Cleveland will counter with Justin Masterson (7-10, 4.78 ERA). Game time is slated for 12:05 pm. With no television, the game can be heard on WTAM-1100 AM and the Indians Radio Network.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak