Indians Overcome Early Deficit, Hold On For Win; Indians 7, Twins 6
By Bob Toth
Significant contributions from two September callups, designated hitter Russ Canzler and pitcher David Huff, helped Cleveland overcome an early four-run deficit to claim game one from the Minnesota Twins by a final of 7-6.
The Twins struck for first blood in the bottom of the second against Indians’ starting pitcher, Jeanmar Gomez. Back-to-back walks to the dangerous Josh Willingham and Justin Morneau gave the Twins free base runners. A fielder’s choice groundout by Ryan Doumit forced Morneau at second, but moved Willingham to third. Chris Parmelee lifted the first pitch of his at bat into medium left field, deep enough to drive Willingham home from third on the sacrifice fly for the game’s first run.
Minnesota tacked on more the very next inning. Pedro Florimon singled to center with the first pitch of the inning. Ben Revere followed with a single to left center. A sacrifice bunt by Eduardo Escobar moved both runners up. Joe Mauer was intentionally walked to create a double play situation, but Willingham sent a 2-2 pitch the opposite way into the right field corner to score Florimon and Revere, making it a 3-0 game.
The two RBI for Willingham gave him 100 on the season for the first time in his career. Thirteen of his runs batted in on the season have come against the Indians.
Morneau, the next batter, added a sacrifice fly to right field to give Minnesota starter Liam Hendriks and the Twins a 4-0 lead.
The Indians responded in the fourth with runs of their own. Michael Brantley singled to right field on the first pitch he saw, giving him hits in five straight games. Canzler then sent a laser shot over the wall in left field on the first pitch of his second at bat for a two-run home run.
The homer for Canzler was the first of his Major League career. In 2012, he has now hit 23 home runs between Columbus and Cleveland.
“It’s hard to describe. It’s a great feeling,” said Canzler. “It’s important for me to just get the opportunity. I’m trying to keep things simple and just have fun with it. It’s all we really want is an opportunity to show ourselves. If I can contribute and help the team win some games, that’ll be great. I have a tremendous opportunity here.”
Gomez lasted just three innings. After a good and efficient twelve-pitch first inning, Gomez seemed to lose control. He issued four earned runs on three hits and three walks over 59 pitches for the game. He escaped the second inning with minimal damage, but fell apart in the third.
“Gomez wasn’t aggressive enough,” said Indians’ manager Manny Acta. “He had already given up four runs.”
After a one-two-three inning from David Huff in relief in the fourth, the Indians’ offense struck again. Jack Hannahan led off with a double off of the scoreboard in right field, becoming the fourth Indians’ batter in five chances to reach base leading off an inning. He scored from second on a check swing dribbler by Shin-Soo Choo up the middle that snuck through the infield, making the score 4-3.
The Indians, though, nearly blew their opportunity for more damage after Jason Kipnis flared a double just inside the left field line following Choo. Swinging at a first pitch, Asdrubal Cabrera weakly popped up on a hittable pitch. Carlos Santana grounded a 3-0 pitch to Morneau at first, who alertly threw to the plate and caught Choo in no-man’s land between third and home. An intentional walk to Brantley loaded the bases for Canzler, who sent a slow roller down the third base line that remained in fair territory and leaving Twins’ third baseman Trevor Plouffe with no play. Canzler’s third RBI of the game tied the score at four.
Casey Kotchman grounded out to second with the bases still loaded to end the scoring threat.
Making his 16th career start, Hendriks remained unable to win his first Major League game. He left after five innings, losing a 4-0 lead in his final two innings of work on four earned runs. He allowed eight hits, walked three, and struck out a pair. In his career, he is 0-9, including a 0-7 mark this season.
The Indians took the lead for good in the top half of the seventh. A pair of walks by Kipnis and Cabrera off of Twins’ reliever Tyler Robertson (1-2) forced manager Ron Gardenhire to go to his bullpen and bring in right-hander Alex Burnett.
Burnett allowed the flood gates to rip open. After a fielder’s choice groundout by Santana that moved Kipnis to third and forced Cabrera at second, Brantley singled through the hole into right field to give the Indians the lead.
Canzler singled to short, a hit that ticked just off of the glove of shortstop Florimon to load the bases. It marked the fourth time in four opportunities that Canzler reached base (two singles, one home run, and one walk).
Kotchman, with no hits in 12 at bats on the season with the bases loaded, hit a ground ball back to the pitcher Burnett, who attempted to field it but had the ball glance off of his glove, allowing Kotchman to reach and Santana to score from third, making it a 6-4 lead. A pinch-hit, bases loaded walk from Cord Phelps forced in the Indians’ seventh and final run, the third of the inning.
Huff (1-0), working in long relief after starting in 22 of his 24 appearances in Columbus this season, contained the Twins perfectly after the Indians tied it up and was the surprise of the game. He retired all ten batters he faced in order, striking out four of them. He threw 33 pitches on the game, 24 of which were for strikes.
“All I was trying to do tonight was be aggressive and throw strikes,” said Huff. ”It’s tough luck that we’re not playing for anything. We all have the same mentality about finishing strong and putting us in a good spot for next year. I’m just taking the opportunity, whatever they give me.”
“[He] pretty much saved the day for us. He came in and shut them down,” said Acta. “[He] pitched very well. Three of the four strikeouts were on fastballs. He was aggressive and used both sides of the plate. Going forward, we’re going to give him some more looks.”
Cleveland’s bullpen took care of the rest for the Indians. Joe Smith worked two-thirds of an inning in the seventh, giving up a hit and a walk but retiring Escobar on a big inning-ending strikeout.
Vinnie Pestano gave up a broken bat single to center by Mauer and an RBI double into the left field corner by Willingham to lead off the eighth, but then retired the next three batters in the air to add to his all-time Indians-best hold total.
Chris Perez worked the ninth. He started the inning by giving up a bloop double that fell at the right field line between a husting Kipnis and jogging Choo. A groundout to short by Florimon moved pinch-runner Alexi Casilla to third and a groundout to third by Revere pushed the runner home, making it a 7-6 game. Matt Carson, pinch-hitting for Escobar, struck out swinging on four pitches to end it.
The Indians improve to 59-79 on the season. They have lengthened their fourth-place lead over the Twins to three games.
The Twins fall to 56-82, statistically securing a season below the .500 mark. They remain in fifth place in the American League Central with the worst record in the AL.
The two teams will next take the field Saturday evening in game two of this four game series.
Zach McAllister (5-6, 4.26) will get the start for the Indians. He looks to bounce back from an 8-3 loss to Texas on Sunday, where he gave up seven earned runs in five innings of work. Four longballs aided in the outcome. Right-hander Cole De Vries (4-5, 4.41) will make his 16th start and 17th appearance overall for the Twins. He has won his last two starts after losing the previous three decisions.
Game time from Target Field is scheduled for a 7:40 pm ET start and will be broadcast on WKYC, SportsTimeOhio, and the Cleveland Indians radio network.
Photo: Hannah Foslien / Getty Images