Shaky Start, Untimely Hitting Allows Twins To Take Second Game Of Series; Twins 7, Indians 4
By Mike Brandyberry
Sometimes one hit makes the difference.
The Minnesota Twins benefitted from timely hitting early to build a lead—and a Joe Mauer homer late—to down the Cleveland Indians 7-4 Saturday evening at Progressive Field. While the Twins capitalized with two outs, the Tribe could not put together a big inning to take control of the game.
Tomlin struggled from the first pitch of the game, allowing base hits to the first three hitters. The Twins took control in the top of the first inning when Denard Span singled to right field and Ben Revere singled to center. Mauer followed with the third consecutive hit to start the game—a single into the right field corner—to score Span and give the Twins an early 1-0 lead without an out being recorded.
After Josh Willingham popped out to shortstop, Justin Morneau singled to right field to score Revere and move Mauer to third base. Ryan Doumit walked to load the bases before Brian Dozier grounded to Casey Kotchman, who threw home for the force play.
“Everything I threw up there, they were taking it, or putting a good swing on it,” Tribe starting pitcher Josh Tomlin said. “I don’t know how to explain it other than that.”
With two outs, it appeared Tomlin could escape allowing only two runs, but Trevor Plouffe singled to center field to score Morneau and Doumit and spot the Twins with a comfortable 4-0 lead.
“Josh had a rough first inning where he struggled with his locations and they were able to hit those mistakes,” Indians manager, Manny Acta said. “After that, he pitched very well. He had very good command of the ball had better depth with that cutter.”
The Indians had every chance to jump right back into the game in the bottom of the first inning, but were unable to get the big hit when they needed it. Shin-Soo Choo led the inning off with an infield hit and Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Lopez each walked to load the bases with only one out.
Michael Brantley and Kotchman would each have a chance to swing the Tribe right back into the game. However, Brantley would ground to second base and beat out a double play ball that allowed Choo to score, cutting the deficit to 4-1. Kotchman grounded to shortstop for a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
Tomlin would allow two more hits in the second inning, but escape without any further damage. After the first two innings, Tomlin was able to settle down and retire hitters without having to work in and out of jams.
Jason Kipnis would push the Tribe a run closer in the bottom of the third. He would reach first on an infield hit up the middle, then steal second base on a big jump off the Twins pitcher, P.J. Walters. Cabrera would hit a low, looping liner over third base to score Kipnis and cut the Minnesota’s lead to 4-2. Cabrera would be thrown out at second trying to stretch the hit into a double.
In the bottom of the fourth inning the Tribe would scratch out another run. With one out, Johnny Damon walked and Lonnie Chisenhall singled to center field to put runners on the corners. After Chisenhall stole second base, the Tribe was a hit from tying the game. Instead, Lou Marson grounded to shortstop, allowing Damon to score and cut the lead to 4-3. Choo would strike out swinging to end the inning.
“We just couldn’t get that last push, that last hit,” Acta said. “We get that lead there we can probably match up some guys out of the pen there.”
After chipping away for innings, the Tribe would finally tie the game in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kipnis would lead off with a single to right field. Lopez would single to right field, moving Kipnis to third. Brantley would single him home, extending his hitting streak to 11 games and tying the game at four.
That would end Walters evening, pitching four and one-third innings, allowing eight hits, four runs, three walks and two strike outs on 95 pitches. Brian Duensing entered the game and retired Kotchman on a ground ball to second base and Johnny Damon struck out swinging. Lopez and Brantley would be stranded in scoring position, a hit away from a big inning.
“Offensively, it took us five innings to work out of that four run hole,” Acta said. “I felt like we could have done more, we just couldn’t get that big hit to get that big inning.”
The Twins would retake the lead quickly in the sixth inning when Plouffe jumped on the first pitch he saw from Tomlin and lined it over the left field wall for a solo home run, travelling 351 feet. Plouffe’s sixth home run of the season gave the Twins a 5-4 lead.
Tomlin’s night would be complete after six innings, allowing ten hits—all singles except the Plouffe home run—and five runs on 97 pitches. The home run was Tomlin’s sixth bomb he has allowed this season.
“It was a fastball. I missed my spot and it was right over the middle,” Tomlin said. “The guys battled back and tied it up there, my job is to go back out there and put up a zero and I didn’t do that.”
Tony Sipp entered in the seventh inning and continued to struggle as he has all season. Revere led off the inning with an infield hit before Mauer lined a two-run homer into the right, centerfield seats, extending the Minnesota lead to 7-4.
“The big blow was Mauer’s two-run homer, obviously, that really put us behind the eight ball, down three runs it was too much to overcome,” Acta said.
Joe Smith worked a clean eighth inning and Scott Barnes a scoreless ninth inning, but the Tribe could not scratch back into the game again. Matt Capps would allow a base hit in the bottom of the ninth, but the Indians would go quietly. The Tribe’s inability to hang a crooked number in an inning and Tomlin’s rough start were the differences in the contest.
The Tribe will try to take two of three in the series on Sunday when Justin Masterson (2-4, 5.14 ERA) tries to rebound from his last start. He’ll be opposed by lefty, Scott Diamond (3-1, 2.27 ERA) from the Twins. The Tribe will have to improve upon their 4-10 record in games started by southpaws to take the series.
After the game the team announced that Johnny Damon would be placed on the paternity list, missing the next three games, due to the birth of his twin daughters born late Friday evening. Damon is expected to rejoin the team after the game Wednesday in Detroit. Matt LaPorta has been recalled from Triple-A Columbus to take the roster spot.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images