Offense Falls Flat in Series Finale; Twins 4, Indians 1
Craig Gifford | On 21, Aug 2014
Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber entered Thursday afternoon’s game against the Twins having not allowed more than two earned runs since the All-Star break. He had not lost a game since June 30.
All of that changed at Minnesota’s Target Field as the Twins got to Kluber for three earned runs in seven innings. Combined with a Tribe offense that struggled to do much against Twins No. 1 starter Phil Hughes, Kluber suffered defeat for the first time in almost two months. The Indians lost the third and final game of their road series 4-1.
The Tribe had taken the first two contests in Minneapolis on the back of strong pitching. After allowing the first five Twins batters of the series to score on Tuesday, Cleveland hurlers had shut out the Twins until this afternoon’s affair. The Indians emerged victorious in those tilts and were looking for the sweep.
Thursday’s loss dropped the Indians to 64-62. They fell to six games behind AL Central Division-leading Kansas City, which is off today. The Tribe remain 4.5 games behind the Wild-Card-leading Tigers, missing a chance to pick up ground as Detroit lost 1-0 to Tampa this afternoon.
Although Thursday marked Kluber’s worst outing since a four earned run game against the White Sox on July 11, it was not bad. He earned a quality start and gave his team a chance to win on a day he did not have his best stuff. Kluber, who fell to 13-7 with a 2.46 ERA, struck out eight batters in his seven frames of work. However, he was undone by a rare case of wildness, walking four Twins hitters.
“He didn’t have his command today,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of his top starter. “He still only gave up three runs and it was one for a while. He just answers the bell every five days and he just didn’t command today as well as he normally dos.”
Kluber’s third strike out, which came in the third inning, was a bit historic. It was his 200th of the season. Kluber became the first Tribe pitcher to fan that many in a season since C.C. Sabathia did it in his 2007 Cy Young Award-winning campaign. Kluber is the first Cleveland right hander to sit down that many hitters since Bartolo Colon in 2001.
In the end, the Kluber vs. Hughes matchup was the pitcher’s duel that was expected for a pair of top-of-the-rotation starters who each entered the day with 13 victories.
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when Kluber was the first of the aces to buckle. Kennys Vargas put up the first tally of the afternoon with a home run to left field.
The Indians, who had won seven of their last nine games, overall and nine of eleven at Target Field, seemed like they were going to get the offense going in the visitor’s half of the fifth inning. Zach Walters, picked from Washington in a trade-deadline deal for Asdrubal Cabrera, knocked his fourth homer since arriving in Cleveland and second of the series in Minnesota.
Walters has only been with the Indians for nine games, but has impressed Francona with his ability to drive the ball.
“He comes as advertised,” the Tribe skipper said. “It’s nice to see that in person. When you see a kid hit like that in Triple-A it’s good, but then to see it here … He can hit from both sides of the plate. It’s nice having his bat down there in the bottom of the order.”
However, that would be all the scoring the Indians would do. The Tribe managed just four other hits, all singles as Hughes sailed through his seven innings and picked up his 14th win.
“I felt (Hughes) was really good out there,” Francona said. “Our batters felt the ball was jumping on them a little bit. He was painting the corners. He’s a pretty good pitcher and has had that ability.”
The game remained tied until the sixth, when Trevor Plouffe delivered a one-out, two-run double to put the Twins up with all they runs they would need.
Just in case there was any fear of the Tribe coming back late, Minnesota tacked on an insurance run against Indians reliever Kyle Crockett in the eighth.
The Indians will now return home tomorrow night to start a three-game set a Progressive Field against the American League’s second worst team, the Houston Astros. Carlos Carrasco, winner of his last two starts, will take the mound in Friday night’s series opener against Houston’s Brad Peacock in a 7:05 start time.
Photo: Adam Bettcher/Getty Images