Did the Tribe Win Last Night? No. Bruce Chen’s Indians debut on Saturday did not go as scripted as the Twins beat the Indians by a score of 7-4. Chen allowed six runs on 10 hits in four innings and was hit with the loss while the Tribe offense could not solve Minnesota starter Phil Hughes until they finally cracked the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth.
The Indians were trailing 7-0 when they scored on Michael Brantley’s RBI single, but the damage had already been done by the Twins offense. Minnesota used multi-hit efforts from six of their starters, including homeruns from Torii Hunter and Brian Dozier, to dominate the game early. The Tribe scored their final three runs in the seventh inning, as doubles from Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn were followed by a pinch-hit, two-run homerun by David Murphy to put the score at 7-4. Fresh off the disabled list this week, Swisher was 4-4 on the afternoon. The Indians put together another potential rally in the bottom of the ninth, but Twins closer Glen Perkins retired Brandon Moss and pinch hitter Ryan Raburn to end the ballgame with Indians on second and third.
WP: Hughes (2-4, 5.11) LP: Chen (0-1, 13.50) Save: Perkins (11)
Key Inning: Naming the key inning as one where the losing team only cut a six run deficit to a three run one may seem strange, but the bottom of the seventh truly was the key inning of Saturday’s affair. The Tribe trailed 7-1 when the inning started and cut the lead to 7-4 on Murphy’s homerun. After Jason Kipnis singled and Brantley and Brandon Moss walked to load the bases with two outs, the Tribe suddenly had the potential go ahead run at the plate with Lonnie Chisenhall batting. Twins reliever Aaron Thompson saved the day for Minnesota, however, as Chisenhall popped out weakly to centerfield.
Player of the Game: Hunter got the scoring started in the first inning with a homeurn, singled to continue a third inning rally and then alertly scored from second on an infield single. With two outs, Eduardo Escobar grounded a ball up the middle that Jose Ramirez fielded in short centerfield with a diving stop. Hunter never stopped sprinting and was able to score as Ramirez’s throw from his backside was far off-line. Hunter continued his big day with a single in the fifth and finished the game 3-5 with the homerun, one RBI and three runs scored.
Standings: The Indians continued their season-long downward spiral as they continue to post the worst record in the American League at 10-19. Only Milwaukee currently has a worse record than the Indians in the National League as the Brewers sit at 9-21.
-Chen was activated on Saturday prior to the game when his contract was purchased from AAA Columbus. While with the Clippers, Chen posted a 2-1 record and a 1.74 ERA. To make room for Chen on the 40 and 25-man roster, reliever Anthony Swarzak was designated for assignment.
-With 82 career victories coming in, Chen had an opportunity to make history on Saturday and become the winningest Panamanian-born pitcher in Major League history. Although he failed to do so, Chen remains tied with former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera for first place on this list.
-With his first inning homerun, Twins outfielder Torii Hunter currently has 35 round-trippers against the Indians in his career—second most of any active player. It was also Hunter’s 20th jack at Jacobs/Progressive Field, putting him in second place for an opposing player in the ballpark’s history as well. Hunter sits behind only Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera on both of those Indian-killing lists.
Analysis: Despite his rocky Tribe debut, Chen has a chance to stick around in Cleveland’s rotation for the long haul. Chen took the spot in the rotation that was open when TJ House went on the disabled list last week with shoulder inflammation, but House had been pitching poorly prior to his injury. House was a mess in four starts, working just 13 innings, but allowing 21 hits and 19 earned runs. House had walked 12, hit two batters and struck out just seven during his sophomore campaign.
Although House had some success in 2014 as a rookie, he seemed forced into the Big League rotation out of desperation and one has to wonder how ready for Major League action House actually is. A left-handed veteran of now 17 Major League seasons, Chen could be in Cleveland to stay if he can have any kind of success while here.
Up Next: The Indians will look to avoid the sweep on Sunday at Progressive Field before an off day on Monday. Danny Salazar (3-1,3.81) will get the ball for the Tribe while Minnesota will counter with right hander Trevor May (2-2, 4.15). Salazar currently leads the Major Leagues with an average of 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings. The game is scheduled to start at 1:10pm and can be seen on SportsTime Ohio and heard on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.