Sometimes a team just has your number, despite all logic and reason. Other times, your starting pitcher is pitching through a potential concern in his throwing arm and the results of the game are far less important than the pending MRI on Tuesday.
The Cleveland Indians lost 12-5 on Monday in a game that was close for two innings. Twins rookie Max Kepler had himself a game to be remembered the rest of his life, while Indians starter Danny Salazar was tagged early and his less than positive comments postgame gave fans some concern that something is wrong with their All-Star starting pitcher.
“There’s something in my elbow,” he shared after the game. “I don’t know what it is. We don’t know. I think we’re going to find out tomorrow.
“It’s been there for a while, but it’s getting worse. I want to find out what’s going on so I know what’s in there.”
Salazar has struggled with issues with his right elbow for several weeks, holding him out of the All-Star Game and pushing him back to be the last starter to debut in the second half. His results on the field have suffered, as evidenced on Monday night.
Minnesota put up two runs in the first as Joe Mauer and Kepler proved to be a deadly tandem at the top of the Twins lineup. Brian Dozier singled to lead off the game but was picked off stealing. Mauer walked before Kepler parked a two-run homer into the stands in right-center.
The Indians bounced back and responded with a big first inning of their own against rookie starter Jose Berrios, recalled from Rochester for the start. With two outs, Francisco Lindor started the action with a single to left. Mike Napoli was hit by a pitch with the count full before Jose Ramirez once again delivered big in the clutch, scoring Lindor on a single to right. Lonnie Chisenhall doubled home both runners on the next pitch with a shot into the left field corner to give Cleveland a 3-2 lead.
Salazar could not maintain the lead, giving up a leadoff homer to Eddie Rosario to start the second to tie the game at three. In the third, the Twins would rip the game open and send Salazar to an early shower as Mauer singled to start the frame and trotted the rest of the way on Kepler’s second two-run homer in as many at bats. After a walk to birthday boy Kennys Vargas, Salazar left for Austin Adams. Adams got an out before a single by Eduardo Escobar and a walk by Rosario loaded the bases. Jorge Polanco put the game out of reach with a bases clearing triple to make it an 8-3 game.
Berrios was locked in after his first inning struggles, retiring 15 straight batters before Napoli reached on an error with two outs in the sixth. Kepler added another two-run blast in the top of the frame, chasing home Mauer after his leadoff single.
Mauer got his fourth hit of the night with a leadoff homer off of Andrew Miller to start the eighth. Escobar later drove in a run with two outs on a single to center to score Kurt Suzuki, who had doubled before him.
Cleveland mustered two more runs late against Buddy Boshers. Carlos Santana singled and scored two outs later on a deep blast to center by Napoli, his 25th homer of the season to give the game its final score, 12-5.
Cleveland (60-43) saw its three-game winning streak come to an end with the loss. They are now 4-2 on their nine-game homestand. Minnesota (41-64) improved to 18-32 on the road. They are 6-4 against the Tribe this season.
SALAZAR’S SHORT AND CONCERNING START
Salazar’s statements about the status of his right elbow and reoccurring pain in between starts is reason for concern. His recent outings have not been to the quality of his earlier starts this season.
On Monday, he lasted just three batters into the third inning. Salazar (11-4, 3.38 ERA) was credited with a career-low two innings of work and was charged with six runs (all earned) on six hits. He walked two and struck out three while coughing up three home run balls. Thirty-one of 55 pitches thrown crossed the plate as strikes.
“He obviously doesn’t look like himself,” shared Francona in his postgame press conference. “Hopefully, nothing [is found] and then we can move forward, and I think Danny can relax a little bit and if there’s a need to look at it further, we can. I just think that makes sense, because the last couple of outings, he hasn’t been himself.”
KEPLER COMING ON STRONG
Rookie outfielder Kepler has put on a display of power that may ultimately get him some consideration in the Rookie of the Year balloting in the American League this season.
He went 4-for-6 against Cleveland pitching, taking Salazar deep twice and reliever Cody Anderson deep once. The four hits, three homers, and six RBI all established new career highs, while the three runs scored matched his previous best set on June 19 against the New York Yankees. He became just the third member of the Minnesota Twins organization (since relocating from Washington) to have three homers and six RBI in a game, last done by Justin Morneau in 2007. The 23-year-old from Berlin, Germany, now has 14 homers and 44 RBI on the season.
Kepler entered the series with a 2-for-14 mark this season against the Indians with a double and a homer. The last player to hit three homers and drive in six against Cleveland was Paul Konerko in 2009.
BERRIOS BETTER THE SECOND TIME AROUND
Berrios (2-1, 8.57) looked much better in his second outing against the Indians and seemed to settle down after the shaky first inning. He worked six innings and left with a sizeable lead after having allowed three runs on four hits with no walks and five strikeouts.
The 22-year-old Puerto Rican rookie set a new career high for innings pitched and pitches thrown in an outing. It was his first start since May 16 for the Twins and was a marked improvement on that outing – he was charged with seven runs on three hits and four walks in just two-thirds of an inning in a 10-8 loss to the Detroit Tigers. He amazingly did not suffer the loss in that game.
MAUER MAKES UP FOR MISSED OPPORTUNITIES WITH BIG GAME
First baseman Mauer had struggled against the Indians this season, hitting just .172 (but with a .368 on-base percentage). Two of his five hits were doubles coming in.
He put up a 4-for-5 game, reaching base safely five times and scoring four. He had a pair of singles, a double, and a solo homer in addition to a walk as he set the table repeatedly for Kepler’s big day.
WHEELING AND DEALING
The Twins pulled off several trades prior to the deadline.
Left-handed reliever Fernando Abad was shipped to the Boston Red Sox for minor league pitcher Pat Light. Right-handed starter Ricky Nolasco, who was set to start Wednesday’s game, and Alex Meyer were traded to the Los Angeles Angels for Hector Santiago and minor leaguer Alan Busenitz.
INDIANS ADD GUYER, SUBTRACT URIBE, DEBUT MILLER
Cleveland announced a little over an hour prior to the deadline that it had acquired outfielder Brandon Guyer from the Tampa Bay Rays for minor league outfielder Nathan Lukes and pitcher Jhonleider Salinas.
In an unrelated move, the Indians also announced that they had designated veteran third baseman Juan Uribe for assignment. The struggling corner man and clubhouse favorite was let go to create a roster spot on the 25- and 40-man rosters for Miller.
Another move will need to be made on Tuesday to formally add Guyer to the mix.
Indians pitching gave up 19 hits and 12 runs to the Twins on Monday. Mauer and Kepler led the way with four hits each, while the last five batters in the lineup had two hits each. The birthday boy Vargas was the only Minnesota hitter to go hitless.
By comparison, Cleveland had just six hits in the ball game. Ramirez had a pair and drove in one of the Indians’ five runs. Napoli and Chisenhall each drove in two.
SANTANA’S HAMMY OKAY
Santana was back in the starting lineup after appearing to be in some discomfort late in the game on Sunday with a left hamstring cramp.
A pair of right-handers will duel on Tuesday night in game two of the four-game set from Progressive Field. Minnesota will send right-hander Kyle Gibson (3-6, 4.54) to the bump, while Cleveland will counter with Carlos Carrasco (7-4, 2.45). Gibson gave up four runs on ten hits in six innings in his only start against the Indians this season. Carrasco won his only start versus the Twins in 2016, giving up two runs over six and two-thirds innings.
Game time in downtown Cleveland is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: AP Photo/Ron Schwane