Twins Attack Clevinger Early, Keep Tribe Bats Quiet; Twins 4, Indians 1
Bob Toth | On 31, Jul 2020
Mike Clevinger replicated some of the wrong parts of his debut effort in his second start of the season on Friday night, as he was tagged for four early runs in a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
The bright spot was that the Indians pitcher and the relievers behind him were able to prevent the high-powered Twins lineup from blowing the game wide open, working out of a couple of jams while sparing the bullpen from having to work at length for the first time this season. The bats could not figure out Twins’ spot starter Randy Dobnak, however, as he kept the Indians effectively off-balance throughout five shutout innings on the mound and the Minnesota bullpen did the rest.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Eight Twins faced Clevinger in the first inning as he needed 38 pitches to get three outs. His first three pitches of the game were off the plate to Max Kepler, and after finding the zone to make the count 3-1, the Twins’ right fielder slugged a 444-foot no-doubter to the vacant seats in right-center. Josh Donaldson singled before a strikeout by Jorge Polanco. Nelson Cruz walked and Eddie Rosario cleared the base runners with a rocket off of the wall in right-center to make it 3-0. Still with only one out, the inning carried on as Jake Cave walked to put two on. Marwin Gonzalez struck out swinging and Luis Arraez flied to center.
After the Indians were retired in order in the second, Alex Avila opened the frame with a big fly to right on a 1-1 fastball to extend the lead to 4-0. Polanco later singled before getting picked off as Clevinger began to settle in some.
Rosario made the curious decision to try to stretch his third inning single into two bases, but was gunned down by right fielder Domingo Santana to prevent a rally from starting.
Clevinger walked the seven, nine, and one hitters in the fourth, but a big double play grounder by Arraez racked up two quick outs. After Avila and Kepler walked, Ehire Adrianza struck out swinging in his first at bat of the game.
Phil Maton relieved Clevinger in the fifth and got into trouble quickly as Polanco doubled to right-center and Cruz moved him to third on a single to right, but the reliever, making his first appearance of the season, got Rosario to pop up to third before striking out Cave and Gonzalez swinging to strand a pair on the corners.
Oliver Perez stranded two in scoring position in a dangerous sixth. He hit Avila with one out and gave up a two-out double to Adrianza, but Polanco could not deliver as he flied to center.
The Indians got another big double play in the bottom of the eighth, as after Arraez drew a walk against Dominic Leone, the Tribe’s right-hander got Avila to line into an inning-ending double play.
Jose Ramirez was robbed twice of plays that could have quickly contributed runs to the otherwise quiet Indians offense on Friday. With Cesar Hernandez on first after a leadoff single to start the ball game, Ramirez rocketed a sinker straight at the first baseman Gonzalez. He snagged the ball and trotted over to first to double up Hernandez.
Ramirez had an RBI opportunity in the third, but was again robbed by Gonzalez. With Beau Taylor at second after reaching on a fielder’s choice and Hernandez at first after his second single of the day, Ramirez jumped another sinker and sent it screaming towards Gonzalez, who pulled the ball from the sky to prevent possible extra bases and the Tribe’s first run of the day.
“Both balls he hit, one could have started a rally, the other would have scored a run,” said Cleveland manager Terry Francona during his post-game interview. “We didn’t do a lot other than that.”
Cleveland stranded leadoff base runners in the fourth and fifth against Dobnak.
GREETING A FORMER FRIEND OF THE FEATHER
The Tribe’s lone run came in the top of the sixth against old friend Tyler Clippard, a part of Francona’s bullpen a season ago. Ramirez drew a leadoff walk and stole second before moving to third on a groundout by Francisco Lindor. Carlos Santana struck out swinging for the second out before one of the more unusual doubles in baseball this season by Franmil Reyes. He sent a chopper back up the middle between the second baseman Arraez and shortstop Polanco. Possibly looking to avoid a collision, neither fully committed to the ball and it glanced slightly off of Arraez’s glove past Polanco and into shallow left-center. Ramirez scored on the play and Reyes alertly hustled over to second. He was stranded there when Jordan Luplow flied to left.
The Indians got only one more runner on base over the final three innings against the Twins bullpen. After a perfect inning from Tyler Duffey in the seventh, Sergio Romo worked around a two-out runner at second. Ramirez got his first hit of the game as he squibbed an end of the bat single to third base against the shifted infield with one out. He moved to second on a slow roller by Lindor for the second out, but C. Santana’s tough day at the plate continued as he struck out looking on a pitch, to be fair, that was off the plate by several inches.
Taylor Rogers got three straight grounders to short to earn his second save of the year in the ninth.
DOBNAK LULLS TRIBE TO SLEEP
Dobnak worked an efficient five innings on Friday, looking nothing spectacular, yet he kept the Indians guessing and off balanced, leading to little traffic overall. He allowed three hits and walked a pair while striking out four.
“We knew he changed speeds and his changeup is a really good pitch,” said Francona. “Some nights, you need little things to go your way.”
CLEVINGER FINDS GROOVE TOO LATE
For the second straight start, Clevinger was touched early. After allowing a pair of two-out solo homers in the first inning of his first start last Saturday against the Kansas City Royals, he gave up three runs on Friday in the first and one more in the second for good measure.
“I think his strike-to-ball ratio was just a little over 50%,” said Francona regarding Clevinger’s outing. “Against a team like this, a lot of deep counts. I think he’s still trying to feel his body, by that probably his legs. Just some pitches that weren’t really where he was trying to locate. I gave him credit, he battled. He could have left that game after two and we’d have been getting our bullpen in a little bit of trouble.”
He survived to give the Indians four innings (88 pitches). He was charged with four runs on six hits with five walks and five strikeouts. He has now allowed four home runs on the year in eleven innings of work.
“It feels like I’m pitching with someone else’s arsenal out there right now,” said Clevinger of his outing. “It’s really just competing. It’s competing to keep us in the game. I’ve been battling since we started back up and started putting a lot of work load. We’re seeing stuff that’s kinda blatant right now. I think fixing those will be a huge thing for me.”
NO HELP FROM THE BOTTOM
The last three hitters in the Indians lineup have failed to provide much of any offense this season, and that continued on Friday. The seven, eight, and nine spots had combined for a .134/.224/.179 slash in seven games with eight singles, one homer, and six RBI with 21 strikeouts in 76 plate appearances.
That group (D. Santana, Taylor, and Oscar Mercado) went 0-for-8 against Twins pitching on Friday with three strikeouts and two walks from Santana.
“We’ve expanded the strike zone a little too much,” said Francona of the offense as a whole. “When you’re getting in situations where they’re going to pitch you backwards, we’ve expanded the strike zone and we’ve made it harder. It’s hard enough.”
Donaldson exited the game after two plate appearances in the first two innings with what the Twins were calling right calf tightness. They expect him to be day-to-day.
The Twins, now 5-2 on the season, hold a half-game lead over the Indians, who dropped to 5-3 with their first road loss of the campaign.
Game three of the four-game set from Target Field is scheduled for a 7:10 PM ET first pitch on Saturday night. Thirty-two-year-old Kenta Maeda (1-0, 3.60 ERA) will make his second start of the season for the Twins after coming over from the Los Angeles Dodgers in an offseason trade. It will be his first career start against Cleveland. Carlos Carrasco (1-0, 3.00 ERA) will look to build on a strong first start in his return to the rotation last Sunday against Kansas City. He is just 7-10 in his career against the Twins in 21 starts and five relief appearances.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images