Derek Lowe threw the fourth shutout of his career to back the Tribe’s strong power display as the Indians (20-16) completed the two-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins (10-26) Tuesday afternoon at Target Field.
Cleveland got out to a quick lead against Twins starter Jason Marquis in the second. Carlos Santana led off with a double; Michael Brantley and Jose Lopez were retired, but Johnny Damon kept the inning alive with a two-out walk. Casey Kotchman then followed with an RBI double to score Santana and put the Tribe in front, 1-0.
The hit parade continued in the third. Shin-Soo started the inning with a nine-pitch battle with Marquis that ended with a leadoff double. First baseman Chris Parmelee snagged Jason Kipnis‘ line drive for the fir out, but Asdrubal Cabrera came through with an RBI double to bring Choo home. Santana ended the rally by grounding into a double play, but the damage was done and Cleveland had a 2-0 lead.
But the real damage came in the fifth. Choo got it started again by knocking Marquis’ first offering out of the park. Cabrera and Santana also homered to give the Indians some insurance runs. It was more than enough to back a stellar complete game shutout from Lowe as Cleveland cruised to a 5-0 win.
The Good: Lowe was terrific Tuesday, going the distance while shutting the Twins out and scattering just six hits through nine innings. His four walks were a bit troubling and he failed to record a single strikeout, but 22 of the 29 balls Minnesota batters hit ended up on the ground. That’s just incredible.
A lot of Tribe hitters had good days at the plate, but the best one to see was Shin-Soo Choo‘s. Just two days after his perhaps too honest admission that he’s nervous about getting beaned when he steps to the plate he went 2-for-4 with a homer, a double, and a walk. Guess his fear isn’t that debilitating.
The Bad: I hate to be the raincloud here, but how is Lowe going to keep pitching this well if he doesn’t strike anyone out? Obviously he’s found a way to get batters out pretty well this year. Just 13 of the 223 batters who have stepped in against Lowe this year have gone down on strikes. He’s always been a pitch-to-contact guy, but is there any way he can sustain this kind of success if he doesn’t miss more bats?
Meanwhile, three Indians hitters went hitless against Marquis: Jason Kipnis, Lou Marson, and Johnny Damon. Kipnis has hit very well this year so one game isn’t a concern and Marson isn’t here for his bat, but Damon is now hitting an anemic .149/.200/.213 on the year. As WaitingForNextYear’s TD said: “Tribe treating Marquis like a Piñata, yet Johnny Damon weakly grounds out twice.” How long before he starts feeling comfortable at the plate?
The “Huh?”: Michael Brantley was hitting fifth in the lineup Tuesday, the first time he’s ever been pencilled into the No. 5 spot. The weirdest part, though, is that it actually made sense—with Choo hitting leadoff and Travis Hafner, Jack Hannahan, and Shelley Duncan all out of the lineup, Brantley was the best choice.
Interesting Tidbit: Tuesday marked the first time the Indians won a game without getting a strikeout was June 9, 1993. Mike Bielecki, Cliff Young, and Eric Plunk combined to nine innings without a punchout in the Tribe’s 3-2 win over the Red Sox. (hat tip: Steve Kinsella)