Jason Kipnis hit a grand slam and Derek Lowe made another great start as the Indians beat the Twins, 7-1 in the opener of a three-game set at Progressive Field Friday night. The win bumps Cleveland’s record up to 28-23 (on pace to go 89-73) as the Tribe keeps pace with the first-place White Sox (they too won Friday), while Minnesota’s already AL-worst record fell further to 18-33 as the Indians lit up Carl Pavano.
After both teams went fairly quietly in the first, the Indians got the scoring started in the bottom of the second. It took Pavano just four pitches to get the first two outs (Michael Brantley and Casey Kotchman both grounded out in two-pitch at-bats), but Johnny Damon kept the inning alive by battling back from an 0-2 count for a single. Three pitches later Pavano hung a splitter to Lonnie Chisenhall, who promptly deposited it into the right field stands to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead.
The Tribe added another two-out run in the third as Shin-Soo Choo singled, moved to second on Jamey Carroll‘s error and scored on Michael Brantley’s RBI double, but the real action came in the bottom of the fourth. After Damon led off with a groundout, Chisenhall smoked the first pitch he saw for a base hit and stole second. Lou Marson‘s walk and Choo’s single put the ducks on the pond for Jason Kipnis, who sat on Pavano’s first pitch for a grand slam. By the end of the inning Pavano was out of the game and the Indians were up 7-0.
The Twins’ only action came in the top of the seventh, when Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit, and Brian Dozler all singled and Willingham came home. Nick Hagadone and Jeremy Accardo took it from there and combined for 2.1 shutout innings as Cleveland held on for a big 7-1 victory.
The Good: There was a lot to like about this game. First and foremost has to be Derek Lowe. The veteran sinkerballer celebrated his 39th birthday by holding the Twins to one run on five hits with two strikeouts and a walk in 6.2 solid innings. He didn’t have his usual wormburning stuff (less than half of Minnesota’s batted balls were grounders), but all in al it seemed to work out pretty well for him.
The offensive MVP has to be Lonnie Chisenhall, who went 3-for-4 with a stolen base and his second homer in 13 MLB at-bats this year—he may not have shown any signs that his walk rate is on the mend, but with the kind of power he’s shown (in a very small sample size) that might not matter. Shin-Soo Choo, Jason Kipnis, Jose Lopez, and Johnny Damon all also had multi-hit games, and everyone in the staring lineup except Casey Kotchman reached safely at least once.
The Bad: The Indians combined for 14 hits Friday night, and Casey Kotchman didn’t have any of them. His 0-for-4 game dropped his season triple-slash to a meager .215/.290/.316. His defense means a great deal to this team, but he really is a hole in the lineup at this point.
The “Huh?”: Many expected that the Indians would make a roster move before Friday’s game in the wake of the news that Travis Hafner will be out for more than a month—perhaps calling up Matt LaPorta from Triple-A—but they did not. Meanwhile, Jose Lopez, who has a career OBP under .300 and OPS below .700, found himself DHing and hitting cleanup.
Interesting Tidbit: You’ve heard the cliché, but now Casey Kotchman is quite literally struggling to hit his weight. Friday’s game dropped his average from .221 to .215, and Kotchman is listed at 220 pounds.