Josh Tomlin showed admirable resilience and the Indians rallied back to erase an early deficit, but it was not enough Saturday night as the Twins beat the Tribe 7-4 at Progressive Field to even the series at a game apiece. The loss dropped Cleveland to 28-24, though the White Sox lost so the Indians remain 1.5 games behind in the AL Central. Meanwhile, Minnesota improved to a still league-worst 19-33.
Tomlin really struggled to find his bearings in the first inning. As a fairly soft-tossing pitch-to-contact hurler he’s prone to getting knocked around, which we saw firsthand as Denard Span, Ben Revere, and Joe Mauer led off the game with three straight singles to put the Twins on the board. Justin Morneau added another RBI base hit and Ryan Doumit loaded the bases with a walk. Trevor Plouffe delivered with a two-run double to cap the rally and put Minnesota up 4-0 before the Indians got a chance to bat.
Luckily for the Tribe, Twins starter P.J. Walters didn’t have his best stuff either. Shin-Soo Choo‘s single and Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Lopez‘ walks loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the first. Michael Brantley hit what looked like an inning-ending double play ball to second, but he hustled down the line and beat the throw to first as Choo crossed the plate to put Cleveland on the board.
The Indians slowly chipped away at the Twins’ lead throughout the middle innings as Cabrera singled Jason Kipnis home in the third and Lou Marson‘s groundout plated Johnny Damon in the fourth. Finally, with one out and runners at the corners in the bottom of the fifth, Brantley delivered with an RBI single to tie the score at 4-4 and knock Walters out of the game.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. Plouffe ripped the first pitch he saw from Tomlin into the left field bleachers in the top of the sixth and Joe Mauer took Tony Sipp deep for a two-run shot in the seventh. Meanwhile Brian Duensing, Jared Burton, Glen Perkins and Matt Capps combined to keep the Tribe’s bats silent from the fifth inning on as the Twins beat Cleveland, 7-4.
The Good: The energy at Progressive Field. Over 25,000 were in attendance Saturday night, and while that sounds unimpressive compared to the crowds who used to pack The Jake every game it’s a clear step in the right direction. And there were times when the place was rockin’. When Ron Gardenhire went out to relieve P.J. Walters of his duties in the fifth inning—well, it felt like the old days.
Josh Tomlin also had a solid start after the first inning, holding the Twins to one run on five hits from the second through the sixth—that he was able to regain his composure was a good sign. And in general, the Tribe didn’t just give up when faced with an early deficit. Always good to see that kind of fight in a team.
The Bad: Tomlin had only one real bad inning, but it was enough to taint the whole outing. His line for the day: five runs (all earned) on 10 hits with a walk and three strikeouts in six innings pitched. Even a weak-hitting team like the Twins will jump on hittable pitches when the guy on the mound doesn’t hit his spots, and that’s exactly what happened Saturday night.
Meanwhile, the Indians seemed to have squandered all their fight in the first few innings. They went 1-for-15 with six strikeouts after P.J. Walters came out. This was a winnable game until the end, but watching the final few frames felt more like a blowout on getaway day.
The “Huh?”: Once again, Jose Lopez was hitting fourth and playing DH. The cleanup spot is universally acknowledged as one of the most important places in the lineup, and the designated hitter’s only job is to hit, yet the Indians have been filling both spots with a man who entered Saturday with an OBP under .300 and an OPS below .700. Meanwhile, Shelley Duncan sat unused on the bench until his pinch-hit single in the ninth (which, by the way, was the Indians’ only hit after the fifth inning) and the clearly superior Matt LaPorta was left in Triple-A.
On a lighter note, the postgame fireworks show was supposedly choreographed to a medley of country music, yet with few exceptions most of the display seemed to be completely unrelated to the music in the background. The giant pyrotechnics were awesome in their own right—they didn’t need the ill-fitting pretext.
Interesting Tidbit: Tomlin allowed only one free pass Saturday night—the first time he’d given up an odd number of walks since April 9 (his first start of the season).