Ubaldo Jimenez got roughed up again and the Tribe’s offense continued to be on hiatus Sunday afternoon as the Twins beat up on the Indians, 5-1 as the team that entered this weekend with the worst record in the American League completed a sweep of Cleveland. The loss drops the Indians to 50-52, still 5.5 games behind the White Sox in the AL Central.
The first third of the game was fairly uneventful as Jimenez and Minnesota’s spot starter Brian Duensing (filling in for the just-traded Francisco Liriano) kept both teams’ bats at bay until the fourth, when the Indians opened the scoring. Asdrubal Cabrera led off with a single, and Michael Brantley‘s two-out base hit put runners at the corners for Shelley Duncan. Duncan delivered with an RBI base hit to give the Tribe a 1-0 lead before Lou Marson ended the inning with a groundout.
It took the Twins only six pitches to retaliate. Josh Willingham opened the bottom of the fourth with a leadoff walk before Justin Morneau smashed the first pitch he saw out of the park for a two-run homer. Minnesota took a 2-1 lead and never looked back.
The Twins then got a trio of insurance runs courtesy of Ben Revere. The 24-year-old right fielder hit a one-out double in the top of the fifth, then moved to third on Jimenez’ balk and scored on a wild pitch. He struck again in the bottom of the seventh, stepping up to the plate with runners at second and third and driving in both with a two-run single.
And…that was it. Cleveland couldn’t score any more against Duensing, who was followed by the equally successful Alex Burnett, Jared Burton, and Glen Perkins. The Indians went down quietly as Minnesota held on for a 5-1 victory and the three-game sweep.
The Good: Shelley Duncan went 2-for-4 with the Tribe’s only RBI. It’s always nice to see him play well because it increases the likelihood that he’ll get to play more often.
We’ll also put Ubaldo Jimenez here in recognition of the fact that he was better than the box score might suggest. He gave up five runs and and his three walks were more than you’d like to see, but he was lights-out for the first three innings and racked up a half-dozen strikeouts while allowing only six hits. That’s about as good a performance as we can reasonably expect from him right now.
The Bad: The Tribe’s offensive impotence is getting ridiculous. The latest pitcher to make Cleveland’s bats look foolish is Brian Duensing, a 29-year-old swingman who was demoted to the bullpen after posting a 5.23 ERA last year and got the start only because Francisco Liriano was traded. He and the Twins’ relief corps managed to hold the Indians to one run on just seven baserunners. Is there anything else that needs to be said?
The “Huh?”: Jose Lopez entered Sunday hitting a measly .250/.263/.417 against left-handed pitchers. He’s walked just twice in 76 plate appearances against southpaws and has only two home runs. Per wRC+, he’s 22 percent worse than a league-average MLB hitter—and that’s in situations where he has the platoon advantage. And so, I ask for what is not the first and will almost certainly not be the last time: Why is Jose Lopez batting cleanup?
Interesting Tidbit: Had Ubaldo Jimenez not gone out to pitch part of the seventh, he would have left the game having averaged a strikeout per inning. He’s accomplished that feat only five times in 21 starts this year, down from 18 times in 33 outings in 2010.