Cleveland’s bullpen couldn’t hold onto a late lead and the Tribe’s bats couldn’t pull ahead in extra innings Tuesday night as the Twins beat the Indians, 6-5, in a 12-inning war of attrition in the opener of a three-game series at Progressive Field.
Things got off to a rough start for the Tribe. Denard Span led off the game with a double off Cleveland starter David Huff, and Ben Revere followed with a bunt single; four pitches into the game, Minnesota had runners at the corners with nobody out. Joe Mauer delivered with an RBI base hit to put the Twins on the board, and Josh Willingham‘s sacrifice fly made it a 2-0 game.
Luckily, it didn’t take the Indians long to strike back. Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Kipnis welcomed Minnesota starter P.J. Walters with back-to-back base hits to start the bottom of the first, and Asdrubal Cabrera‘s groundout brought Choo home to make it a one-run game. Lonnie Chisenhall then took Walters yard for a solo home run in the bottom of the second to bring the score to a 2-2 tie.
The Twins managed a run in the fourth to regain a 3-2 lead, which held into the bottom of the sixth. Back-to-back-to-back singles from Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley, and Russ Canzler loaded the bases with nobody out. Casey Kotchman then reached on a Trevor Plouffe error to score Santana, and Ezequiel Carrera‘s groundout brought Brantley home to give the Tribe a 4-3 lead.
But it wouldn’t last. Josh Willingham’s RBI single off Cody Allen in the top of the seventh brought Denard Span home and tied the game at 4-4 and sent it into extra innings. The Indians had a chance to win it in the bottom of the 10th as they put runners at the corners with one out, but flyouts from Santana, Canzler, and Chisenhall killed the rally before Cleveland could score. The game remained a stalemate for 11 innings.
Things finally unraveled in the 12th. With Scott Maine on the mound and two outs, Darin Mastroianni reached with a single and stole second. Alexi Casilla followed with an infield hit, and Matt LaPorta‘s inattentiveness at first base allowed Mastroianni to come all the way home; Casilla then scored on Pedro Florimon‘s RBI single. Cleveland answered one of the runs in the bottom of the 12th as Carlos Santana hit a solo shot to left field, but it wasn’t enough as the Twins held on for a 6-5 win.
The Good: Every member of the Indians’ starting lineup got a hit, including multihit performances from Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis. Also, the Indians’ bullpen combined to hold the Twins to one run on five hits in 6.2 innings between the fifth and the 11th.
The Bad: David Huff made his first start of the 2012 season and didn’t impress as the Twins rocked him for three runs (all earned) on seven hits in 4.1 innings. His early exit was thanks to an 85-pitch limit, but had he been sharp on the mound he would have been able to stretch that into at least the sixth inning.
Then there’s the part where the Indians had the winning run at third with nobody out in the 10th inning and failed to bring him home. Poor situational hitting has been the story of the Tribe’s season, and that was on full display Tuesday. A simple base hit or even a deep fly ball would have won it for Cleveland.
The “Huh?”: Lonnie Chisenhall is hitting .278/.341/.485 this year and has generally looked great at the plate since returning from his arm injury. Michael Brantley currently owns a .281/.339/.399 line and has generally struggled over the last month-and-a-half. So why was Brantley batting fifth in the lineup while Chisenhall was relegated to the No. 7 spot?
Interesting Tidbit: Per the STO broadcasting team, the Indians set a new franchise record Tuesday by using 10 pitchers in one game.