Second Thoughts: Game #53 - Twins 6, Indians 3
The Indians went into Sunday's rubber match against the Twins needing a win before a tough nine-game vacation that features games against the Tigers, Cardinals and Reds. The game ultimately played out much like Saturday's. The Indians found themselves in an early deficit, chipped away at it, and the bullpen struggled and put the score further out of reach.
Shin-Soo Choo singled and doubled against Twins' starter Scott Diamond. The single came on a breaking ball low and away that he put a short swing on and lined in left field; the double, a fastball that he drove into a huge right-center gap. Both were great swings, something that can't be said for many of his at-bats against left-handers this season.
Michael Brantley extended his hit streak to 12 games with a pair of singles. Over that span, he is 17-for-46 (.370) with nine runs scored, three doubles, 10 runs batted in and six stolen bases. He also made another incredible catch in center field, snaring a wind-blown drive over his shoulder.
Not only did Lou Marson hit his way on base for a sixth straight game, but he even punished a ball into the left-center gap for a run-scoring double. Him pulling pitches, and pulling them for power is a rarity.
All things considered, this was a positive start for Justin Masterson. Two of the three Twins that came around to score against him were put on base by walks, but he did a good job of keeping himself and his team in the game. One of the runs came on a groundball that deflected off Masterson into no man's land, and another, courtesy of a sacrifice fly in a wild inning that featured two bunt base hits. He was mostly just a victim of a few fluky plays and a number of close calls that all went against the Indians. Beyond that, he defended his position very well, making four outs himself.
The Indians drew zero walks against Twins pitching. Over the first 43 games of the season, they walked 190 times (4.4 per game). In the last 10, they have managed just 17 total (1.7). The team is missing two of their most patient hitters, but it seems like their absence in the middle of the lineup has even caused a trickle-down effect, in terms of approach.
Nick Hagadone had about his roughest appearance of the season, allowing two runs on three hits in 0.2 innings. He did record two more strikeouts and not give up any free passes, however.
With Johnny Damon on paternity leave, Aaron Cunningham took his place in left field. His three at-bats consisted of two jammed groundouts and a 2-0 infield fly, before being pinch-hit for by Casey Kotchman in the ninth.
Taking Damon's place on the roster was oft-debated Matt LaPorta. In his first at-bat back in the Majors, he struck out on four pitches, waving at a changeup away and losing his bat in the process. He did collect one hit, a leadoff single to begin the ninth, but instant reaction is that this is the same mostly overmatched hitter we have seen in the past.
Whether the team is facing a left or right-handed starter, Lonnie Chisenhall should be in the lineup every day. His struggles against southpaws on both levels are well-documented, but not being exposed to them here isn't going to help him improve any.
The team only managed four at-bats with runners in scoring position. They were able to capitalize on one, but that just isn't enough of an opportunity to score. And compared to the Twins' 16... no chance.
A special mention goes to Twins shortstop, Brian Dozier. He committed three errors in this game, but was only charged for two.
The team will have Monday off before starting the toughest road trip of the season in Detroit on Tuesday. Ubaldo Jimenez, pushed back from his scheduled Saturday start for extra mechanical work, will take the mound.
The Indians so far look to have made a calculated error in the construction of the lineup. They tried to pass it off that they play 70% righties and yadda yadda yadda, but in the end, when the games count and the innings count, they are getting bombarded with lefties.
I think the tribe brass screwed themselves by bringing up LaPorta. They might have have been able to trick some team into thinking he can hit major league pitching and into trading a reliever or a versatile bench player. Instead this just proves that he is still a strikeout machine who will never hit at this level!
Manny stacked the lineup as much as possible with right-handed hitters (LaPorta, Duncan, Cunningham, and Lopez), but the Tribe still failed to get an earned run off Diamond in seven innings. They're now 4-12 when left-handers start.