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Defensive miscues in ninth lead to devastating extra inning loss in Minnesota

When Josh Tomlin comes into a tie game in extra innings, a lot of things must have gone incredibly wrong. And they had.

Hannah Foslien

Game 153: Twins 5, Indians 4 (10 Innings)

Box Score

Tribe falls to 79-74

Perhaps the Indians were just delaying the inevitable, but even so, the inevitable still stings.

After winning three out of four in Houston despite only scoring nine runs, the team got into Minnesota early this morning a tired team but one that still had an outside shot of making the playoffs. Lots of things had to go right, but with one of the teams ahead of them in the standings on their schedule, they just needed one other team to falter down the stretch. Of course, that assumed that they'd keep winning, and of late their wins have been by razor-thin margins.

Not only were the Indians sleep-deprived, but the pitchers' arms were tired as well. To take the final game in Houston the Indians needed to play 13 innings, and all the regular relievers were used in that game. So not only did the Indians need a win, they really needed a win by a sizable margin. Neither happened, though for the longest time, it looked like they'd skate by yet again with a tense one-run victory.

Phil Hughes, the Twins' best pitcher, was starting, and after the first couple innings it looked as though the Indians wouldn't touch him. A generous outside corner allowed him to live in that thimble-sized area the first time through the order, but adjustments were made. With two outs in the fourth, David Murphy doubled , then scored on a  Lonnie Chisenhall line drive up the middle. Thanks to Aaron Hicks' wild throw towards the plate, Chisenhall was able to go to second, and scored himself when Mike Aviles lined a single that just glanced off the glove of Minnesota shortstop Danny Santana.

The Twins, meanwhile, would do their early scoring via the longball. In the third Trevor Bauer's personal nemesis Oswaldo Arcia jerked a hanging curve ball over the fence in right, and an inning later man-mountain Kennys Vargas hit a fly ball that cleared the right field wall for another homer. But those were only solo shots, and Bauer otherwise shut the Minnesota offense down through six innings. Michael Brantley's tape-measure home run in the sixth gave the lead back to the Indians, and Michael Bourn's sacrifice fly in the seventh gave the club a bit of breathing room.

But the previous evening's exertions would echo late into this game. When Bauer allowed the first two batters to reach, Terry Francona made the first pitching move of the evening. It would certainly not be his last. In an attempt to have everyone in the bullpen share the burden of the last three innings, Francona would use five relievers to get through the seventh and eighth innings, including Zach McAllister, who was last seen starting against the Astros on Monday night. Bryan Shaw, who threw extensively the night before, was used for two batters, and if not for a fantastic defensive play by Jose Ramirez (Shaw threw to second base on a bunt, and Ramirez dove to not only catch the wild throw, but kept his toe on the base to get the force), perhaps the game would have been lost in the eighth. But somehow Francona's piecemeal plan worked, and the Indians went to the ninth still leading by a run.

All those pitching moves got the Indians to the brink of victory, but Cody Allen and the defense couldn't put it away. After Allen struck out the first batter he faced, Kurt Sizuki line a ball to deep right field, but it was a ball that Tyler Holt would have caught were he playing at normal depth. Unfortunately Holt was playing very shallow, and he couldn't run down the ball. Oswaldo Arcia dumped a single into left field, moving Suzuki's pinch-runner to third. Then Aaron Hicks hit a sharp grounder towards Jose Ramirez, a tailor-made double play. All Ramirez had to do would be to take a step, catch the ball, flip it to Aviles.....but he didn't catch the ball cleanly, and although he did recover to flip the ball to Aviles for one out, the tying run would score. And thanks to the bullpen being completely used up to get the game from Bauer to Allen, it seemed inevitable that the Indians would eventually lose the game.

Kyle Crockett started the tenth facing two right-handed batters, giving up singles to both of them. With runners now at first and third, Joe Mauer would be intentionally walked to set up a play at the plate. Crockett would strike out Vargas for the first out, and then Francona brought in the ninth pitcher of the game with the bases loaded. That pitcher was Josh Tomlin, who had last pitched a week ago, and he was coming into a virtually impossible situation. He did get ahead of Trevor Plouffe 0-2, but Plouffe would bloop a pitch into shallow center field to end the game and very likely the Indians' playoff aspirations.

Win Expectancy Chart

Source: FanGraphs

Roll Call

Game Thread

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