Indians fall to 82-59
6.0 game lead in the AL Central
Magic Number = 16
So, I'm going to be honest with you folks. After being up early today to reserve a spot at a park for my 2-year old nephew's birthday party and then chasing said nephew around said park for 4 hours in the sun, I didn't have the energy to go extra innings tonight. As the game wore on into the extra innings, I found myself beginning to doze a bit, awaiting Hammy's ecstatic call to tell me that the Tribe took a late lead. Hammy's words never came, and I woke up just in time to see the twelfth inning and the ultimate demise of the Cleveland Indians by the hand of Joe Mauer.
In the parts of the game I was fully cognizant for, there were some good things and some frustrating things. The first two innings, for example, were extremely frustrating. Twins' starter Hector Santiago looked to be in for an early departure as he struggled with command early and often in the game and gave up an early run thanks to a Francisco Lindor sac fly. Through the first two innings, the Indians had a total of 7 baserunners (three hits, FOUR WALKS) and only managed to get one run. That one run would be the only offense the Tribe would produce all game as Santiago settled in and gave the Twins 7 innings of 1 run ball.
A positive to take away from today's game would be the pitching. Mike Clevinger and the bullpen combined for 12 innings of 2 run baseball, which is very, very good. Clevinger especially looked very good for someone who is not-really-but-kind-of-actually in the rotation. He was on a pitch count tonight because he "isn't stretched out to be a starter", and he gave the Tribe 4 solid innings and gave up only 1 run, which was a home run off the bat of Miguel Sano. At this point, pending what happens with Danny Salazar's arm, Clevinger will most likely enter the rotation (along with Josh Tomlin) down the stretch. If Clevinger can translate his success from tonight into other starts, that would be splendid. In addition to Clevinger, 9 Cleveland bullpen arms came in and had varying degrees of success. Perci Garner, Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, Andrew Miller, and Bryan Shaw combined for 5.2 scoreless innings in relief, which was great to see. McAllister, who I've been disappointed with for a good part of the season, looked incredible tonight. I wouldn't be opposed to him throwing in the postseason if he can look like he did tonight.
The other piece of the game that was not as nice was the offense. Sequencing buried the Tribe early, and lack of anything buried the Tribe late. No Cleveland batter had more than one hit, and normal superstar Francisco Lindor went 0-for-5 during a very forgettable game (it should be noted that Lindor made some pretty great plays in the field despite his lack of hitting. One ground ball that would have ended the game if left to 28 other short stops in baseball was made to look routine at the hands of Lindor. Good stuff, Francisco).
The final inning of the game was just plain dumb. With two outs in the inning, Brian Dozier singled on a soft ground ball to left field. This shouldn't have been too much of a problem; after all, there were two outs in the inning and Mauer, who was coming to the plate, had struggled offensively all night long. But a balk was called on Joe Colon, which moved Dozier into scoring position. Once the count ran full, both Tom Hamilton and Matt Underwood advocated for walking Mauer to get to Polanco. Apparently, that was actually the plan the whole time:
Gimenez said they were not trying to throw Mauer any strikes. Wanted to bury the breaking ball. Colon missed up and Mauer capitalized.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 11, 2016
But, unfortunately, the next pitch from Colon was in the zone, Mauer looped a liner to center field, and the Twins walked off to victory.
Baseball is a long season, and stupid games like this are bound to pop up here and there. Thanks to the Baltimore Orioles, the Tribe still sits 6 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers, whose magic number has shrunk to 16. A loss tonight, while frustrating, is not the worst thing in the world. Corey Kluber takes the hill tomorrow against a pitcher with an ERA of about 45.39, so hopefully things turn around for the Tribe tomorrow.