I was talking to my mom yesterday in advance of this critical series for the Cleveland Indians, and my hope was that the Tribe could dig into Minnesota’s bullpen early in game 1 since their bullpen has been the weakest part of their team all year and they were planning on having a bullpen in game 2. Tire out the Minnesota bullpen while getting some length from Clevinger and the Indians would be primed to make some noise this weekend.
Well, everything went according to plan. Everything, that is, except the Tribe offense. On a day where the pitching was exactly what the Tribe could’ve hoped for on both ends, the bats couldn’t muster any sort of fight against Smeltzer & Co.. The result was a loss in the first game of today’s double header by a score of 2-0.
Mike Clevinger is brilliant again
Knowing that the Twins would lean heavily on their bullpen in game 2, Tito was hoping to get some length from his game 1 starter in order to have some kind of edge in game 2. He got length and then some as Mike Clevinger pitched another absolute gem of a game. His one mistake pitch to Jorge Polanco ended up being the deciding factor in the game, but outside of that blemish, he was magnificent once again. 8.0 innings, 10 strikeouts, 17 swinging strikes and 21 called strikes. By the end of the game, Sunshine was still hitting 96 mph on the gun with his fastball. He was, as stated above, brilliant. He didn’t have too many issues in terms of dicey situations, and the one time he found himself in one (top of the 6th, runners on second and third), he struck out Miguel Sano on a 97 mph fastball that he couldn’t catch up to. Despite the loss, Clevinger put the team in a good position to win today’s game (they didn’t) while also giving the Tribe a fresh ‘pen for the nightcap. Good job, Mike.
The offense is not so brilliant
All the Tribe needed to do today was look decent against an iffy bullpen and they were unable to do so. The Twins used 5 pitchers to cover 9 innings and the Indians had no success against any of them. There were chances, too. Like in the 3rd inning when Kipnis led off the inning with a HBP and Pérez hit a groundball single up the middle. With two men on and no outs, Chang flew out and Lindor popped out. Mercado drew a walk to load the bases for Carlos Santana, which is exactly who you want up with the bases loaded. He’s either going to smoke a baseball or he’s going to take a walk and bring in a run. Today, he ripped a line drive at 107.5 mph...right into the glove of a diving Jorge Polanco to end the inning. Matt Underwood did his best “Hammy’d” impression as his cries of joy quickly turned to dismay, fooling many a-viewer at home. Later in the game, Santana scorched another line drive at 107.9 mph right at Miguel Sano. Visibly frustrated, Santana slammed his helmet to the ground.
Hope was kindled in the 8th when Mercado and Puig both singled. However, with two outs already, Greg Allen stepped to the plate, having taken over for Jordan Luplow as a pinch-runner two innings prior. Was it a good idea for Allen to step to the plate in one of the most important at-bats of the season against Taylor Rogers, a left handed pitcher?
Greg Allen vs. LHP this season: .161/.188/.177 slash line— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) September 14, 2019
And Greg Allen finds himself at the plate against a lefty in the most important plate appearance of the day. Strike three called. Indians without a run through eight.
No, no it wasn’t. I don’t blame Allen for striking out here, by the way. It’s not his fault that Tito left him in a position in which the odds were stacked against him. And there were plenty of other chances for the Indians to do something, anything, against the Twins. Alas, it was not to be.
- A foul ball went up near the TV broadcast booth and Rick Manning grilled Matt Underwood for not diving after it and putting minimal effort in to retrieving the ball. Replay review showed that Rick Manning didn’t even attempt to get it either.
- Puig’s single was a 104.2 mph grounder with a -11° launch angle. That’s hilarious.
- Oscar Mercado and Roberto Pérez each had good games with a pair of hits each as well as a walk for Mercado. So Vandersloot isn’t completely terrible, as those on the internet would have you believe.
- There were some frustrations with the inconsistency of the home plate umpire’s strike zone today. Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, the Tribe didn’t do anything so it didn’t really matter all that much. Even when Santana struck out looking on what everyone was sure was a bad call, it actually was the right call:
Like I said above, this game was frustrating. But thanks to the heroics of Mike Clevinger, the Tribe will definitely have the pitching edge in game 2. Now the offense needs to hop on board.