CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Indians were defeated for the second straight day by the Twins, losing to Minnesota on Tuesday night, 10-6.
This column features my takeaways from Tuesday’s game. If you want more baseball coverage, you can follow me on Twitter (@TJZuppe).
1. BAD TIMING
On the heels of the shortest outing of Danny Salazar’s career, Carlos Carrasco wasn’t much better on Tuesday night. And in some ways, he was worse.
The righty gave up eight runs in just 3 2/3 innings in his worst start of the campaign, witnessing his ERA increase from 2.45 to 3.12 in one night. And really, the performance couldn’t come at a worst time for the Indians, given Salazar lasted just two innings the night before and was placed on the DL earlier in the day with right elbow inflammation, an injury which is expected to keep him out 2-3 weeks.
The question is: What in the world happened?
Carrasco began Tuesday’s game by holding the Twins to 1-for-7 with a walk over the first two innings. Then, things imploded, as Minnesota hitters went 8-for-13 against Carrasco over the next two innings, knocking him around with seven extra base hits and two homers before his eventual departure.
By the time the dust settled, Cleveland was trailing in the ballgame, 8-0.
“It snowballed on him and he couldn’t stop it,” Francona said.
2. UNNATURAL SELECTION
So, where did things go wrong? Francona suggested that the location and, perhaps, the sequencing weren’t that great on Tuesday night for Carrasco. Sequencing is in reference to not only which pitches the righty throws but in what order he throws them.
“I think it was more selection,” Carrasco said. “I think that was the problem.”
That could be viewed a reflection on the relationship between a pitcher and catcher, but it’s not as if Carrasco and Roberto Perez don’t have an existing bond. In fact, entering Tuesday’s game, the 109 1/3 innings Carrasco has thrown to Perez is second only to the injured Yan Gomes over his career.
Furthermore, the 2.47 ERA, .204 opposing batting average and 6.53 strikeout-to-walk ratio the righty had posted with Perez behind the plate were the best numbers of any backstop he has worked with for more than three games over his career.
That doesn’t seem to suggest the two aren’t on the same page. So, maybe it was just a bad night for everyone involved.
But holy cow, were the Twins willing to capitalize.
“When you do something wrong, you are going to pay for it,” Carrasco said. “That’s what happened.”
3. TOUGH CALL
Despite the early 8-0 hole, a six-run fifth inning got Cleveland back in Tuesday’s game and made things interesting. Francisco Lindor came within feet of giving the Indians the lead with a three-run homer in the sixth, but the ball landed safely in Max Kepler’s glove in deep right-center.
Some creative bullpening kept the Twins lead at 8-6, with Dan Otero, Kyle Crockett, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen keeping Minnesota off the board in relief of Carrasco. But when the game rolled into the ninth, it wasn’t Francona’s newest bullpen toy, Andrew Miller, trotting out onto the field.
It was Austin Adams.
“I was trying to do everything I felt like I could to give us a chance because of the way we were playing, the way we were fighting back,” Francona said. “And it’s hard to go to Shaw, Cody and Miller in a loss. Try to use judgement. It’s not very easy.”
Certainly, second-guessing is one of the sport’s oldest traditions. So much of what makes a decision good or bad is the player’s performance. For this reason, managers often get too much credit when things go well or received too much blame when things don’t work out. But even Francona can admit he really had to think long and hard about turning things over to Adams in the final frame.
“I was tempted [to bring in Miller],” he added. “We talked about it. I think you’re chasing your tail if you do stuff like that.”
That decision backfired, as Adams allowed a two-out, back-breaking, two-run homer to Eduardo Escobar, a blast to right field which gave Minnesota an insurmountable four-run advantage entering the bottom of the ninth.
Cleveland went quietly in the final half inning, making it impossible to know how a scoreless top of the ninth could have impacted the Tribe’s comeback attempt. But regardless if you agree with the decision, there was some reasonable thought behind it.
Personally, the more surprising decision was to let Roberto Perez, who has been struggling at the dish since returning from the DL, lead off the bottom of the eighth when trailing by two. Francona has been more than willing to pinch-hit for his catchers, but opted to let Perez hit for himself. The right-handed hitter was retired on a ground out.
If the Indians do reach the postseason in October, they can be thankful that the Twins won’t be present.
Somehow, Minnesota, despite an overall record of 42-64, has managed to win seven of the 11 meetings between the two clubs in 2016. You wouldn’t know the Twins occupy the Central Division’s cellar based on how tough they’ve played Cleveland in the season series.
“They’re outplaying us,” shortstop Francisco Lindor said. “It’s really simple. They’re outplaying us. They’re out-hitting us. They’re playing better defense than us. They’re pitching better than us. They’re doing everything better than us. You have to give it up to them. They’re doing a good job against us… We tip our hats to them.”
In fairness to Minnesota, they have played better lately. The Twins are 17-11 since July 1.
But their dominance over Cleveland began well before their improved stretch of baseball.
“I don’t know what they’re doing against the rest of the league, but they’ve played us really tough,” Francona said. “I mean, when we play them, I don’t look at someone’s record anyway, because it doesn’t matter. But they’ve definitely played good baseball against us.”
Baseball is a funny, tragic, funny game.
While the Indians have battled through some ups and downs recently, Detroit has been taking care of business. The second-place Tigers have won seven in a row and have trimmed Cleveland’s lead in the AL Central from 7.5 to 3.0 games over the last 12 days.
With the Tribe’s rotation scuffling a bit recently, Danny Salazar expected to miss a couple of weeks on the disabled list, and Cleveland, overall, just not playing as well, the Indians’ strong standing in the division is starting to feel a lot less sturdy.
Could any sense of nervousness be working its way into the locker room? Not according to the team’s All-Star shortstop.
“I’ll let you guys worry about that,” Lindor said. “I’ll worry about what we have inside. I’ll worry about how I play every day. At the end of the day, what’s going to happen is going to happen… We have to continue to play the game the right way. We have to continue to work day in and day out, and that’s what we’re doing. We had two rough days. We’ll shake it off, come back tomorrow and play the way the Tribe plays.”