CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona has spoken at times this season about his team not making the same plays that allowed them to be in a championship position, similar to “50-50 balls” in basketball.
That point may not have manifested itself so clearly than it did in Saturday’s loss to the Twins.
Corey Kluber threw yet another Cy Young-level outing, going seven strong innings, striking out 13 and not allowing an earned run, but the day was marred by two early errors that cost the game.
Twins second baseman swung at the first pitch of the day, grounding a ball to Jason Kipnis, who was shifted over to the shortstop spot. Kipnis’ throw to first garnered a throwing error in the scorebook, though it looked as if first baseman Carlos Santana came off the first base bag and swiped at Dozier unnecessarily.
Kipnis voiced his displeasure with the ruling, but did not make excuses for what was an imperfect throw at most, calling it a ‘baseball play,’ regardless.
After a Joe Mauer walk, Robbie Grossman doubled to right field, scoring Dozier on Kluber’s singular mistake of the day. With Kennys Vargas up and no outs, Mauer was gifted home when Yan Gomes threw a pick-off throw into left field.
Kluber escaped the inning without any further damage and held the Twins in check for the rest of his night, but the two errors put the offense in a hole they barely dug out of. The home team stranded nine runners, five of which were in scoring position.
“They were early on and you hope they don’t come back to have that big of an impact on the game, you think Kluber is hopefully going to settle in, do what he did and keep them right there, give us our chance and time to go to work on their pitcher,” Kipnis said. “We couldn’t come up with a big hit with the guys on base today.”
The miscues had a direct impact on the score line because of the two runs, but one could make the argument that they had a butterfly effect on the rest of the game. Francona made a similar statement.
“It’s a shame because the way the first inning unfolded, not only did they get the two, but it probably cost him pitching the eighth inning. Instead of having the first pitch out of the game, which is about the best thing you could ever hope for, all of a sudden, he’s pitching out of trouble,” the skipper said. “The runs are important, but almost as important the fact that it probably cost him an inning.”
The idea holds water because not only did the Indians tie the game in the bottom of the 7th inning, Kluber exited at 106 pitches before Cody Allen gave up a game-winning home run to Brian Dozier in the 8th.
While plenty of possible outcomes remained had Kluber pitched the 8th, especially given that Allen would have pitched in the 9th in any circumstance according to Tito, the fact remains that the home team could have rolled momentum into a save situation for their closer.
Those are the chances a team has to force in a game of inches, where any minute mistake can cost a team later on.