August 23, 2013
Ubaldo Jimenez made the start with an extra day's rest, and initially it looked like he'd be out of the game by the third inning. The first three batters of the game reached, with a double sandwiched between two walks. But Ubaldo got out of by striking out the side, making for an exciting top half of the first. He again ran into trouble in the second, but this time couldn't extricate himself out of it. He gave up a leadoff double to Brian Dozier, then after striking out Wilkin Ramirez, grooved a pitch to Pedro Florimon that eventually landed at the base of the center field wall. After another strikeout, Chris Herrmann hit a double over Drew Stubbs' head to chase home Florimon.And he ended the inning with a strikeout.
So through two innings, this was Ubaldo's line:
2.0 IP, 4 H, 4 2B, 2 ER, 6 SO, 2 BB
Not exactly a line that you see every day. Ubaldo's stuff was as good as I've seen it this year. His fastball was sitting in the mid-90s with life, his slider was biting, and his changeup was effective because his fastball was effective. Unfortunately he missed in the middle of the strike zone several times in those first two innings, and although he only gave up two runs, that would be all the Twins needed. But Ubaldo settled down, finishing six innings and striking out 10 Twins in the process. It was a bewildering start, a contrast of awful and awesome, but it was a good one, as he only allowed the two runs, giving the Indians ample time to get even with the Twins.
But the Indians' run in the first inning would be the only run they'd score all night. Carlos Santana drove home Michael Bourn in the bottom of the first, with Bourn being able to score because a Samuel Deduno wild pitch got him to second base. Another wild pitch got Santana to second, but Michael Brantley, who is in the midst of his worst hitting slump of the year, hit an inning-ending grounder.
Although the Indians would mount several rallies, they couldn't get a second a RBI (or a third, or a fourth). Deduno, who has a reverse split, handled the Tribe's heavily left-handed lineup, only allowing three hits, all singles. His slider bore in and down to left-handers, and he threw enough four-seam fastballs to keep the outer half of the plate in play. Like Jimenez, Deduno didn't it make it look easy, as he walked four batters in his six innings of work, but he was effective.
Unfortunately Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley, the two surrounding Carlos Santana, continued their extended slumps. And nowhere were those slumps so visible as in the sixth inning. Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher both walked (with Bourn swiping second during Swisher's at-bat). Jason Kipnis came to the plate, and he squared around to bunt, something that wouldn't have been thought a month ago. Kipnis couldn't get down a bunt, and eventually struck out looking a four-seamer over the outer half of the plate. Then Bourn tried to steal third, intending accomplish himself what Kipnis could not, but Twins catcher Chris Herrmann made an excellent throw and nabbed Bourn rather easily. So after a very promising start to the inning, there was now two outs and a runner on second. Carlos Santana worked a walk, but Michael Brantley grounded out weakly to end what would be the Indians' best chance to win the game.
For the Twins to put the game away in the seventh. Bryan Shaw allowed the first two batters to reach, then was replaced by Rich Hill. The Twins, like the Indians in the previous frame, made an out on the bases when Florimon was caught off second after Chris Herrmann couldn't get a bunt down. After Hill retired Herrmann, he pitched around Justin Morneau, and Francona brought in Cody Allen to face Josh Willingham. Allen, who has been so effective all year, gave up a 1-2 opposite-field double to Willingham, and Stubbs' bobble allowed two runs to score.
The Twins tacked on a run in the eighth, and almost got through the final three innings having used only one reliever. But when Asdrubal Cabrera singled with two outs, Ron Gardenhire brought in Casey Fien, who got the final out after allowing a Yan Gomes single.
I know the standard mindset for the club is to take one game at a time, but as a fan you can't help looking at the ominous schedule coming up. This series was supposed to be a time of plenty, of at least two wins, in the runup to a nine-game crucible. But after tonight, and the watching the way the offense played, winning any game is going to be difficult.