Cleveland continued their losing ways on Saturday, falling to the Twins in a 7-4 loss despite a late-inning attempt at a comeback. Bruce Chen struggled in his debut as an Indian, lasting just over four innings and allowing six runs on ten hits and a walk, while striking out three batters. Phil Hughes looked better than the numbers showed, but he also gave up ten hits in route to four runs, striking out four hitters in the process.
Torii Hunter hit a solo shot in the first inning, but Chen escaped without further damage. The trouble started in the third inning, when Brian Dozier led off with a double, and Hunter singled to put runners at the corners. Despite a pair of strikeouts, Chen allowed a trio of RBI singles to Kennys Vargas, Eduardo Escobar and Eddie Rosario, giving the Twins a 4-0 lead.
Chen allowed a single to Hunter to start the fifth inning, then gave up a double to Joe Mauer. After intentionally walking Kurt Suzuki to load the bases with no outs, Chen was replaced by Marc Rzepczynski, who got a run-scoring double-play ball off of the bat of Vargas but allowed an RBI single to Escobar before escaping the inning.
Reliever Ryan Webb gave up a sixth inning solo shot to Dozier to put the Twins up 7-0, but the Tribe finally showed signs of life in the bottom of the inning. Jason Kipnis singled and advanced to second on a ground out, then scored when Michael Brantley lined a single to left field.
After Nick Hagadone escaped a bases loaded situation in the top of the seventh inning, the Tribe’s offense tried to stage a comeback. Nick Swisher doubled to lead things off, scoring when Michael Bourn followed with a double of his own. Pinch hitter David Murphy homered to cut the Twins lead to 7-4. The Tribe loaded the bases with two outs on Kipnis’s single and a pair of walks by Brantley and Brandon Moss, but the Indians failed to capitalize on those runners.
Individually, the Indians played well today. Swisher was 4-for-4, and Kipnis was 3-for-5. Brantley and Bourn each went 2-for-4, with Brantley picking up a walk. The bullpen wasn’t bad, given the circumstances. Yes, Rzepczynski allowed runs to score, but he came in to a bases-loaded, no-outs situation, and it’s pretty presumptuous to assume a pitcher can escape that with no damage. Webb finally allowed a run, but it was a solo shot, and the only hit he gave up during his inning of work. Hagadone, Bryan Shaw and Scott Atchison all pitched scoreless innings.
It was the rotation’s turn to struggle, as Chen made a disappointing first appearance. Perhaps he was having an off-day, but he’ll need to get things turned around quickly if he wants to keep his name at the top of the Indians’ list for the unclaimed fifth starter job. Other negatives include Jose Ramirez‘s performance at the plate, which has remained dismal. It may not be time for Francisco Lindor, but it is time to find another solution until Ramirez gets himself straightened out. Mike Aviles should see more playing time at shortstop when he returns from his leave.
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Check It Out
– The Tribe designated Anthony Swarzak for assignment to make room for Bruce Chen, and they are hoping he’ll clear waivers so that he can be sent to Triple-A Columbus. Swarzak had not been good for Cleveland this season, earning a 3.38 ERA and allowing 18 hits and four walks in 13.1 innings, despite striking out 13.
– On Sunday, right-hander Trevor May will take on the Tribe’s lineup. May is 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA in his first five games, striking out twenty batters in 26 innings. The Indians will send Danny Salazar to the mound, in an effort to salvage at least one win out of this weekend’s series and avoid being swept by Minnesota.
– Salazar has a 3.81 ERA and is 3-1 with the Tribe this season, but his strikeout totals are the most impressive. The right-hander has struck out 37 batters in just 26 innings, which is the ninth-most in the American League. That’s even more impressive considering that all of the other starters on that list have six or seven outings, compared to Salazar’s four.
– The Tribe’s pitching staff monopolizes the AL Top 15 in strikeouts. In addition to Salazar, Corey Kluber is ranked second, with 46 punch outs. Carlos Carrasco is tied for 11th place, and Trevor Bauer is tied for 13th, with 35 and 34 strikeouts, respectively. As a team, the Tribe leads major league baseball with 265 total, tied only with the New York Yankees.