For the first seven innings, the Cleveland Indians looked well on their way to an easy win against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Starting Pitcher Jeanmar Gomez, coming off his first bad outing of the season, dominated the Twins to the tune of one unearned run on three hits. His sinker was working all night and Minnesota was never able to get anything going.
“Gomez did a very good job,” Acta said. “He went out there and threw strikes with good life on his fastball. He got a lot of ground balls — actually 11 groundouts. He did a good job, especially against the left-handed hitters that he saw tonight,” said Tribe manager Manny Acta.
Offensively, the Indians didn’t exactly break things open against former Indian Carl Pavano, but they did enough damage to be in control of the game. Trailing 1-0 in the fourth, Jason Kipnis led off with a single and was moved to third on Asdrubal Cabrera’s ground-rule double. The Tribe seemed like they would be in business. Travis Hafner, still looking for a big hit with runners in scoring position, delivered an RBI groundout to second base to tie the game. Carlos Santana brought in the lead run with s sacrifice fly left.
An inning later, they got some offense from the most unexpected of sources.
New utility man Jose Lopez, playing third base for Jack Hannahan who needed a day off with a sore back, doubled to open the frame. Up next was Casey Kotchman, a man who a day ago I said I was “ready to move on from.” Naturally, Kotchman hit a no doubt bomb to deep center for a two-run homer, his third on the season. All of his homers have come on the road. It was the first of two important hits for Kotchman in this one.
At 4-1 with the way Gomez was pitching, this one seemed all but over. However, baseball is played in nine innings, not seven.
I’ve always respected the fact that Acta has managed with more of his gut than by the book. After living through the Mike Hargrove and Eric Wedge “lefty/righty binder” days, its been refreshing to have a manager who does it by feel. For the last two seasons, Vinnie Pestano has been his eighth inning guy regardless of who was coming to the plate. However last night with Pestano having put himself in a bind, Acta turned to rookie left-hander Nick Hagadone.
Pestano had walked lefty Denard Span an out later had a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play, but Santana’s throw was in the dirt and Kipnis didn’t scoop it and apply the tag. A good throw, and Span is out with ease and we aren’t even having this conversation. Josh Willingham drove Span home to bring the Twins to within 4-2.
“Vinnie has been struggling a little bit against left-handed hitters and the splits are very big,” Acta said. “We’re trying to get him through it and we gave him two chances there. He’s just scuffling a little bit against the lefties.”
So on came Hagadone. The kid has been near perfect in his two stints with the big club this year. Hitters entered the game just 3-34 against him and he has averaged a strikeout per inning. The man due-up, switch-hitting Ryan Doumit, has four homers this year, all from the left side.
“Nick has thrown the ball really well,” said Acta. “We wanted to turn Doumit around, and he just got Nick.”
That he certainly did.
Doumit crushed Hagadone’s 2-0 room service fastball deep into the left field seats to tie the game.
I actually don’t have a problem with Acta calling on Hagadone. My bigger issue was yanking Gomez for Pestano. Was there something wrong with a guy who had thrown 97 pitches and had retired the last eight men he faced?
Now here we were, in a tie game that had no business being tied. It wouldn’t last long.
The Twins went to their closer, Matt Capps, in a non-save situation. You knew where this one was going. With one out Kotchman singled up the middle. Capps then fell behind defensive replacement Aaron Cunningham 3-0 before getting him to pop-out second (a great over the shoulder grab from old friend Jamey Carroll). With two out, Kotchman advanced to second on a wild pitch setting the stage for the biggest hit of the night.
Shin-Soo Choo, who Acta moved to the leadoff spot to not only get him going, but to get something out of the top slot, came through with a huge two-out RBI single scoring pinch runner Lou Marson. (Now there’s something I never thought I would write – “scoring pinch runner Lou Marson.”)
“I didn’t make up the lineup thinking Choo was going to come up with two out and a runner on second base in the ninth inning,” said Acta.
Chris Perez, who hadn’t pitched in six days, blew threw the Twins 1-2-3 to pick up his league-leading 12th save.
Never a dull moment in Wahooland, right?
“We lost three games against Boston, so we knew we needed a win,” Choo said. “The first thing is to stop the losing streak so everybody feels good.”
This afternoon at 1 PM EST, the Indians and Twins wrap up their two-game mini-series. The Tribe’s current stopper, Derek Lowe (5-1, 2.47 ERA) will be on the mound. The Twins will counter with Jason Marquis (2-2, 6.26 ERA), a veteran innings eater. Acta’s lineup should be posted at some point this morning. It should be interesting to see how he puts things together today. He already said after last night’s game that Choo will be back in the leadoff spot.
(AP Photo/Jim Mone)