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Second Thoughts Game #6: Twins 10, Indians 7

Bats can't bail out pitching as Masterson struggles with command

Second Thoughts Game #6: Twins 10, Indians 7
Tribe comes up short in rubber match slugfest against Twins. (Photo: Getty Images)
April 7, 2014
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Despite winning their first home opener since 2008, the Indians pitching woes turned out to be too much for the offense to overcome, even after they scored seven runs on Sunday. Justin Masterson struggled with command as he gave up six runs (five earned) in only three and two thirds innings of work as he surrendered seven hits, three walks and hit two batters.

The Tribe remained resilient, however, as the offense scored seven runs and stayed right within reach of Minnesota all game long. David Murphy and Michael Brantley led the charge with seven hits combined and an RBI apeice. Yan Gomes also hit a two-run homer and Jason Kipnis drove in three runs with a double. But despite their efforts, the Twins emerged victorious to take the series win 10-7.

Player of the Game: Chris Colabello, DH (2-for-5, R, 2B, 4 RBI, K).

This guy has been as hot as anyone to start the year as he has gone 9-for-23 with four doubles, a home run, 11 RBI and four runs scored in six games thus far. According to MLB.com's stats department, Colabello is the first Twins player to have at least 11 RBI in his first six games since Bobby Darwin accomplished the feat in 1972.

Colabello has been a top performer in the Twins farm system in just two seasons after signing with them as a free agent in 2012.  In 223 minor league games, he batted .312 with 43 homers and 174 RBI. Despite the fact that he's already 30 years old, the Twins are hoping he can continue to be a run-producer in their lineup.

Pitching Panic?

The starting pitching has not quite been up to par since Justin Masterson's opening night start against Oakland in which he pitched seven shutout innings. Corey Kluber, Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco each had struggles with command in their respective starts, although Salazar did battle back and ended up with semi-decent outing allowing only two runs over five and two-thirds innings.

As I've said before, Kluber and McAllister are guys who rely on command and throwing strikes consistently to be successful, a fact that I'm sure they are well aware of. Salazar needs to at least establish his fastball and keep it down in the zone in order for everything else to fall into place. I would also equate Kluber and Salazar's struggles to nerves since it is the first time both have started the year in the big league rotation. Masterson rarely lacks command to the extent that he did on Sunday, so I think it's safe to call it an anomaly.

Carrasco's struggles were a bit disconcerting since they are more consistent with his track record, but I'll wait for another start or two to gauge an opinion.

The starting pitching does have to start going longer in games, though. As good as the bullpen is pitching right now, they will get burned out eventually if they have to be brought into a game in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

Tough Roster Decisions Looming

With Michael Bourn set to come off the disabled list at some point during the upcoming week with Jason Giambi likely soon to follow and obviously with both of them guaranteed spots on the big league roster, two players have to be cut or sent down. These upcoming roster decisions may prove to be difficult with Lonnie Chisenhall and Nyjer Morgan playing well and, up until Sunday, Blake Wood was dominant on the mound.

Chisenhall did make the team out of spring training, but did not earn the starting third base job. However, he has gradually been earning more at-bats off the bench at third base and the DH spot. So far in four games, he has recorded five hits in 11 at-bats with three of them going for extra-bases. Even the outs he has record have been hit hard. He has also drawn a walk and only struck out once.

I'll admit I didn't think much about the addition of Nyjer Morgan when Bourn went on the DL, but he has made the most of the opportunity he's been given so far as he has gone 4-for-13 (.308) with two runs scored. He has also drawn six walks. I don't know if Morgan was added just to fill in for Bourn and that he'd be cut once he got back. After the way he's been playing, I don't think he'll be cut anyway.

The easier cut would probably be in the bullpen where the Indians are carrying eight relievers with Blake Wood and Vinnie Pestano being likely candidates since they can be optioned to AAA. Despite his strong start in spring training, Pestano has scuffled a bit in his last couple appearances in spring training and the regular season combined. In just two regular season appearances, he has allowed three runs on five hits. Wood was pitching well, but his command issues seemed to return on Sunday as he allowed three runs in an inning of work.

Quick Game Facts

  • David Murphy recorded his ninth career four-hit game on Sunday with two doubles and an RBI.
  • Michael Brantley and Chris Colabello have each recorded hits in all six games they've played in so far in 2014.
  • Nyjer Morgan has reached base at least once in each game he's appeared in thus far for an OBP of .500.
  • Scott Atchison has yet to allow a hit in three appearances (four and a third innings of work).
  • Carlos Santana has now recorded eight walks in six games and drawn at least one free pass in all but one of them.

Up Next: Padres (2-4) vs. Indians (3-3). First pitch at 7:05 pm ET.

Corey Kluber and the Indians will attempt to rebound during their first taste of interleague play of the year as the Padres come to town after snapping a four-game skid against the Marlins on Sunday. San Diego will turn to left-hander Robbie Erlin, who pitched two-thirds of a shutout inning against the Dodgers last week. Kluber is looking to get on track after a rough start on the West Coast in Oakland on Tuesday where he struggled with command and was lifted in the fourth inning.

Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.

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