Starting pitching woes continue, Twins edge Tribe, 10-7
Command issues by Masterson causes Cleveland to drop two straight
CLEVELAND— It was a rocky roller coaster ride that by the end, left your head spinning.
A very winnable series turned sour Sunday, as Indians starters continue to struggle early on in 2014.
After an up and down seesaw battle, Minnesota edged the Tribe, 10-7 to win the three-game weekend series.
For the fifth straight game, and third time this series, the Cleveland offense played from behind against the Twinkies. Tossing seven shutout innings in his first start, Indians front man Justin Masterson labored with command issues in his second outing Sunday.
“They made him throw a lot of pitches,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said. “He threw almost 100 pitches in less than four innings. That’s kind of an indication it wasn’t easy.”
Masterson (0-0, 4.22 ERA) allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits in just 3 2/3 innings for the no-decision. It marked his shortest start since April 17, 2012.
Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki got Minnesota on the board first with an RBI single off Masterson in the second. Third baseman Trevor Plouffe came around to score on the base-hit after being hit by a pitch earlier in the inning.
“He wasn’t commanding very well, and saying that, there wasn’t a ton of hard contact,” Francona said.
Yan Gomes helped the struggling Masterson a half inning later, belting a two-run homer to the bleachers in left. It was the right-handed slugger’s second long ball of the season which quickly knotted the ballgame back up at 2-2.
But Minnesota would climb right back in the top half of the third, on a crucial throwing error by Gomes that could have resulted in a double play. Two batters later, the Twins regained a three run lead on back-to-back RBI singles by Plouffe and right fielder Jason Kubel.
“I’d like to look at it, but he came out of there really well, maybe a little too quick,” Francona said on the Gomes error. “It’s a good hustle play for sure, and has a chance to end the inning, but I don’t think our infield had a chance to get it.”
Twins designated hitter Chris Collabello ended Masterson’s afternoon in the fourth on a two out RBI single. The 30-year-old caused problems for Cleveland all weekend, going 4-for-13 with two doubles, a homer and five RBI in the series. His 11 RBI on the season lead the American League.
“I didn’t pound the zone really well, and it continued to be that way,” Masterson said. “It was just one of those days in general.”
Loading the bases with two outs in the fourth, Tribe second baseman Jason Kipnis cleared the bases with a three-run double off the left field wall which cut the Twins lead down to one.
In the fifth, David Murphy tied the game up once again on a RBI double down the left field line.
Signed to a two-year, $12 million contract this offseason, Murphy finished the ballgame 4-for-5 with two doubles and a RBI.
“It feels great,” he said when asked about his performance at the plate Sunday.
“It’s kind of been up and down for awhile, an answered prayer honestly. I’ve been scuffling and it was just one of those days where I stepped in the cage and the feel was there.”
A great day at the plate would go almost for naught, as the Twins and Collabello stormed right back. The right-handed slugger launched a three-run double to the left field gap off Indians reliever Blake Wood in the sixth, giving Minnesota a 9-6 lead.
“That was a tough inning because we had just clawed back into it,” Francona said. “That hurt.”
In just his second appearance of the season, Wood (0-1, 10.13 ERA) took the loss.
It’s still early, but the Tribe starting five continues to be a concern. Over the last five games, the rotation is 0-2 with a 7.66 ERA, allowing 19 runs on 35 hits in 22 1/3 innings
“It’s going to happen at one point or another during the year,” Murphy said. “Obviously it’s not the way you want to start the season, but we know what we’re capable of.”
On the season, the rotation is now 0-2 with a 5.83 ERA, allowing 19 runs on 38 hits in 29 1/3 innings.
“I don’t think we get discouraged that easy,” Francona said. “I think we’re always trying to get better that’s for sure. I don’t think you start to give up on your guys on April 6.”
Cleveland (3-3) also left 12 runners on base, and went a dismal 3-for-16 (.188) with runners in scoring position
“We had runners all over the bases today, and hopefully we’ll take some momentum from this one into this week,” Murphy said.
“We know we’re better than this, and we’re going to continue to fight to get to the spot where we know we’re clicking on all cylinders.”
Up next for Indians: The Tribe will host the San Diego Padres (2-4) at Progressive Field beginning Monday night at 7:05 p.m. Right-hander Corey Kluber (0-1, 13.50 ERA) will get the start against southpaw Robbie Erlin in the first game of the three game series.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.