Covering the Bases: Game 111
Indians 6, Twins 2
WARMUP: Well, they did it. The Indians won another ballgame. As promised, with the win, Covering the Bases has made its triumphant return to this space.
Following today’s victory — the first in 12 games for the Tribe — one scribe asked Shelley Duncan if the team thought it’d ever win another game. Duncan cracked a smile and laughed at the poorly-phrased question.
“Of course,” Duncan replied. “We weren’t going to lose 70 in a row.”
No, it only felt that way.
FIRST: Much has been made of late of Manny Acta’s style of managing the Indians. After the 0-9 road trip, there were talking heads calling for his head on a platter. Well, that’s a bit much. They were calling for him to be fired.
General manager Chris Antonetti made it clear a few times that Acta’s standing with the club is safe, at least as things stand right now, and the plan is to have him back in 2013. Antonetti said Acta is part of the solution, not the issues.
After today’s win, Acta showed that he has a good handle on how he is portrayed.
“I know my story,” Acta said. “I know how things go with me. When things are going well, I’m being labeled as cool, calm and collected. And when my team starts to lose it’s, ‘He doesn’t argue enough. He doesn’t show enough fire, passion.’ Passion doesn’t mean throwing stuff and yelling profanities and disrespecting people. That’s what people are a little confused about.
“But, I understand that and I live with it. This is what I want to do and that’s the way I want to do it. That’s the way I’ve been successful doing it. That’s what got me up here. I’m not going to change. It has worked out for me so far.”
Acta said he does show that “passion” that people have been calling for over the past two weeks, but he just doesn’t do it in public.
“That’s how I lead. I stay true to myself,” Acta said. “ I’m not a chameleon. I’m not going to change because a few people think that screaming and yelling and turning tables in front of cameras is the way to go. I reflect calmness tomy players. I reflect that everything is under control.
“When I have to yell and scream, which I can do in two languages, I’ll do it behind closed doors. That’s the way I lead and I’m not going to change.”
Acta noted that the team did have a “screaming and yelling” session during a recent team meeting.
“You know what happened after that?” Acta said. “We dropped five more in a row.”
Acta reminded that dealing with big leaguers is different than dealing with players at other levels.
“In this game, at this level, you don’t get the best out of guys yelling,” Acta said. “This is not college. This is not the Minor Leagues. This is dealing with elite athletes that are making a lot more money than their boss. It takes a little bit more than yelling. I can get these guys to do stuff for me without yelling at them. That’s the main thing.
“If you can get them to do what you want them to do, you won the battle. The majority of our kids know what the drill is here. If you really need to be yelled at and screamed at, I’ve got the wrong guys and you’re at the wrong place. You’re only going to be yelled at and screamed at behind closed doors in my office because of lack of effort or something that deserves it.”
SECOND: Acta summed The Streak and today’s win up perfectly during postgame.
“Pitching sets the tone,” Acta said. “Pitching got us into this mess and pitching got us out of it, too.”
The starting rotation was abysmal throughout the 11-game skid, going 0-8 with a 10.44 ERA for the Indians. Last time I checked, the Indians weren’t averaging 11 runs of offense per game, so that showing by the starters did a number on the club’s chances night in and night out.
On Wednesday, though, Justin Masterson said he became “a hair selfish” and wanted to take it to the Twins regardless of the score. He gave Cleveland seven innings and held Minnesota (a team that torched him for 10 runs two outings ago) to two runs on three hits, ending with seven strikeouts and four walks.
Alexi Casilla launched a two-run homer off Masterson in the fifth inning, but that proved only to be a slight setback. Big Masty set down the final nine hitters he faced in order: six on grounders and three on punchouts.
“Masterson did a tremendous job,” Acta said. “He just stepped it up a notch a little bit after that two-run homer and really went after it those last two innings. He gave us an opportunity to stay on top the whole time and went as deep as he could.”
THIRD: The combination of poor starting pitching and woes on offense had the Indians playing “catch-up baseball” (as Acta likes to call it) throughout the past 11 games. On Wednesday, it was Cleveland that went on the offense.
The Indians ran to a 4-0 lead through two innings, marking the team’s fastest sprint to a four-run lead since July 8. Yes, a month ago. Shin-Soo Choo set the tone with a 4-for-4 performance that includes a double and a pair of RBIs.
“[Duensing] left a couple pitches out over the plate early in the game,” Acta said, “and we didn’t miss them. The key was Choo. Duensing usually pitches good against him and he has been struggling against left-handers. But [Choo] stayed in there pretty good and hit the ball up the middle and the other way.”
The Indians went 4-for-11 with RISP.
HOME: With the losing streak now officially in the rear-view mirror (see the previous blog post for all the gory details), the Indians get stop worrying about finally finding the win column, and focus on getting back to basics. Acta said such a long skid can be harder for a young roster like Cleveland’s.
“You feel good, because you don’t want that in the kids’ heads every day,” Acta said. “The hardest part of it is, when you’re young, it’s tough to put one, two, three, four, five, 11, as many as you lost, behind you. Guys just keep thinking about that.
“Now, all the weight is off everybody’s shoulders. They can concentrate on playing to win and not on playing not to lose.”
Red Sox (55-56) at Indians (51-60)
at 7:05 p.m. ET Thursday at Progressive Field