Covering the Bases: Game 34
Some notes and quotes from Sunday’s 5-1 loss to the Twins.
FIRST: What’s more frustrating: Getting a lot of hits without being able to cash in, or being totally overpowered and coming up with little to no hits?
Following Cleveland’s loss to the Twins — a game in which the Tribe went 7-for-16 with two outs without scoring a run — that question was posed to Indians catcher Chris Gimenez. He said, in his view, it’s the former scenario is the one that frustrates a team more.
“I think that’s more frustrating, personally,” Gimenez said, “just because we’ve got guys on base, and we’re just not able to take advantage of it. That’s the name of the game — being able to take advantage of it. Hitting with runners in scoring position. Unfortunately today, it just didn’t really go our way.”
That’s putting it mildly.
First: Lindor draws a two-out walk. Napoli strikes out.
Third: Santana and Kipnis get two straight singles with two outs. Lindor strikes out.
Fourth: Naquin singles with two outs to put two runners on. Gimenez grounds out.
Sixth: Ramirez singles with two outs. Uribe grounds out.
Seventh: Martinez singles with two outs. Santana strikes out.
Ninth: Gimenez and Martinez connect for consecutive two-out singles. Santana flies out.
Cleveland’s lone run came via a leadoff homer by Kipnis in the eighth.
“Early, I thought we squared up a couple real good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Carlos and Nap, I thought both [flyouts in the first inning] were probably home runs on normal days, but they [hit them] kind of right into that wind, knocked them both down.
“I thought after that, it seemed like we got frustrated and got a little big. On a day like today, you’re going to have to string some hits together, unless you hit the ball like Kip did down into right field, and we weren’t able to do that.”
Gimenez echoed that take.
“We couldn’t just get that one,” Gimenez said. “I felt like we just needed that one hit. I came up a couple times with runners on. I give [Twins starter Tyler Duffey] a lot of credit. He did a good job. He could’ve told you his curveball was coming.”
SECOND: About that curveball…
Duffey has a fastball mix that includes both a four-seamer and two-seamer. His main offspeed pitch is a knuckle-curve, which he uses more than 40-percent of the time. On Sunday, Duffey fired that pitch a season-high 49 times (45 percent). Of those, 29 (60 percent) were strikes.
Duffey struck out six overall, including four with the knuckle-curve, in seven shutout innings. The Indians went 2-for-10 against the pitch overall.
“Everybody knew in the ballpark it was coming, but he did a good job,” Gimenez said of the curve. “He’s very deceptive, because he’s got kind of a long arm and he’s a slinger. It’s kind of tough to pick up a little bit. My second at-bat, I went up there looking for a curveball. First pitch, he threw it right down the middle and it was still [tough to hit]. I just didn’t see it very good.”
THIRD: Due to Cleveland’s woes in the batter’s box, Indians starter Trevor Bauer was hung with his first loss of the season.
“On a lot of nights,” Francona said, “we’re saying, ‘Hey, man, he did a good job. He got us deep enough into the game where we could turn it over to the bullpen.’ But, runs the last couple of nights have been hard to come by.”
Against the Twins, Bauer struck out eight, walked two and allowed three runs on five hits over 6.2 innings. Since moving back to the rotation, the right-hander has a 3.47 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, .188 opponents’ average and 23 strikeouts against nine walks in 23.1 innings.
“He looks strong,” Francona said.
“Everything was pretty good, actually,” Bauer said of his latest outing. “I need to throw more first-pitch strikes, but I got through it OK. … I thought I had a really good spring as a starter and I’ve continued that this season.”
Two pitches, in particular, worked especially well against Minnesota.
Bauer had a very effective curve, which has been a weapon all season. Heading into Sunday’s start, opposing hitters were 1-for-19 with 10 strikeouts in at-bats ending with the pitch. Bauer spun 15 of them and recorded five of his eight strikeouts with the breaking ball. Four of those were called third strikes.
“He was able to throw his curveball for strikes,” Gimenez said, “and he had a lot of strikeouts on that pitch. All in all, I know it wasn’t obviously the result that we all wanted, but he still threw the ball pretty good today.”
Bauer also threw 21 of 28 cutters for strikes, induced 16 swings on the pitch and generated six missed swings.
“That’s the best I’ve seen his cutter,” said Gimenez, who has caught Bauer’s past three starts. “He had a little bit of depth to it.”
HOME: In the ninth inning, the Indians were trailing, 3-1. The Twins added two key insurance runs when Eddie Rosario sent a pitch from Jeff Manship to deep center field for one-out double.
On the play, rookie center fielder Tyler Naquin sprinted back and to his left, closing in on the fly ball as he fell just short of the wall. Naquin tried to make a jumping catch, while bracing himself for contact with the fence, and the baseball hit off the heel of his glove before dropping to the warning track.
“It hit his glove. He’s still learning,” Francona said. “We’ve talked about it. Sometimes, you see a veteran outfielder, they’ll see the ball and they’ll kind of run to the spot. He’s not able yet to do that. He has to watch the ball the whole way, or he gets a little bit messed up on his route. So, it’s hard to run at full-tilt doing that. It’s not like he’s loafing, but it just takes a little bit away.”
Heading into Sunday’s action, Naquin’s minus-six Defensive Runs Saved ranked last among the 86 Major League players who have logged time at the position this season. His minus-30.6 UZR/150 also ranked last among the 34 center fielders who have logged at least 100 innings at that spot.
Naquin’s ongoing learning curve in center played a role in Cleveland’s sending him back to Triple-A Columbus for a spell recently. Naquin has an above-average arm, but he has plenty of room for improvement with his first step and route efficiency. Bench coach Brad Mills continues to work with Naquin before games on those aspects.
“Every time we have [bad] weather,” Francona said, “[Millsy] loves getting the time with [Naquin], because he’ll put the work in. He’s doing better and he’ll continue to.”
Stay tuned for more…