Covering the Bases: Game 130

KipnisWinSome notes and quotes from Monday’s 1-0 win over the Twins

FIRST: The signs were all there. It was the 10th inning. Brandon Kintzler threw a 1-0 pitch to Jason Kipnis. Given the binary-code nature of the past week for Cleveland, the stars were aligned for a 1-0 victory.

Before we get to the celebration, let’s look at the setup.

“Probably the biggest at-bat of the night, honestly,” Indians starter Trevor Bauer said.

Bauer was referring to the 10th-inning meeting between Indians right-hander Zach McAllister and Twins rookie Max Kepler. That’s the same Max Kepler that hit .500 with four homers and 10 RBI in a four-game series against the Tribe in Cleveland earlier this month.

With the game caught in a 0-0 deadlock, Cody Allen worked the ninth and part of the 10th for the Indians. The righty allowed one hit and issued two walks with two outs in the 10th, running his pitch count to 37. With the bags full, Indians manager Terry Francona called McAllister in from the bullpen.

“I was worried that I left Cody in a little bit too long,” Francona said. “That’s a lot to ask of somebody. And then Mac came in and fell behind, but then really made some good pitches to get out of the inning and give us a chance.”

McAllister fed Kepler a steady stream of fastballs. All seven pitches clocked in between 93-95, and the big righty tried to stay middle-away and up and away. After falling behind, 2-0, McAllister got Kepler to foul off four straight fastballs before finally inducing a flyout to center to end the top of the 10th.

Here’s a look at McAllister’s approach vs. Kepler:

KeplerMap

And here’s Kepler’s 2016 zone map for fastballs from RHP:

KeplerZones

“Mac comes in, starts off 2-0 to a dangerous guy who’s hit us well,” Bauer said, “and comes back and gets him out. Just for team morale, having him come in and be able to get out of a situation like that, it’s great. It enabled us to win and I think it was good for
everybody involved.”

After escaping that jam, McAllister said he felt confident that the game’s momentum had shifted.

“[You get that feeling] in certain situations throughout the game,” McAllister said, “like a big out happened, or a situation where you kind of feel like no matter what the offense is going to score. I felt like that was one of those situations.”

SECOND: The Indians were blanked for the first nine innings by Hector Santiago, Ryan Pressly and Kintzler. This is a Twins team that came in having lost 10 straight, with the last six including at least eight runs scored by the opposition.

On the other side, though, the Indians had scored one or zero runs in six of seven games on their recent road trip. And that’s now seven of the past eight games with this 1-0 win (the second 1-0 win in that span). Cleveland has featured a great offense overall this year, but is currently searching for some kind of spark.

Maybe a win like this can help.

“Hopefully,” Kipnis said. “At this time, it’s nice to get a win in any form. Hopefully the more wins we get, the more relaxed we can be. Not to say guys are pressing, but guys are still trying to find the adjustments that are working.”

One form of “pressing” is trying to do too much. Take Francisco Lindor in the eighth inning, for example. On a two-out single to right from Mike Napoli, Lindor sprinted hard through second with his sights on third. Kepler made a pinpoint through from right field and Lindor was thrown out easily.

“I like the idea that he’s hustling, because he cares,” Francona said of Lindor’s dash. “If a guy’s not hustling, that’s not good. And I think he knew right when he did it that it wasn’t the time to go. But again, they’re aware we’re not putting a bunch of runs up. And that’ll change. You’ve got to kind of weather it, play through it.

“Winning 1-0 in extra innings is a heck of a lot better than losing 1-0.”

Abraham Almonte got things started in the 10th with a bunt single up the first-base line. Chris Gimenez — after failing to get a bunt down twice — then singled to right. Rajai Davis also struggled to get a bunt down, and then chopped a pitch to third on a fielder’s choice. Almonte was tagged out on the play. Cleveland challenged with the hope that third baseman Miguel Sano had missed with his swipe tag, but the call stood.

“I actually think Abe was safe,” Francona said. “I just think we didn’t have a good enough angle to show it.”

Kipnis rendered that moment moot with a walkoff single to left-center.

“Kip with a nice piece of hitting,” Francona said. “Everybody goes home happy.”

THIRD: Bauer set the tone with six shutout innings for Cleveland. The right-hander scattered five hits, struck out four and walked one in the no-decision. Over the course of his past five starts now, Bauer has a 2.45 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP and .228 opponents’ average in 33 innings for the Tribe.

“Trevor pitched great tonight,” McAllister said. “He went down there and battled. He made it easy for the bullpen, as far as getting deep in the game and doing his job. He pitched tremendous and had a good mix.”

Bauer said it was important for the Indians to get this win from the Twins, who seemingly had their way with Cleveland during their previous stop at Progressive Field.

“What are you going to say about last series?” Bauer said. “It was one of those things that happens during a year that a team just hits everything. Balls. Strikes. In. Out. Up. Down. Offspeeds. Fastballs. Whatever. That’s a credit to them.

“So, being able to limit the offense and get off to a good start in the series, especially
after the road trip we had, it’s definitely big.”

HOME: After Bauer’s exit, the bullpen was strong for the final four innings, sidestepping the potential harm of six baserunners in that span.

McAllister, of course, got the final out. He now has a 1.88 ERA with 17 strikeouts and four walks in his past 13 games (14.1 innings). We’ll just ignore that .311 opponents’ batting average in that same span for the time being.

Allen worked 1.2 innings before being lifted. Thanks to McAllister, Allen was able to lower his ERA to 2.06 over his pasty 38 games (39.1 innings). Five of the nine earned runs he’s allowed in that span came on Aug. 17. That’s four earned runs in the other 37 appearances.

Bryan Shaw worked the final two outs in the eighth inning and got them on just four pitches. He now has 15 shutout innings in his last 16 games, dating back to allowing four runs on July 18. In fact, Shaw has 29 scoreless appearances in his past 30 games for a 1.24 ERA in that span.

And then, there’s Miller.

“He’s been great. He’s been great all year,” McAllister said. “To be able to see him in person is kind of special.”

Brian Dozier saw him in person, and is the latest victim of Miller’s ankle-breaking slider. the lanky lefty worked 1.1 innings, racking up three strikeouts and allowing a pair of weak singles. With Cleveland, Miller now has a 1.38 ERA with 22 strikeouts and one walk in 13 innings (11 games).

As for that strikeout against Dozier…

“We’ve seen it before,” Kipnis said. “Khris Davis in Oakland. Go down the list. He goes in with that slider to righties. The ball comes in to their back legs. It’s a wipeout slider, a nasty pitch and I love watching it from second base. It’s a much better perspective than at the plate.

“Usually I watch it as it goes by my bat and then I walk with my head down back to the dugout.”

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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