The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 7, 2014

Twins hang 10-spot on Masterson & Co.

Minnesota has little trouble trumping Tribe ace

For the Star Beacon

CLEVELAND — In a game which featured both team’s No. 1 starters, offense ruled the day at Progressive Field.

Unfortunately for the Tribe, Minnesota effectively had more of it.

In  a game that lasted 3 hours and 55 minutes, the Twins withstood a comeback by the Cleveland hitters, and took the rubber match of the three-game opening series, 10-7, on Sunday afternoon.

The Indians (3-3) outhit Minnesota, 15-9, and overcame a four-run deficit to tie the game in the fifth inning, but walked 8 batters and hit 3 more with pitches. They left 12 men on base while going 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position, and could not come back after Chris Colabello’s three-run double in the sixth put the Twins (3-3) ahead for the third time.

Colabello hammered his two-bagger into the left-center-field gap against reliever Blake Wood (0-1). It was the only hit of the inning, as Brian Dozier (3 runs) had drawn a one-out walk and stolen second, Joe Mauer had been issued an intentional base on balls and Jason Bartlett had been hit by a pitch to load the bases to set up Colabello, who entered the game tied for the AL lead in RBI with 7 and added 4 more Sunday.

Bartlett was in the contest only because Josh Willingham had himself been hit on the left wrist with a Masterson pitch in the first frame and had to leave.

“That was a tough inning,” manager Terry Francona said. “They steal the base, so we walk Mauer because Willingham’s out of the game, and he hits Bartlett. And that sets up a bigger inning. Trying to get out of that with none and give up multiple runs — that hurts, because we had just clawed back into it.”

Anthony Swarzak (1-0), who had yielded the tying run in the fifth stanza, got the win. Swarzak was tagged for a second run when Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley (3 hits) strung together one-out singles in the sixth, but after Caleb Thielbar walked pinch-hitter Ryan Raburn to load the bases, he induced Yan Gomes to ground into a double play.

Minnesota added a run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Aaron Hicks that was set up by a pair of John Axford walks. The play was reviewed to check whether Trevor Plouffe touched home plate, but the call was upheld.

Casey Fien, Jared Burton and Glen Perkins (2nd save) kept the Indians off the board over the final 3 frames after a leadoff single in the seventh.

The Tribe put the first two men on in the eighth, but Burton got out of it with the help of a double-play grounder that Ryan Raburn hit hard, but right at shortstop Pedro Florimon.

“The double plays — Gomer got jammed a little bit,” Francona said. “And then Rayburn — that’s a good swing. He hit that ball right on the screws; he just hit it right at the shortstop.”

Justin Masterson, whose seven-innings of shutout ball in the season opener on March 31 remains Cleveland’s only start to last at least 6 innings, was not nearly as effective this time. The right-hander went just 32⁄3 innings, allowing 6 runs (5 earned).

“He wasn’t commanding very well,” Francona said. “Saying that, there wasn’t a ton of hard contact. (But) they made him throw a lot of pitches, and he was in and out of the zone more than he’s been normally.”

The Twins scored twice in the second inning on a hit batter, a Jason Kubel double, an RBI single by Kurt Suzuki and a double-play grounder that allowed Kubel to cross the plate.

The Indians got even in the bottom of the same frame on Gomes’ two-run blast to left against starter Ricky Nolasco.

Minnesota bounced right back for 3, with the help of an error.

After Dozier walked and Mauer (3 hits) singled him to third on a hit-and-run, Masterson fanned Bartlett.

Colabello followed with a dribbler in front of the plate. Gomes pounced on it, but nobody was at the second-base bag to catch his throw. Dozier scored and Mauer took third on the play.

“I’d like to look at it (on film),” Francona said. “(Gomes) came out of there really well — maybe a little too quick. Colabello’s hitting — a bigger guy. I’m not sure our guys could get there that quick.

“It’s a good hustle play for sure, and it has a chance to end the inning, but I don’t think our infielders had a chance to get there.”

Plouffe then singled through the left side for a run, and Kubel grounded a hit just out of the reach of Kipnis at second base. Colabello came home to make it 5-2.

The Twins proceeded to load the bases with one out, but Masterson was able to avert further damage, However, the right-hander had already thrown 81 pitches. He exited in the fourth after allowing Colabello’s run-scoring single.

“You want to make some adjustments (after you start poorly),” Masterson said. “They just didn’t (work). That was kind of the hard part — trying to get some sliders, and unable to really get to the nitty-gritty. It all just led back to not getting in the strike zone, especially early.”

But Nolasco no lasto, as he was removed following a fourth inning in which he surrendered a three-run double to Kipnis. Nolasco hurt himself with wildness that inning, as with 2 outs, he walked 2 batters on a total of 9 pitches to load the bases just before Kipnis hit the first pitch off the wall in the left-field corner, with the ball then skipping past Bartlett.

The Indians tied it in the fifth on doubles by Lonnie Chisenhall and David Murphy (4 hits), both off Swarzak. Chisenhall greeted Swarzak with a fly to left-center that appeared to glance off the glove of a lunging Bartlett. One out later, Murphy lofted a soft fly down the left-field line that eluded Bartlett’s diving attempt.  

“I thought we clawed back really well,” Francona said. “That’s not easy to do.”

Scott Atchison, Marc Rzepczynski and Bryan Shaw also pitched for Cleveland.

Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.