CLEVELAND – Making defensive blunders and leaving runners in scoring position is not a mix for maintaining ground atop the AL Central.
The Indians committed two costly errors before Cody Allen and Zach McAllister allowed a pair of solo home runs in a 4-2 loss to the Twins on Saturday afternoon at Progressive Field.
Jose Ramirez homered and Corey Kluber fired seven strong innings, but the bats went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position despite playing with the support of 33,111 fans.
Errors lift Twins early; error lifts Indians late
Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes committed two throwing errors to charge Kluber with two unearned runs in the first inning.
“I was kind of disappointed in the way I handled the next two batters after the leadoff error, but like you said, (I) was able to bounce back and at least leave the last guy out there,” said Kluber. “I think it was big to be able to strand the last guy.”
Ramirez took a do-it-yourself mentality into the fourth frame, launching his career-high 12th home run of the year to cut the deficit in half.
The rally continued in the seventh when Francisco Lindor reached on a throwing error by Jorge Polanco, scoring Gomes (single) and evening the score at 2-2.
Kluber rolls along; Allen takes loss
A favorable strike zone over both sides of the plate worked well for Kluber and his season-high 13 strikeouts.
“I think the key is just being able to throw all my pitches, not just for strikes but being able to command them,” Kluber said. “Throw [pitches] where I want to throw them, not just throw them in the zone.”
The ace of the staff now has 29 career games with double-digit strikeouts, five of which have come this season – 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 13 K (106 pitches, 73 strikes, 68.9%, six groundouts, two flyouts).
“He was good. It’s a shame because the way the first inning unfolded, not only did they get the two, but it probably cost him pitching the eighth inning,” said Francona.“It’s a testament to what just good old fashioned hard work ethic can do. You go all the way back before I was here when he was in Triple-A, his numbers weren’t that great, there’s how many guys in the league that throw just as hard as him, but through hard work he has turned himself into one of the best pitchers in the game.”
Kluber dominated the game, but the two early errors put a damper on his outing.
“I couldn’t honestly care less about striking out 13 guys,” Kluber said. “I would have rather not let those guys score in the first inning.”
Cody Allen made his first appearance in six days, giving up a solo home run to Brian Dozier in the eighth, the difference in the contest.
“The guys he was facing or potentially was going to face were something like 4-for-40 (against Allen),” Francona said. “We really needed Cody to pitch and Andrew’s pitched a lot. That was the reason.”
Zach McAllister could not keep the tally intact either, falling victim to Chris Gimenez’s solo shot the following inning.
“We got to come out tomorrow and get after it,” said Francona. “[Shoot], I might just stay in my uniform. Tomorrow will be a fun game to play.”
Central Division update
The Royals (37-36) topped the Blue Jays and the White Sox (32-41) fell to the Athletics.
The series concludes on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. from Progressive Field.
RHP Josh Tomlin (4-8, 6.07) will look to replicate his past success against the Twins this season, featuring a 1-1 record and 2.57 ERA in the divisional clash. The 32-year-old has allowed 29 earned runs in eight starts (39.2 IP) at home in 2017.
RHP Ervin Santana (9-4, 2.97) surrendered a career-high 10 hits in his last outing against the White Sox despite earning the win. The 34-year-old has a 43:22 strikeout to walk ratio in his career at Progressive Field.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.