CLEVELAND – Left-handed pitching has thrown the Indians fits all season long, as evidenced by their .249/.323/.425 slash line when facing a southpaw.
Consider this weekend the turning point to these particular struggles.
Despite a 75-minute rain delay, the Indians beat the Twins, 6-2, to gain sole possession of first-place atop the AL Central ladder. All three victories in the divisional series have come against left-hand starters.
Lonnie Chisenhall homered before and after the brief interruption to give the Tribe a seven-game winning streak at Target Field.
Response runs set the tone
After Joe Mauer doubled in a run, Clevealnd answered with solo home runs off the bats of Austin Jackson and Chisenhall to earn a 2-1 advantage.
“[Chisenhall’s] given us a huge lift,” manager Terry Francona said. “That’s the understatement. He always plays a good outfield, but he’s been hitting the ball, especially with runners on base and for damage. I hope it continues.”
Once the downpour subsided, Chisenhall returned to the stat sheet on a three-run blast over the right field wall off Tyler Duffey, scoring Carlos Santana (walk) and Jackson (bunt single).
“You work hard and make good adjustments,” said Chisenhall. “It’s more important to help our team. Just get out there and take some good swings. (Our) guys are doing a great job of being on base, working counts and stuff like that. Two team wins today.”
Francisco Lindor notched the fourth home run of the night in the eighth, a solo shot that proved to be the final blow to the opposing bullpen.
“Everybody did something. It was fun,” Francona said. “I thought our guys carried the enthusiasm throughout and they did a really good job.”
Clevinger fares well; bullpen picks up heavy workload
Had it not been for the inclement weather, Clevinger may have recorded a quality start and worked deeper than his four innings of one-run ball.
“It’s just a continual process of getting the mechanics refined,” said Clevinger. “Just finding that release point down and away.”
The Florida native effectively used his slider to produce four of his 10 swinging strikes…
“I just wanted to keep us in it,” Clevinger said. “Especially with the (divisional) race as tight as it is.”
Boone Logan, Cody Allen and Andrew Miller strung together five shutout frames for another quality performance from the bullpen.
“For the last 10 days, Cody hasn’t worked very much,” said Francona. “We wanted to insure that he carried the load and then flip it over to Andrew. We may do that on and off this next week, just to get their workload back a little more even.”
Central Division update
The Rays took down the Tigers (32-35) while the Angels destroyed the Royals (32-35), 9-0.
Both teams will reconvene for the series finale on Sunday at 2:10 p.m. from Target Field.
RHP Trevor Bauer (5-5, 5.85) matched Clayton Kershaw in his last start, allowing two runs on six hits in 5.2 innings of work on Tuesday. The 26-year-old right-hander has recorded three quality starts this season, two of which came against the Twins.
RHP Kyle Gibson (4-4, 6.79) is having the worst season of his five-year career, giving up five or more runs in four of his 11 outings. Despite the struggles, the 29-year-old right-hander has not received a loss since May 4 vs. Oakland.
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.