By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
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MINNEAPOLIS: Is there such a thing as a fielding slump? Probably.
Unfortunately for the Indians, they are putting that question to the test.
Another error, another loss might be the operative theme for he 3-2 loss Saturday night to the Minnesota Twins, though things are always a little more complex than that.
However, a sixth-inning error by Lonnie Chisenhall ignited a three-run rally after the Tribe had held the Twins scoreless.
It was the second consecutive game in which shoddy play in the field led to an Indians’ loss. On Friday night, errors by Chisenhall and Nick Swisher led directly to two unearned runs and an earned run that probably was undeserved, as the Twins rallied for 3-2 victory.
“We’re not stinging the ball, that’s for sure,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “If you’re going to get five hits, you have to play a clean game.”
Neither Chisenhall nor Swisher have been error prone thus far this year, but their misplays proved costly in the first two games of this series.
The Indians began the night with the fifth-most errors (57) in the American League, the Astros holding the dubious distinction of leading with 70.
Rich Hill took over for Corey Kluber in the sixth and bad things started to happen for the Tribe, but not merely because of the pitching change.
Joe Mauer led off with a walk and Justin Morneau followed with a single to put runners on first and third. Ryan Doumit slapped a slow bouncer to third. Chisenhall made the play and thought he had time to make a play at the plate on Mauer, who was running on contact.
But Chisenhall’s throw was wide and eluded Carlos Santana, the error allowing Morneau to reach third and Doumit to take second. Mauer probably would have beat Chisenhall’s throw, had it been accurate, but the wild heave set the stage for two additional Minnesota runs.
“I don’t want to try and manage their team, but I don’t think they wanted him to run,” Francona said of Mauer. “The rule of thumb is that you don’t go unless [the other team is] going to turn two, and of course we weren’t going to do that.”
Hill gave way to Bryan Shaw, who gave up Chris Colabello’s bloop single to right that scored Morneau. One out later, Clete Thomas slapped a possible double-play grounder to Jason Kipnis at second. He bobbled the ball for an instant before making the throw to force Colabello at second. Thomas, however, beat the relay to first, allowing Doumit to score.
“He hit it hard enough,” Francona said of the ball hit to Kipnis. “Kipnis just didn’t get it clean, but he still almost turned it.”
Kluber did his job, and never mind that he did it for only five innings. He did not allow a run, gave up just three hits, two walks and struck out seven.
Kluber’s abbreviated outing had nothing to do with his performance or his pitch count (93); he left the game with what was described as tightness in his left hip.
“I felt it on one pitch my last start,” Kluber said. “But that was not like tonight. Tonight it was kind of constant.”
However, neither Kluber nor Francona thought the pitcher would miss his next start.
“No, not at all,” Kluber said.
Kluber tried to convince the manager to let him stay in the game.
“Tito said he thought it was affecting my delivery,” he said. “I thought he had his mind made up. Me and Lonnie [head trainer Lonnie Soloff] worked on it between innings, so Tito was aware of it.”
Francona did not want to take any chances.
“Corey was trying to fight through it, but I think it affected his command,” the manager said. “He was up more than normal, and he already gave us a lot. If he had given up runs because of that, I would have been kicking myself.”
Twice, the Twins put runners on first and second against Kluber, but unfortunately for them, there were two outs when it happened and Kluber stopped both threats cold.
The Indians had the same problem with Kevin Correia as the Twins had with Kluber and for the same number of innings. But Correia came out for the sixth. Big mistake.
Chisenhall led off with a single then was forced at second by Michael Bourn. After Asdrubal Cabrera flied to deep left, Jason Kipnis picked on Correia’s 1-and-1 pitch and drove it over the fence in left for his 14th home run of the season, giving the Tribe a 2-0 lead and tying his career best, achieved last year.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.