CLEVELAND: It was the kind of game you see in September: two non-contenders locking horns thinking they’re giving it their best effort.
The operative word is “thinking,” because plays like this don’t happen when players are focused on what they’re supposed to be doing, as was the case Sunday at Progressive Field in the Indians’ 5-3 loss to the Twins.
The Twins scored their final run in the ninth, when Oswaldo Arcia doubled off the wall in left with Ryan Doumit on first. Doumit hustled his way around the bases and ran across the plate, beating Michael Brantley’s throw to Yan Gomes.
But plate umpire Eric Cooper made no signal. Doumit had missed the plate. Gomes didn’t realize it quickly enough, and Doumit retreated to the plate, touching it with his hand a millisecond before Gomes tagged him.
‘‘It’s a fast game,’’ manager Terry Francona said. ‘‘The ball is coming one way and Gomes is blocking the plate. He just noticed too late.’’
It was really either team’s game to lose and both probably should have. But the visitors happened to win for no particular reason. Bad pitching, mistakes, missed opportunities. This game had it all.
‘‘We gave ourselves plenty of opportunities,’’ Francona said. ‘‘We just didn’t cash in. It was a frustrating day. We had some chances and didn’t come through.’’
The Tribe stranded 10 runners, six in scoring position.
‘‘We still won the series,’’ Jason Kipnis said. ‘‘And we’ve won four series in a row, but we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities today.’’
Kipnis did. He walked in the first inning, doubled to drive in a run in the third, singled in the seventh and doubled in the ninth. For the three-game set, he was 7-for-11 with six RBI and an on-base percentage of .692.
‘‘I thought we had some good at-bats, got guys on base, but we just didn’t win,’’ he said.
The Indians were stymied by Pedro Hernandez, an emergency call-up from Triple-A Rochester, because the scheduled starter, Mike Pelfrey, wrenched his back running on Saturday. The call was made for Hernandez, whose wife happened to have driven to Louisville to watch her husband play.
She took the wheel from Louisville to Cleveland while Hernandez tried to sleep. They arrived downtown at 4 a.m. Sunday.
Not that this sudden dislocation from his routine proved to be a handicap for Hernandez, who delivered five strong innings, allowing two runs and three hits. And never mind that he walked six, because Tribe batsmen couldn’t make him pay.
And what was Hernandez’s reward for subduing the Indians? A return trip to the minors; the Twins optioned him back to Rochester, which meant that he and his wife took to the interstates right after the game to get to Indianapolis on time for the next series.
Carlos Carrasco was coming off a game in which he limited the Royals to one run and four hits in 7⅓ innings. However, the momentum of that start didn’t carry over to Sunday.
Not that Carrasco was awful. But he lasted only 4⅔ innings, giving up three runs, six hits and four walks. OK, maybe he was almost awful.
‘‘To his credit, he was able to limit the damage,’’ Francona said. ‘‘But they really made him work.’’
There should be no expectation that Carrasco (0-3, 7.78 ERA) will be a solid, consistent starter every time out. He missed all of last season and the last two months of the 2011 season because of elbow reconstruction surgery. It will take a lot more than three starts for him to regain any kind of edge.
‘‘The farther he gets away from that surgery and the more reps he gets at this level, you’ll see nothing but improvement,’’ Francona said.
Asked to point out the difference between his last start and Sunday’s, Carrasco said, ‘‘I just missed a couple of spots. The first two innings, I threw too many pitches, and I got in trouble in the first. I also got behind in the count too much.’’
Carrasco gave up only one run in the first two innings, but he put five runners on base.
With two outs and a runner on first in the third, Francona and head trainer Lonnie Soloff trotted to the mound thinking that Carrasco was hurt.
‘‘I had a little cramp in my leg,’’ he said, ‘‘but it was fine.’’
Tribe pitchers might have set some sort of record, as four pitchers each threw a wild pitch: Carrasco, Nick Hagadone, Rich Hill and Cody Allen.
That’s the kind of game it was.
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.