CLEVELAND: Had any Indians fan been told their team would score just one run in 18 innings Monday and still come away with a doubleheader split against the New York Yankees, most would have taken it.
Indians manager Terry Francona said he would have gladly settled for a split on a day his offense scuffled before he led his team into the traditional doubleheader necessitated by two rainouts in early April in the Tribe’s first homestand.
“If you woulda told me going into today that we would score one run, not used CP [Chris Perez], Smitty [Joe Smith], Cody [Allen] or Rich [Hill], I’m not sure I would’ve thought we’d come out with a split. We had [Jason] Kipnis’ home run, really, to show for the whole day — and we got a split.”
Yet after winning the first game 1-0 in exciting fashion thanks to Kipnis’ first-inning homer and a complete-game shutout by Justin Masterson, the way the Indians lost the second game 7-0 dashed the day’s earlier excitement.
Rookie starter Trevor Bauer showed considerable improvement in throwing his fastball for strikes and walking just two batters as he limited the Yankees to three runs (two earned) while scattering six hits over a career-high 6⅓ innings.
In his first two starts with the Tribe, the young right-hander combined to issue 13 walks in 10 innings.
“There’s a lot to take out of the outing,” Bauer said. “I can be a lot better than I was today and I was a lot better today than I had been this year.”
Yet Bauer was still tagged with the loss after left-handed reliever Nick Hagadone couldn’t get out of the seventh inning as the Yankees blew open the game with six runs before veteran Matt Albers came on and doused the flames.
“When [Hagadone] is in that attack mode, his stuff is so good, it actually doesn’t really matter about matching him up because he can get everybody out,” Francona said. “But when he starts to feel a little bit for the strike zone, that’s when he runs into problems. He’s still a younger guy and learning, he just needs to stay in that attack mode.”
Instead, it was New York pitchers who attacked the Indians hitters, including a familiar face in Yankees’ starter Vidal Nuno. The left-hander was the Tribe’s 48th-round draft pick in 2009. But after pitching in the farm system for two years, he was released.
The Yankees signed Nuno out of the independent leagues, and he rewarded them by going 10-6 with a 2.54 ERA in 31 games combined between high Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton last season.
In his first major league start Monday, Nuno threw five scoreless innings and held the Indians to three harmless hits and three walks.
“He threw strike one to just about every hitter,” Francona said. “It wasn’t always fastball, it was breaking ball, change up. He worked ahead in the count and he came in enough late in the count when he’d throw a cutter. It’s Pitching 101. He doesn’t overwhelm you with a fastball or anything, but he pitched a very solid game.”
The Tribe entered the day having won 12 of their last 14 games after taking two of three games from host Detroit last weekend and moving into a first-place tie with the Tigers in the American League Central.
The team continued its hot streak in the first game with Kipnis giving Masterson a slight lead with which to work.
Kipnis had been struggling offensively since missing five games in April with left elbow soreness. But he’s found his stroke in the month of May, launching a 414-foot home run into the right field seats with one out in the first inning.
Kipnis credited his streak to simply “shortening up his swing.”
“Once I did that and started to get some hits and get back to my old self, my confidence came back,” he said.
Masterson (6-2, 3.14 ERA) is also riding a wave of confidence. He tossed his second 1-0 complete-game shutout by limiting the Yankees to four hits and three walks while striking out nine batters.
“He understood from [Sunday] going into [Monday] how the game ended and how many [pitchers] were used,” Francona said. “Staying out there is one thing, but to pitch the way he pitched so effectively, that was really impressive.”
The Yankees threatened to rally in the second inning with the bases loaded and two outs. But Tribe shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera saved a run that Francona dubbed “the play of the game” by smothering a Chris Stewart infield hit that loaded bases. Masterson calmly struck out Gonzalez to get out of the jam unscathed.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Aeros blog at http://www.ohio.com/aeros. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/sports.abj.