CLEVELAND: Now that the Indians’ six-game winning streak is history, what should they do?
In baseball, whether it’s a win, a loss or a rainout, the answer is always the same: “Go get ’em tomorrow.”
That’s probably what the Minnesota Twins said after dropping the first two games of the weekend series with the Tribe, then they went out and prevented a sweep with a 4-2 victory Sunday at Progressive Field.
The man most responsible for saving the visitors from going winless in Cleveland was Mike Pelfrey, who is not a guy you’d pick to muster up a heroic performance. Pelfrey came into the game with a 2-3 record and 7.66 ERA. Moreover, he is only 12 months removed from elbow reconstruction surgery.
Nevertheless, Pelfrey was just short of being dominant for six innings, giving up one run, four hits and one walk, and striking out seven, including four of the last seven batters he faced. Let’s just say there were no (Tribe) bats in his Pelfrey.
“I thought today, you had to respect him inside,” manager Terry Francona said. “He could throw strikes inside, and that opened up the plate for everything else he had.”
The Indians only made Pelfrey sweat once, in the fourth inning, when Asdrubal Cabrera led off with a double to left, one of only two hard-hit balls Pelfrey allowed. One out later, Mark Reynolds hit a ball with authority, a drive that carried just in front of the track in center for a sacrifice fly.
Carlos Santana and Ryan Raburn followed with soft line drives that fell for singles, but the Indians couldn’t sustain the rally as Lonnie Chisenhall struck out to end the inning.
Before the fourth inning, Pelfrey (3-3, 6.35 ERA) retired nine of 11 batters; after the fourth, he retired six in a row.
Corey Kluber didn’t quite match Pelfrey in effectiveness, but for the second consecutive start, he kept his team in the game, which is something that anyone could take for granted.
In 5⅔ innings, Kluber (2-1, 3.06 ERA) gave up three runs, five hits and four walks.
“For the most part, he pitched pretty good,” Francona said.
It’s too strong to say that walks killed Kluber, but they certainly wounded him. With one out in the second inning, he walked Chris Parmelee and gave up a home run to Trevor Plouffe.
“He threw one too many breaking balls to Plouffe and paid for it,” Francona said.
“I threw him two cutters and a curveball, so all three had a similar look,” Kluber said. “And that was not my best curveball.”
Jamey Carroll led off the sixth with a single, and Kluber walked the next two batters. That brought up Justin Morneau, who singled home the Twins’ third run of the game. One strikeout later, Francona went to the bullpen.
“We were in a situation in the sixth when we had to keep the game where it was,” the manager said.
Kluber acknowledged that walks hurt him, but he didn’t think he was particularly wild.
“I think there were a lot of pitches that missed but not by much,” he said. “I felt pretty good. I wasn’t all over the place.”
When he walked two in the sixth, Kluber still didn’t think he had lost command of the strike zone.
“I thought I made some pitches [that were close],” he said. “I didn’t feel like I lost anything. I didn’t think I was making bad pitches.”
For the Tribe attack, which averaged 8.8 runs during the winning streak, a game didn’t break out until the ninth, and then it was too little too late.
Twins closer Glen Perkins retired the first two batters without incident, but Santana hammered a pitch over the wall in left for his sixth home run of the season. Raburn then continued to raise false hopes by looping a single into right field.
That brought up Mike Aviles, pinch hitting for left-handed batting Chisenhall. Aviles fell into a quick hole by fouling off the first two pitches but eventually worked the count to 3-and-2 before finally swinging and missing a 95 mph fastball to end the game.
It took a half dozen consecutive wins to push the Indians over .500, and now they are back to 14-14 with the Oakland Athletics coming to town for a four-game series. So there is only one thing to do: “Go get ’em tomorrow.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. 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.