7/15: Twins Offense Punchless In Loss to Carlos Carrasco, Indians

Santana looks to pitch the Twins to a win in the series opener against the Diamondbacks.

Ervin Santana was good, but Carlos Carrasco was just a bit better as the Cleveland Indians took down the Minnesota Twins 5-2 at Target Field on Friday night. Carrasco (6-3) threw 6.2 solid innings, allowing just four hits and two runs before giving way to a bullpen that threw 2.1 perfect innings to protect his lead.

Santana (3-8) also pitched relatively well, but was done in by a little iffy defense and an elevated pitch count, as he finished just 5.1 innings with 99 pitches (60 strikes). He allowed four runs (three earned) with five strikeouts and a pair of walks.

“It was good,” Santana said of his performance overall. “It was tough, but I felt a lot of positive things. Everything was good. The slider and changeup were good. I kept the ball down for the most part.”

The Twins broke through with their first run in the opening frame. Santana fanned a pair in a 1-2-3 first inning, and the Twins got a pair of one-out singles from Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano to get the offense in business early. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, and Brian Dozier hit a broken-bat jam shot to center that appeared to confuse Tyler Naquin long enough for Mauer to race home on the sac fly. Naquin made the catch, but didn’t appear to be in position to make a throw home, and instead conceded the run with a throw toward third to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.

Santana again faced the minimum in the second, but he had to get by with a little help from his friends. Mike Napoli — who was the proverbial thorn in the Twins’ side all night — blasted a single off the wall in left-center to open the inning. Napoli wasn’t content with a single, but the carom was played perfectly by Byron Buxton, who turned and fired to second to get Napoli by a wide margin, as Dozier made a clean pick of a short hop and tagged him out.

Overall, Santana faced the minimum over the first seven batters, and worked out of trouble again in the third with the help of one of his outfield compadres. This time, it was Max Kepler who fielded a bounce off the right field wall cleanly with his bare hand, not only holding Carlos Santana to a single, but also holding Naquin — who had walked to start the inning — at third, where he was ultimately stranded to preserve the 1-0 Twins lead.

Santana’s friends let him down in the fourth, however. After a Francisco Lindor walk, Napoli hit a jam shot/swinging bunt to third base that Sano raced in to field. Sano hurried a sidearm throw to first when it appeared he didn’t need to — due to Napoli’s speed, or lack thereof — and the ball got past a diving Joe Mauer at first to put runners on second and third with nobody out. Jose Ramirez followed with a single to left to score Lindor with the tying run and move Napoli to third, with the latter coming home on a groundout to Dozier on another strange play.

Dozier briefly faked toward home in an attempt to freeze Napoli at third, and in doing so had to rush his flip to Eduardo Nunez for the front half of an attempted 4-6-3 double play. The Twins got the first half and the play was close on the back end, but Nunez’ throw wasn’t dug out at first by Mauer, and Napoli streaked home to give the Indians a 2-1 lead. Dozier said after the game that he initially intended to come home with the play, before opting to try settle for the double play. The miscue didn’t further hamstring the Twins however, as Mauer made an incredible diving play on a scorching liner off the bat of Yan Gomes. Mauer got up, and stepped on the bag to double off Lonnie Chisenhall at first.

As the Twins have done regularly in the month of July, they returned fire quickly as Dozier drilled his 15th home run of the season to left field. The home run traveled an estimated 417 feet, just missing the foul pole in left to tie the game at two apiece. Dozier’s home run came on a fastball. “It was the only one I saw,” Dozier said. “He made some mistakes, and left that one middle-in or whatever. But, he made some more, and we didn’t execute on the times he did make those mistakes.”

That’d be it for the Twins offensive efforts however, as got just one hit the rest of the way — a two-out Robbie Grossman double to left-center in the seventh — against Carrasco, who was followed by relievers Jeff Manship, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen (save, 19). The Indians relief corps backed up their 2.1 perfect innings with four strikeouts.

Cleveland pushed across two more runs in the sixth, as three straight one-out singles from Lindor, Napoli and Ramirez plated one run and left Santana not only out of the game, but hurting a little bit. The Ramirez single ricocheted off Santana’s wrist, as he just missed gloving it to start a potential 1-6-3 double play to get him out of the inning. Instead, the run scored and another came across against reliever Trevor May, who threw a wild pitch to plate Napoli for a 4-2 Indians lead.

“It was too fast,” said Santana of his attempted stab of the Ramirez drive. “It got me on the wrist. It’s a little swollen now, but it’s OK.”

The Indians added an insurance run in the eighth to cap the scoring at 5-2, as Napoli drilled a full count pitch from Twins reliever Ryan Pressly into the bullpen in left-center.

Up Next: RHP Trevor Bauer (7-3, 3.30) vs. RHP Tyler Duffey (5-6, 5.20) – 6:10 p.m. Saturday

Notes & Quotes

  • In spite of Santana’s modest 4.12 ERA, the Twins are just 3-14 in his starts this season.
  • Sano extended his hitting streak to seven games with a single in the first inning.
  • Dozier has homered in back-to-back games.
  • Taylor Rogers worked a scoreless seventh inning to celebrate one month since he last allowed an earned run. Rogers allowed four earned runs on June 15 against the Angels, but has thrown 13.1 scoreless innings in a row since.
  • Former Twins reliever Kevin Jepsen threw a scoreless eighth inning against the Baltimore Orioles in his 2016 debut with the Tampa Bay Rays.
  • Santana on the gesture to the sky when he came off the field: “I just thank God for everything. You never know.”
  • Santana on when/where he threw his most recent bullpen: “It was at the apartment, in a little grass area. It was just like (throwing from) flat ground. It was yesterday. I threw with a friend of mine.”
  • Santana on starting with longer rest than usual: “It was tough when you have four days off, and you come today and you just practice. You don’t have the same feeling for every pitch. It’s a battle, but it’s OK. We still have more games to go.”
  • Santana on Buxton’s throw to get Napoli: “He saved me on that one. He’s very good at those there.”
  • Santana on Mauer’s great play against Gomes: “He makes a lot of plays for me behind first base. He’s got the ability to.”
  • Dozier on the loss, and a tough start to the second half: “I feel like we played good baseball. We made a couple mental mistakes, but you have to capitalize when you face a guy like Carrasco. He made some mistakes, and we just didn’t put very good swings on it. He throws that changeup 50-60-70 percent of the time, and that’s his best pitch. He threw it a lot tonight, and we kept chasing it.”
  • Dozier on Carrasco’s changeup(s): “He throws it very hard. He throws it a lot. Not many for strikes. They look like strikes. A couple he threw to me cut. Some bottom out and some sink and run pretty good. I think he just — looking on film — Gomes just sets up in the middle and whatever way it goes it kinda goes. He’s got one of the better changeups I’ve seen in a while.”
  • Dozier on the variations to Carrasco’s changeups, and how that helps him keep from being overexposed on it: “That’s absolutely true. There’s some other guys that have that where it’s not just the typical changeup, but he does a few different things with it and throws it a lot, and uses his fastball late to kind of blow it by you. That’s kind of his gameplan. That’s been his plan all season long, and he’s done well with it. He did well tonight.”
  • Dozier on the Napoli play at home: “Anytime there’s a runner who isn’t too fast on third in a close ballgame, I’ll cheat in about a step. If a ball is hit right at me, I’ll always have that split decision to go home or not. Right when it was hit to me I was going to go home. There was just a little hesitation, and then I decided to try turn two. That’s another one….we’ve gotta turn that double play.”
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