Cody Allen had a tough time getting the third out, but still managed to grab his third save of the season.
The Indians had a 3-1 lead going into the ninth inning of Monday night’s game against the Twins. Cody Allen entered the game and had 2 outs via strikeout and a runner on first. But like so many bad innings for the Indians in this young season, that third out would prove rather difficult. Allen first allowed a double and had runners at second and third with slugger Miguel Sano coming to the plate. You may remember that Sano was the player that hit a walk-off single off of Allen on April 26 of last year. In fact, during the Indians’ first road trip to Minnesota in 2016 they lost the first two games of the series via a walk-off. I had a sharp feeling of deja vu as I watched the ninth inning unfold.
Allen ended up walking Sano to load the bases with one of the Indians’ 2016 tormentors coming to the plate – Joe Mauer. Mauer, who hit .329/.434/.586 against the Indians last season with 10 doubles and 2 home runs, could easily end the game with one swing. He’s not off to a very hot start in 2017, but he was 2-for-5 against starter Danny Salazar on Monday night. Allen was able to get Mauer to fly out to center to get the elusive third out, and his third save of the season.
Just like his start last week against the Chicago White Sox, Danny Salazar found himself in trouble early. He danced his way out of a bases loaded situation in the first inning without allowing a run, but wasn’t as lucky in the second inning – a walk to Jorge Polanco, followed by an an Eduardo Escobar double, left runners at second and third with nobody out. Eddie Rosario came to the plate and singled, scoring Polanco and sending Escobar to third, all with no outs. It looked a bit bleak with runners on first and third with nobody out and a run already in, especially considering the fact that he was back to the top of the order. However, Salazar struck out Brian Dozier, got Max Kepler to pop out, and struck Miguel Sano out to end the inning. Salazar calmed down after that and had a fairly strong outing until he was pulled prior to the seventh inning. Bryan Shaw and Andrew Miller pitched two hitless innings before Allen entered.
The offense wasn’t spectacular, but the strong pitching performances meant that they didn’t have to do too much. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Indians’ best offensive inning of the game included contributions from both Yan Gomes and Edwin Encarnacion, two players that have struggled so far this season. Gomes started out the third with a single, on one of the better swings I’ve seen from him in a while. Francisco Lindor doubled, leaving runners at second and third with one out. Michael Brantley grounded out to first, which allowed Gomes to score and Lindor to move to third. Encarnacion followed with a single that scored Lindor, giving the Indians a 2-1 lead; a lead they never relinquished. They added a third run from a Brantley solo homer in the fifth.
The Indians lost three consecutive series in a row, including one that was a sweep in Arizona. With the struggling Josh Tomlin scheduled to take the mound on Tuesday night against Phil Hughes, it was important for the Indians to grab a win tonight. Salazar pitched well last week, but the Indians still managed to lose 2-1 thanks to the struggles of the offense. The Indians are just one game below .500; they can right the ship with a good road trip this week. It felt good to start the trip with a win.