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Indians Put the Hammer Down, Lee Rolls Again

This is exactly what I was afraid would happen.

If you missed this game, don't bother trying to brush yourself up on the particulars.  Cliff Lee showed why he's one of the American League's premier starting pitchers, and the Cleveland offense scorched the home team for a double-digit night.

Essetially the Indians scored 10 runs with their B-Squad; think the Twins without Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.  Literally a slew of players on the disabled list, but on Wednesday night it didn't matter.  The Indians scored nearly at will.  Anthony Swarzak finally succumbed to a bad start, capped off by a three-run bomb off the bat of Jhonny Peralta.  Swarzak lasted just four innings and was slapped with six runs.

In last night's pre-game scouting report, we talked about Swarzak's penchant for throwing the fastball, maybe a little too often.  Of his 83 offerings Wednesday, 63 were fastballs (76%), meaning pitch selection wasn't really that different from his first two starts.  If I'm an opposing hitter, guess what I'm sitting on.  Still, here is Swarzak's pitch selection on Cleveland's run-scoring plays:

  • 3-2 pitch to Victor Martinez:  Fastball (RBI single)
  • 2-1 pitch to Shin-Soo Choo:  Fastball (RBI single)
  • 0-1 pitch to Jhonny Peralta:  Slider (3-Run home run)
  • 1-2 pitch to Jamey Carroll:  Fastball (RBI single)

Three fastballs and a hanging slider; what made that devastating third inning even worse was that all base runners (and subsequently all five runs) came with two outs.

On the other side, Lee dismantled the Twins.  Most notably he got into the head of one Carlos Gomez, calling after him after he tried to bunt with two strikes in his first plate appearance, and then taunting him again after Gomez flied out his second time up.  Bunting with two strikes is pretty much always a bad idea, although I'm not sure why Lee would feel the need to point that out; you think he'd be happy for the bone-headed move.  But clearly the tactic worked, as again Lee followed Gomez after the fly-out.  The two exchanged pleasantries, with Gomez reacting the way Lee wanted him to.

Gomez did get the last word, with a meaningless RBI single off of Lee in the bottom of the seventh.  Lee's head games worked, but in the end it makes me wonder if Gomez just needs to get fired up a little bit.  Some guys need that, or they get complacent.  I'm not about to pretend that's a silver bullet that would turn Gomez into the productive hitter the Twins need him to be, but maybe it'd help him stay focused.

A pair of unearned runs off Luis Ayala in the eighth and a pair of earned runs off Jesse Crain in the ninth topped off the night for the Tribe.  For a team that's continually struggling to reach .500, the Twins haven't been able to string together the necessary wins to put them over the mark.  Still, a win on Thursday means a series win, and that's a move in the right direction.

Right now I'm more than happy to put this one behind me.

Stars of the Game
#3:  Carlos Gomez (1-for-3, RBI, -.019 WPA)
#2:  R.A. Dickey (2 IP, 3 K, 0 H, 0 BB, .013 WPA)
#1:  Denard Span (2-for-4, .015 WPA)