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Twins 5, Indians 1: Slowey, Patience at the Plate Wear Down Cleveland

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Asdrubal Cabrera is probably kicking himself this morning. In the third inning with the game tied 1-1, one out and runners on first and second, Delmon Young hit a tailor made double play ball right at the Cleveland Indians shortstop. Cabrera let it go right through the five hole, loading the bases. A walk, wild pitch and a sac fly later, and four unearned runs score to put the Twins up 5-1, a score that would stand over the last six scoreless innings. With the win, the Twins move to 10-4 on the season, three games ahead of the Detroit Tigers who lost 6-5 against the Angels last night.

The third inning "outburst" was all Kevin Slowey would need, pitching eight strong innings striking out nine Indians walking none, and giving up only five hits. From the first batter, it was obvious Slowey was hitting his spots. When Kevin is "on", he lives knee high on the outside corner. And he hit that spot over and over again, allowing him to go upstairs with a sneaky fastball to strike out the meat of the Indians order. Slowey owned reigning player of the week Shin-Soo Choo, striking Choo out three times on the high heat. Just as important, Slowey didn't walk a single batter after walking six in his first two games. But truth be told, home plate umpire Bob Davidson's strike zone gave both pitchers a couple inches on each corner.

While Slowey took advantage of the extra real estate, Indians starter Justin Masterson could not. In what I hope is a recurring theme this season, the Twins took a patient approach at the plate. Leadoff hitter Denard Span watched the first five pitches go by, working a full count before drawing a leadoff walk, the first of five walks and one HBP Masterson would allow over four innings and 96 pitches. An Orlando Hudson single and Justin Morneau double put the Twins up 1-0. But Masterson got Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel to chase pitches, striking out both to end the threat.

The Twins lead lasted one pitch, as Travis Hafner lined a Slowey fastball just over the right field fence to tie the game. But Slowey immediately settled down to retire the next three batters and end the inning. In the third, after the Cabrera error loaded the bases, J.J. Hardy drew a four pitch walk to put the Twins up 2-1. Masterson followed the walk with a wild pitch that went straight to the backstop, bouncing right to catcher Lou Marson. Cuddyer barely beat the throw home, but Masterson lost control of the ball, which ended up about 10 feet from home plate. Delmon Young didn't hesitate, scoring right behind Cuddyer to make it 4-1 Twins. Brendan Harris followed with a sac fly to center field and we had our final score.

Studs, duds and notes follow after the jump.

Studs:

  • Kevin Slowey: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 9 SO. Dominated the game, needed only 98 pitches to get through 8 innings.
  • Justin Morneau: 2-3, 2B, BB, RBI, contributed +1.49 runs offensively.
  • Orlando Hudson: 1-2, BB, HBP, contributed +1.03 runs.
  • J.J. Hardy: 0-3, BB, but contributed +0.71 runs. Even though he went 0-3, the bases loaded walk meant a net positive (+0.13 runs) at the plate. And again, Hardy was a solid baserunner by my metrics due to advancing behind Young on the wild pitch and scoring on the sac fly.

Duds:

  • Joe Mauer: 0-4, SO, contributed -2.42 runs. Striking out with runners on first and third and grounding out with the bases loaded means a lot of runs left on the table. Happens even to the best.
  • Jason Kubel: 0-4, 3 SO, contributed -1.71 runs. Did not look good at the plate, was late on quite a few pitches.

Notes:

  • Personally, I like it when the umpire gives a bit of a generous strike zone, as it makes the hitters swing the bat and the pace of the game is much more enjoyable. And Bert was positively giddy at a few of the Fox Zone pitch locations, balls six inches outside called for strikes. Spoken like a pitcher. 
  • J.J. Hardy crushed the ball all night, but he ended up with a 0-3 to show for it. He lined a ball right at Grady Sizemore in the second, and nailed another at 'em ball to second baseman Luis Valbuena in the fifth. I expect Hardy's luck will balance out. 
  • Cuddyer did not look comfortable against Masterson, but he managed to punch a ground ball through the right side in the third. 
  • Nick Punto was not quite ready to go last night. But he's close and it sounds like Punto will be back in the lineup tonight.