CLEVELAND -- The Indians knew what was at stake. If they would’ve swept the Twins in the three-game weekend series, the Tribe could have been sitting just a half-game back in the American League Central on Monday with a chance to battle for their fourth consecutive division title over the final two weeks of the regular season.
But after dropping both games of Saturday’s doubleheader at Progressive Field, topped off with a 9-5 loss in the nightcap, those hopes are quickly disappearing. Because of a Miguel Sano grand slam off Nick Goody in the eighth, the Twins’ division lead over the Indians grew to 5 1/2 games. Sano had been 0-for-7 with five strikeouts against Goody prior to the at-bat.
“Yeah, I mean, it sucks,” Goody said. “One pitch. Prior to that at-bat, he hadn’t had a hit off me yet. Came in, left one hanging and he capitalized on it. Three pitches I wish I could get back this year. That’s one of 'em. The guys played really well and, once again, it sucks.”
The Indians had won nine of their 16 matchups against Minnesota entering the series, including six of their last eight. They thought they dodged a bullet on Friday, when Twins starter Jake Odorizzi's start was wasted in three innings before the game was postponed due to inclement weather. But back-to-back bullpen games for Minnesota proved to be enough to keep Cleveland out of the win column.
“We had a chance to really break it open with bases loaded and nobody out with two runs in, and I think we had three consecutive strikeouts,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Then we added on. We just made some bad pitches to the wrong hitters. There was a lot in between. But hanging a couple of breaking balls to those guys hurts.”
“Any time you feel good at the plate, it’s a good thing,” Mercado said. “You just find a way to carry it to at-bat to at-bat. Unfortunately, it wasn’t able to translate into a win, but sometimes that’s just the way things happen. But at the end of the day, you play this game to win. So no matter what happened or how things went for you, you want to make sure you get that win.”
With just 13 games remaining, the 5 1/2-game deficit has become nearly impossible to overcome, which turns all the attention toward the AL Wild Card race.
After Tampa Bay defeated the Angels late Saturday, 3-1, Cleveland resides 2 1/2 games out of the second AL Wild Card spot.
“We got to understand we go [Sunday] and we have the chance to play another game,” Mercado said. “The sun’s still gonna come up tomorrow, so we got to make sure tomorrow is a new day and we got to make sure that we come in and salvage the last game of the series and try to find a way to get hot again.”