CLEVELAND -- Just like in Friday night’s rainout, the Indians found themselves in an early two-run deficit Saturday afternoon. But just as it looked like they were, again, going to have an immediate answer, Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco made sure the momentum stayed in Minnesota’s favor.
In the Tribe’s 2-0 loss in the matinee of Saturday’s split doubleheader against the Twins at Progressive Field, Indians starter Mike Clevinger gave up a two-run homer to Polanco in the top of the third inning. In the bottom half of the frame, Cleveland loaded the bases with two outs for Carlos Santana.
Santana, who has been the club’s most reliable hitter all season, squared up a changeup and laced a 107.5-mph line drive toward the left side of the field. A ball that had an expected batting average of .770, per Statcast -- and one that had the chance to tie the game at 2 -- was snagged in a diving effort by Polanco to end the inning and preserve the two-run lead.
“Man, I feel bad for Santana,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “That was probably the biggest blow. Bases loaded, we got runners moving. If that ball goes into left field, we’re tied. He just leaned on three balls today and got nothing to show for it.”
When Friday’s game was postponed, the Twins announced that they’d turn to their bullpen for both contests on Saturday. In the matinee, it proved to be successful with a combination of Devin Smeltzer, Zack Littell, Tyler Duffey, Sergio Romo and Taylor Rogers.
“I thought Santana hit the ball pretty hard with the bases loaded,” Indians catcher Roberto Perez said. “They had the defense set up nicely. I thought we had opportunities, but we couldn’t get that big hit. They pitched well. So did [Clevinger]. You’ve gotta give credit to them. They pitched a really good game.”
That bases-loaded moment was one of the few times the Indians had runners in scoring position, going 0-for-4 in those opportunities, including a Greg Allen strikeout with runners on first and second and two outs in the bottom of the eighth.
Indians manager Terry Francona has said that the plan will be to start Jordan Luplow on days when a lefty is on the mound. When a right-handed reliever is put in the game, Francona pinch-hits for Luplow with a left-handed hitter. This time, it was Allen who was sent to the plate in the sixth, but when it was his turn to bat again in the eighth, southpaw Taylor Rogers was on the mound. After striking out in a crucial spot, Allen’s batting average and OPS against left-handed pitching dropped to .161 and .365, respectively.
“Against Rogers, I was OK with Greg facing him,” Francona said. “He faced him five times [in the past], had a couple of hits off of him. There’s a balance there, but I wanted to get that game tied.”
The lack of offense handed Clevinger his first loss since June 28 (having gone 10-0 in 13 starts in between) despite tossing eight solid frames, allowing two runs on six hits with 10 strikeouts.
“Seems like every start he gets better and better,” Perez said. “I don’t know what he’s doing between starts. He’s working hard and trying to get his velo consistent. It’s nice to see Clev grow. He’s executing his pitches. He’s pitching a little bit more. He’s not just throwing. We had a great game plan against them. Polanco just got that changeup and hit it out. But Clevinger has been outstanding for us in the second half.”