August 21, 2014

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C.C. still looking for help – Twins 4, Indians 1

Ace’s great outing wasted by poor hitting, fielding

CLEVELAND — When former NFL head coach John McKay was once asked what he thought of his Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ execution after a loss, he replied that he was in favor of it.
C.C. Sabathia probably feels the same way, where throwing his teammates under the bus is concerned, after Sunday.
For the second straight outing, Cleveland’s ace offered up a dominant performance, and for the second straight time it didn’t matter, with Sabathia getting no help from his hitters or fielders to earn a much-undeserved loss in a 4-1 setback that gave the series to Minnesota.
The Indians, who played for the 17th consecutive day, lost for the fifth time in seven games, despite their ace allowing just one earned run and equaling a career-high with 11 strikeouts through 72/3 innings.
Cleveland is 8-9 since the All-Star break.
“You hate to see C.C. go out there and throw like that and not be able to take advantage of it,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge, who watched Sabathia lose a 1-0 decision to Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Red Sox in his last start. “He was about as good as you can be for the second straight time, but we weren’t able to pick him up.”
Sabathia, who lost for the fourth time in five starts, blew through the Minnesota lineup for seven innings, mixing his fastball with an unusually sharp changeup that had Twins waving at air for much of the day.
It appeared that Sabathia was headed for his third complete-game win of the year, but it all unraveled for him and the Indians in the eighth, thanks to a surprising Minnesota hero and some shoddy Cleveland defense.
After retiring the leadoff hitter, Sabathia hit pesky Jason Tyner with a pitch and struck out Jason Bartlett to move within an out of leaving with a 1-0 lead, but pinch hitter Mike Redmond lined a fastball over the head of right fielder Trot Nixon to score the tying run.
Nixon appeared to get a slow start on the ball, but neither Sabathia nor Wedge acted as if he should have made the play.
“Not to take anything away from Redmond, but I wasn’t expecting him to square it up that good,” Nixon said of the .282 hitter who has one homer on the year. “It was hit over my head. I had a bead on it. The ball just kept carrying.”
Nixon may be off the hook, but the same can’t be said for second baseman Josh Barfield, who threw the game away on a grounder from the following batter, Joe Mauer.
A charging Barfield failed to glove the ball cleanly, and after securing it, hurried a wild throw on the run, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Barfield was charged with two errors on the play and Justin Morneau followed with a double to put Minnesota in front 3-1.
“It got away from us there,” Wedge said.
It was the second time in two games that a fielding gaffe allowed the winning run to score, with utility infielder Mike Rouse throwing high to the plate Saturday to permit Torii Hunter to score on a ninth-inning grounder.
“Those are plays you have to make in this league,” Barfield said. “That’s the difference between playoff teams and the rest. You have to make those plays late in the game.”
Sabathia, whose best work came in the sixth when he struck out Nick Punto, Mauer and Morneau with a runner on third to preserve the one-run lead, pointed no fingers.
“I don’t want to blame anybody but myself,” he said. “I have control of the game. I could’ve made better pitches.
“It’s just tough to lose two of three to a division rival. That’s never good. That’s more disappointing than anything.”
Sabathia wouldn’t have been in the precarious predicament had his offense been able to cope with Twins starter Matt Garza, a 23-year-old right-hander who was making his fourth appearance (four starts) of the season in his 15th career game.
Garza kept pace with Sabathia by limiting the Indians to a run on five hits, while striking out a career-high 11 batters through six innings.
He joined Sabathia to become the majors’ second starting pitching duo to fan 10 or more apiece this year, with the Indians and Twins combining to strike out 25 times — the most by two American League teams in a game this season.
Cleveland struck out 24 times over the final two games of the series.
“(Saturday), (Johan) Santana was pretty special,” Wedge said. “Today, I think it was more on us. Garza was good, but I thought we could have done a better job against him.”
The Indians had early opportunities to inflict significant damage on Garza, but managed just a run in the second on a double from Nixon.
Cleveland put the first two runners aboard in each of the first two innings, going scoreless in the first after Grady Sizemore walked and Kenny Lofton reached on a single, when Garza struck out Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner and Ryan Garko in succession.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.

NEXT UP
WHO: Cleveland vs. Texas
WHEN: Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Carmona (13-4, 3.31 ERA) vs. McCarthy (4-7, 5.52)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM