Except for five frigid April games, and the makeup game three weeks ago against the Angels, tonight's crowd of 24,074 was the smallest of the season at Target Field. Which strikes me as a pretty decent crowd; that's almost 5,000 more fans than the Indians average, and they're probably making the playoffs.
Too bad the Twins fans didn't get a better show for their money, but that's how things have been going lately. Pedro Hernandez put eight of the 12 hitters he faced on base, staked the Indians to a 7-0 lead, and left the paying customers hoping for a big comeback.
They should be used to it by now, because Minnesota's starting pitching, among the worst in the league even at the best of times this year, has really collapsed down the stretch. Hernandez's short start was the 12th time -- twelfth time! -- in September that the starter failed to pitch five innings. And it was the fifth time this month that the starter recorded six outs or fewer.
When you're getting far fewer quality starts (seven this month, three by Kevin Correia) than five-inning-or-less flameouts, there's not much the offense can do. Starting pitchers have a cumulative 6.49 ERA this month.
But there was one important statistical note -- a Twins pitcher finally struck out more than seven hitters. It was Liam Hendriks, in relief of Hernandez, so no starter has done it yet.
Quick turnaround tonight. Since tomorrow's game begins in less than 12 hours -- remember, it's been rescheduled for a 12:05 start for TV -- I'm cutting this short tonight. Back tomorrow to see if the second team in four days clinches a playoff spot on the Target Field turf.