CLEVELAND – Let’s make one thing clear, Brian Dozier insisted: There’s no such thing as a heartening loss.
“We definitely played better. Fine. But it’s a loss,” Dozier said after Jason Kipnis’ 10th-inning RBI single gave Cleveland a 1-0 victory at Progressive Field, dropping the Twins to their 11th loss in a row. “We’ve got 82 of them now, and that’s way too many. It’s not even September. So it’s just another loss.”
Well, if he says so. But after living through a carnival of calamity over the weekend in Toronto — with blown leads, defensive blunders and the nagging sensation of playing in traffic — Monday seemed so much different in a fundamental way: It felt like the Twins could have won.
“It was a good game,” manager Paul Molitor said, sounding mildly shocked. “We haven’t had one of that quality for a while.”
Still a loss, certainly, and a consequential one at that. Their losing streak is tied for the third longest in Twins history, three short of the record set in 1982. But this one was like discovering your house has a broken window, rather than finding it burned to the ground.
Just look at what was learned: Hector Santiago really can get hitters out. The Twins defense really can play clean baseball. The bullpen really can put up scoreless innings. Hey, it’s a start.
“I think I pitched smart tonight, not giving in to certain guys, making pitches when I needed to,” said Santiago, who was clearly relieved to deliver a quality start — 6⅓ innings with only three hits and never a Cleveland hitter advancing past second base — after four increasingly catastrophic outings with his new team. “This is what I want to do, this is what I know I can do, and hopefully we’re on the right road now.”
Santiago would be celebrating his first Twins victory if his offense, which averaged seven runs a game in Toronto, had not suddenly disappeared. But Trevor Bauer, who had started in four consecutive losses to the Twins, was sharp, never giving up more than one hit in an inning.
“We didn’t have a lot of opportunities,” Molitor said. “However many it was, I know we were 0-for [with runners] in scoring position.”
The Twins had two good chances, putting two runners on against reliever Andrew Miller in the seventh, but the Indians’ secret weapon simply threw his super slider to whiff Robbie Grossman and Dozier. And with two outs in the 10th, two walks and a hit loaded the bases for Max Kepler, who hasn’t homered since Aug. 2, the last time the Twins were in Cleveland. But after falling behind 2-0 in the count, Zach McAllister got Kepler to fly out.
Cleveland had better luck in its half of the inning. After Abraham Almonte bunted for a hit, Chris Gimenez singled him to second after failing to get a bunt down. A 10-pitch at-bat to Rajai Davis ended with a ground ball to Miguel Sano at third; Sano tried to tag Almonte and missed, but he was ruled out for leaving the basepath.
Following a replay review, Kipnis then rifled a pitch from Kintzler into left-center, another glum ending for the Twins.
“Kintz kind of went over and above. He hadn’t pitched that much lately, but goes out there for a third inning,” Molitor said. “It looked like he got a sinker down, his bread and butter, but Kipnis is a good hitter and found a way to get it to the outfield and win the game.”