video thumbnail

MIN@CLE: Brantley makes a great grab at the wall

CLEVELAND -- There is a kind of numbness that can set in after a team accepts the fact that its season has spiraled beyond the point of being salvaged. For the Indians, the pain has been so deep that each loss still feels like a sucker punch.

"It still stings the same," Indians setup man Vinnie Pestano said.

On Tuesday night, this disappointing summer in Cleveland continued its slow march to the regular-season finish line. The Tribe suffered a 6-5 loss in 12 innings to the Twins, pulling the clubs into a last-place tie in the American League Central cellar.

If there was anything to be taken from the contest it was a statistical footnote. Cleveland used a franchise-record 10 pitchers in the game. That factoid will will go down as little more than a slice of trivia in the end. What Indians fans will likely remember, however, is the costly extra-inning blunder turned in by Matt LaPorta.

Tribe fans have long memories and LaPorta -- a key component of the blockbuster trade in 2008 that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers -- has been a popular target for criticism.

In a month meant as another chance to prove his worth, LaPorta once again did himself no favors. The first baseman made a perplexing decision in the field at a crucial turn in the ballgame, paving the way for a decisive two-run rally for Minnesota.

"It was a big mental mistake," Indians manager Manny Acta acknowledged.

With two outs and Darin Mastroianni on second base in the 12th inning, Alexi Casilla chopped a pitch from Indians lefty Scott Maine to the right side of the diamond. Second baseman Jason Kipnis glided to his left, gloved the grounder and threw to first, but LaPorta was off the bag.

Thinking the baseball was destined for right field, LaPorta had moved into cutoff position.

"I was up the middle," Kipnis said, "so I'm sure he was just thinking that the ball was through and he had to get out there for the cutoff."

Acta said it was the wrong approach, no matter where the ball wound up.

"You don't think. You see the ball go through," Acta said. "You have to see the ball go through before you decide to become a cutoff man. That's pretty much a routine ball to second base. Plus, if that ball goes through, we don't need a cutoff man.

"It was too softly hit and they have one of the fastest guys in the game running with two outs."

LaPorta recovered to make a lunging catch, but he looked toward first-base umpire Sam Holbrook before spinning to check on Mastroianni. By the time LaPorta did look for the sprinting runner, it was far too late. Mastroianni was predictably around third and across the plate for the go-ahead run.

Mastroianni was as surprised as anyone in the stadium.

"I didn't think off the bat it was going to get into right field," Mastroianni said. "The way [third base coach Steve Liddle] was telling me to go, go, go, I knew something happened. I knew it didn't get through the infield, but I didn't know if it was bobbled or what.

"I kind of peeked back to see what was going on and saw Matt had the ball at first and the umpire called him safe, and at that point, I just had to get to the plate before the ball got there."

Instead of creating an inning-ending out, LaPorta's lapse helped lead to Cleveland's eighth loss in 10 games.

LaPorta was not around after the game to discuss what happened.

Acta made it clear that LaPorta's botched play was hardly the only mistake made by the Indians (61-87) on this night.

Lefty David Huff -- working with a pitch limit of 85 after being moved out of the bullpen -- reached 84 tosses in 4 1/3 innings, in which he allowed three runs (two in the first inning). The offense finished 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, plating three of its four runs via two groundouts and a Twins error.

One bright spot was a towering, 428-foot home run off the bat of Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall in the second, pulling the game into a short-lived 2-2 tie. Another was a solo home run from Carlos Santana in the 12th inning -- his team-leading 16th of the year -- but that shot proved too little, too late when it was all said and done.

Beyond those blasts, Cleveland was unable to cash in on multiple scoring chances. Acta was particularly frustrated with the turn of events in the 10th inning, when the Indians had runners on the corners and no outs. Three flyouts -- none deep enough for a sacrifice fly -- from Santana, Russ Canzler and Chisenhall ended the threat.

"We fought hard again and came back and had the lead," Acta said. "We couldn't hold it and we couldn't execute offensively. If you can't drive the runner from third with no outs to walk off a team, you pretty much don't deserve to win the ballgame."

Win or not, Cleveland did set a club mark.

The record for pitchers used eclipsed Cleveland's former mark of nine, which was set twice (most recently on Sept. 14, 2006). Appearing in the game were Huff, as well as Chris Seddon, Frank Herrmann, Cody Allen, Scott Barnes, Vinnie Pestano, Chris Perez, Joe Smith, Esmil Rogers and Maine.

In the end, that hardly seemed to matter.

"My personal breaking point was right about three weeks ago," Pestano said. "We're just incapable of getting the hit we need or making the pitch we need. I count myself in that, as well. I don't know what it is. We just can't take advantage of the opportunities that we're given."

MLB.com Comments