Indians in it early, but game gets away late

Indians in it early, but game gets away late

MINNEAPOLIS -- Getting the first two outs of an inning proved to be no problem for Jeanmar Gomez on Monday night.

Yet the three-outs-to-an-inning model remains a fundamental element of the baseball rule book, and that's where Gomez ran into trouble against the Twins.

Gomez gave up eight runs -- all with two outs -- over 5 2/3 innings of work, as the Indians fell, 9-3, in the series opener at Target Field. The Twins moved one step closer to their inevitable American League Central title, while the Indians are still looking for one more win to ensure themselves of a non-100-loss season.

Yes, clearly, these are two teams with vastly different goals at this point of the year. And for the Indians to work their way up to the level of the Twins, they're going to need their young guys like Gomez to develop into consistent, quality starters.

To Indians manager Manny Acta, that means making the most of a learning experience this kind of start provides.

Acta summoned his inner Yogi Berra when he noted that "with two outs, you're three-quarters of the way there."

But his point was that a pitcher can't lose his mental edge when he sees the inning's finish line.

Gomez was guilty of that.

"Young guys tend to lose focus and concentration with two outs," Acta said. "You need to zone in. He's really struggled with that his last couple outings. These young guys have to work through that to see if they can work it out themselves. We can't rescue them every time."

Gomez has shown flashes in his rookie season, but his last two outings have been clunkers. He allowed seven runs (six earned) in just three innings against the Angels in his previous start.

"I'll try to learn," Gomez said. "I'll try to refocus for the next one."

Though Gomez tamed the Twins in a no-decision on Aug. 6, he couldn't put them away this time around. With two outs in the first, he walked Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome in succession, then served up an RBI double to Delmon Young to make it 1-0.

The Indians responded in the second, when Andy Marte tripled -- yes, tripled -- off lefty Brian Duensing to score Shelley Duncan and even it up at 1.

Alas, the Twins would regain the lead in the bottom of the fourth. Gomez quickly got the first two outs, only to serve up a solo shot to Danny Valencia that went to the second deck in left, followed by a single to J.J. Hardy, walk to Jose Morales and RBI single to Jason Repko to make it 3-1.

It became a 4-1 game in the fifth. Cuddyer reached on a single to the hole behind short. Asdrubal Cabrera landed awkwardly on his wrist while fielding the ball and would later leave with a wrist strain. X-rays were negative, and Cabrera is day-to-day.

Cuddyer went on to swipe second, move to third on a Thome groundout and then score on Young's RBI single with ... that's right ... two outs.

"I need to be more focused with two out," Gomez said.

This game wasn't all about Gomez's two-out struggles. It was also about the Indians' inability to redeem him in the sixth.

With the bases loaded against Duensing, Marte and Drew Sutton each singled home a run in succession to pull the Tribe within a run, 4-3. But with a chance to take the lead and break the game open, Lou Marson struck out and Michael Brantley hit a hard liner that was snagged at third by Valencia.

That inability to come through in the clutch bothered Brantley, who went 0-for-5, much more than seeing his 19-game hitting streak snapped. It was the longest streak by a Tribe rookie since Larry Doby hit in 21 straight in 1948.

"It means absolutely nothing," Brantley said of the streak. "It's more about team goals than individual goals. You've got to play as a team to win this game."

The Indians were all but assured they wouldn't win this game after what happened in the bottom of the sixth. Gomez gave up a leadoff single to Hardy, then got two outs. But a Denard Span triple brought home one run, and an Orlando Hudson single scored Span. Cuddyer followed with a two-run lined shot to left to make it 8-3, and that was pretty much the ballgame.

"We gave him a chance to face two extra hitters, and it backfired," Acta said. "At some point, he's going to have to work through this up here to be effective."

It's all part of the learning process for a young player on a young team that doesn't have to look far this week to see the type of team it wants to be.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, CastroTurf. Follow @castrovince on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.