For the first time this series, the Indians looked like the Indians. After dropping three consecutive to the Twins, the bats came alive and the Tribe avoided a sweep. The game was put out of reach in the seventh, though the Indians continued to add cherries to the sundae in the later innings, closing the homestand with a 9-2 victory.
Cleveland played from ahead as Jason Kipnis hit his 18th home run of the season in the bottom of the first. This was despite a deja vu scenario in the top of the inning: Joe Mauer on first and Max Kepler at the plate. Indians starter Mike Clevinger got Kepler to keep the ball in the yard. He hit a bloop single that left fielder Brandon Guyer ranged for but couldn’t quite reach. Mauer wasn’t paying attention and thought it was caught, so he was a force out at second base.
In the third inning, the Twins had a nice scoring opportunity. With the bases loaded and Max Kepler at the plate, the expectation was that his at-bat would end with the Twins ahead, and possibly ahead by multiple runs. Instead, Mauer saved the Indians again. Kepler lined out to Rajai Davis in center field. Kurt Suzuki tagged up to score, but Davis quickly threw to first base, where he caught Mauer confused again. Carlos Santana was also heads up in covering first base even though the “proper” baseball move would have been to cut off a throw to home plate. For the Twins, instead of a sacrifice fly tying the game, they ended the top of the third still scoreless.
Santana was not done in the third inning. His three-run shot put the Tribe up 4-0. The ball was hit so hard, it ended up by the parking garage between Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena! “You didn’t even have to have a ticket to get that ball,” Rick Manning said of the homer.
The Twins fought back, scoring a run in each of the next two innings. Once again, they probably should have scored more. Brian Dozier led off the fifth with a solo home run. It was followed by a single from Mauer. Kepler followed up with a single to right that was bobbled by Abraham Almonte. Kepler put his head down and sprinted to second base on the play. Had he looked up, he would have realized Mauer didn’t take third, marking the third time the former MVP made an out on the basepaths.
The rally continued, meaning an early day for Clevinger. While he only lasted 4 1/3 innings, it was still the longest start of the series by a Tribe pitcher. He was replaced by Dan Otero, pitching for the third game in a row. It is a miracle his arm is still intact. Say what you want about Otero, but he pitched well. When you consider the situation and that he was pitching for the third day in a row, it becomes that much more impressive. The Twins couldn’t add to their rally and the fifth inning ended 4-2.
The Tribe added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh when Davis singled to center. He proceeded to steal second and third before scoring on a wild pitch. Later in the inning, Francisco Lindor went yard to put the game out of reach at 7-2. It was all but over by then, but the Indians added a couple more runs in the eighth and Lindor made a nice jumping catch on a line drive in the ninth.
For a team that had won three games in a row, the Twins looked dysfunctional. Frustrations ran high as the Indians kept pulling away, personified by Kennys Vargas breaking his bat in half after striking out against Shaw. If you didn’t suffer through the first three games of the series, you’d think the Indians had won all three games.
Both the bullpen and offense were the difference. Cleveland pounded out 11 hits on the afternoon, with at least one coming from every starter not named Roberto Perez. Teamed with zeroes from four different relievers, the Tribe concluded the homestand playing like the first-place team they are.
The Indians head to New York City this weekend to take on the New York Yankees. It’ll be the first time Andrew Miller goes against his former team and the only time Cleveland travels to the Bronx this season. Josh Tomlin is scheduled to open the series on Friday night against Michael Pineda.