The Cleveland Indians came into this afternoon’s game against the Minnesota Twins hoping to win their third game in a row regain a winning record for the first time since they were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks. With the struggling Trevor Bauer facing the red-hot Ervin Santana on the road, the Tribe’s chances weren’t looking great going into the game.
The game began in a cold and practically empty Target Field with Santa continuing his dominance, retiring Carlos Santa, Francisco Lindor, and Michael Brantley. Bauer followed that up by retiring the first two batters, before walking Miguel Sano. Max Kepler then flew out to left field, and the pitchers duel was on.
Santana wasn’t at his sharpest, walking two in the second inning, but he managed to get out of any trouble and proceeded to settle down. Meanwhile Bauer looked sharp early on, as the hitters from both teams seemed to struggle with the cold weather.
The Indians threatened to break through in the fourth inning when Michael Brantley and Edwin Encarnacion hit back to back singles with one out. Unfortunately, Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall flied out to third base and left field, respectively, to end the inning.
The Twins had their first hit of the day when Joe Mauer led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a double to left center. Mauer then advanced to third on a single by Kepler. Both singles had been just beyond the reach of the Tribe’s outfielders, but gave the Twins runners on the corners with one out. After fouling off several pitches, Robbie Grossman walked to load the bases, and it looked like the big inning that had plagued Bauer so far this season was here. Bauer then balked in Mauer to give the Twins the lead after he seemingly lost his balance. He then walked Jason Castro to re-load the bases. Jorge Polanco then hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Kepler. Bauer then struck out Eddie Rosario, but the Twins had taken a 2-0 lead.
The Indians were able to get one run back in the top of the fifth inning. Abraham Almonte doubled to right field with one out. After Roberto Perez flied out to center for the second out, Carlos Santana doubled to right field to score Almonte. Ervin Santana then struck out Lindor to limit the damage for the Twins, but the Indians ended a streak off 22 scoreless innings by Santana, who allowed one run in six innings.
With Ervin Santa out of the game, the Indians were able to get some offense going in the top of the seventh. Yandy Diaz and Roberto Perez reached base on a pair of singles off Twins reliever Tyler Duffey. Taylor Rogers relieved Duffey, and promptly gave up a game-tying double to Carlos Santana, who drove in Diaz. Lindor was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out for Michael Brantley. After falling down 0-2, Brantley fought back to take a bases loaded walk as pinch runner Michael Martinez came across the plate to give the Indians a 3-2 lead. After Encarnacion popped out to second, Jose Ramirez drew the second bases-load walk of the inning for the Tribe. Lonnie Chisenhall flied out to right field to end the inning, but by then the Indians led 4-2.
To his credit, Bauer settled down after his rocky fourth inning and was able to five the Indians six and a third solid innings of work. It was a bit surprising that he came back out to start the seventh, and Terry Francona pulled him for Boone Logan after Polanco flied out to center field. Logan gave up an extremely soft single to Rosario, and Bryan Shaw came on in relief. Twins manager Paul Molitor sent Eduardo Escobar to the plate as a pinch hitter. Escobar drew a walk and Brian Dozier came to the plate as the go-ahead run with men on first and second. Shaw struck out Dozier, and then it was Miller time. The newly shorn Andrew Miller was able to get Joe Mauer to fly out to left field to end the inning.
After Miller came back to pitch a scoreless eighth inning, the Indians tacked on a pair of runs in the top of the ninth for good measure. After Ramirez walked, Chisenhall and Yan Gomes hit back-to-back doubles to push the Tribe’s lead to 6-2. While it wasn’t a save situation, Cody Allen pitched a scoreless ninth to complete the three-game sweep of the Twins to go to 8-7 on the season.
Things I Noticed
Typically cold weather favors pitchers as the ball moves more easily, and for the first half of today’s game that seemed to be the case. The Indians’ hitters deserve a lot of credit for persevering and coming through against the Twins’ bullpen.
Big game for Carlos Santana, who went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI and a run scored. He’s such an underrated hitter.
Due to pre-game technical difficulties with replay equipment, Indians can request unlimited number of crew chief challenges.
— paul hoynes (@hoynsie) April 20, 2017
I won’t claim to have any idea exactly how the pregame issues affect the crew challenges during the game, but it didn’t really affect anything.
Paul Molitor seems to like to slow the game down as much as possible. It was kind of a relief to see him tossed for arguing balls and strikes as the end of the eighth inning.
Bauer needed a start like this. The fourth inning still wasn’t pretty, and Bauer seemed afraid to attack the strike zone for a bit, but he settled down and gave the Indians a solid start. For a pitcher who obviously overthinks things at times, it was nice to see Bauer work through his issues.
The Indians have now won three in a row and are tied for first place in the Central Division. Hopefully they’re starting to find some momentum after a bit of a rough stretch. They’ll be back in action tomorrow night as they head to Chicago to face the White Sox. Until then, Go Cavs, and Go Tribe!