Tyler Duffey gave Minnesota seven shutout innings on the mound and the Indians bats went dormant on a chilly, snowy mid-May day in Cleveland as the Tribe lost the game and the series to the Twins, 5-1.
With Major League Baseball celebrating its “Play Ball” weekend, the Indians opted not to participate. Of the eleven runs scored in the three-game set, they scored six of the runs in the final two innings, but just three of them over the last two games. The losses in each of those games dropped the Indians (17-17) back to the .500 mark in the standings and they fell to 9-8 at Progressive Field on the year. The Twins (10-26) finally hit double digits in the win column and improved to 4-2 against the Indians on the season. Two of their four road wins this year have come in Cleveland.
The Twins jumped out early in the second inning, using a two-out rally against Indians starter Trevor Bauer. Byung-ho Park doubled to left to start the inning before two quick outs. Eddie Rosario singled to right to score Park and Rosario scored on a deep double to center from Juan Centeno to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead.
Twins starter Duffey faced little opposition from the Tribe bats on the afternoon. Most hits came with two outs and only twice against him did they put two runners on. In the third, back-to-back two-out singles from Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis were wasted when Francisco Lindor struck out swinging. The next inning, Jose Ramirez singled with one out and Tyler Naquin moved him to second with a two-out single, but Chris Gimenez grounded out to second to end the mini rally attempt.
Jorge Polanco extended the lead to 3-0 in the top of the seventh against Bauer after a groundout from Oswaldo Arcia. After Bauer worked the count back to even at 2-2, Polanco laced a laser beam to the seats in front of the bullpens in center field, his first MLB home run.
Finally working against the Twins bullpen in the eighth, Kipnis led off the inning with a home run off of right-hander Trevor May deep down the right field line to cut into the Minnesota lead, 3-1. It was the fifth home run of the season for the Tribe’s second baseman.
The Twins put away all doubt in the top of the ninth against reliever Jeff Manship.
Park singled to center and moved to second one out later on a single by Polanco. Rosario lifted a high fly ball to deep center field. Naquin got to the ball in motion on the track, but the ball hit the Tribe center fielder right in the glove and ricocheted towards the right fielder Michael Martinez. Both runners scored and made it a 5-1 game.
“It hit his glove,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “He’s still learning. We’ve talked about it. Sometimes you see a veteran outfielder, they’ll see the ball and kinda run to a spot. He’s still…he’s not able yet to do that where he has to watch the ball the whole way or he gets a little messed up on his route. So it’s hard to run at full tilt doing that, it’s not like he’s loafing. It just takes a little bit away.”
Kevin Jepsen pitched the ninth in a non-save situation, giving up a pair of two-out hits and striking out two.
DUFFEY THROWS A DOOZY
Duffey (1-2, 1.85 ERA) breezed through seven scoreless innings, rarely facing any significant threat from the mediocre Tribe lineup on the afternoon. He allowed six hits and walked one batter while striking out six on 110 pitches, a season-high and just two pitches short of matching his career-high set last September 26.
“Early, I thought we squared up a couple real good,” said Francona. “Carlos and Nap, I thought both were probably home runs on a normal day. Kinda right into that wind, knocked them both down. I thought after that it seemed like we got frustrated, got a little big.”
The right-hander threw first pitch strikes to 22 of the 28 batters he faced, including each of the first nine batters of the game.
BOTTOM OF THE LINEUP CARRIES TWINS
The six, seven, and eight hitters in the Twins lineup did all the damage on the day against the Indians, combining to go 6-for-12 with three runs and all five runs batted in. The trio (Polanco, Rosario, and Centeno) struck out just twice total between them, while the other six batters to step to the plate for the Twins combined to go 2-for-22 with two walks, two runs scored, and eleven strikeouts. Both hits came from Park.
“The only runs [Bauer] gave up were when he fell behind to guys at the bottom of their order,” said Francona. “The bottom of their order has really given us a tough time the last couple days. We’ve handled most of the guys in the middle.”
Tribe starter Bauer (3-1, 3.89) made it deep in the contest again, but was hurt by the two-run second and the late home run in the seventh. He lasted six and two-thirds innings, allowing three runs on five hits with a pair of walks and a season-high eight strikeouts on 113 pitches.
“He fell behind twice 3-1. That’s where most the damage came,” said Francona. “But he looks strong. He’s got real good arm speed. If he throws like that, pitches like that, on a lot of nights we’re saying he did a good job, he got us deep enough into the game we could turn it over to the bullpen.
“Runs the last couple nights have been hard to come by.”
Bauer had retired 14 of 15 batters prior to the Polanco home run in the seventh.
CHAMBERLAIN IN CHARGE
Joba Chamberlain was the first man in from the Indians bullpen in the seventh and worked one and one-third innings, striking out all four batters that he faced, using 20 pitches (14 strikes) to make quick work of the Twins. Three of the four strikeouts were swinging.
The Indians managed just one hit against Duffey with less than two outs, preventing any potential rally to get an early start in an inning. They got a two-out base runner in Lindor with a walk in the first, two two-out singles from Santana and Kipnis in the third, a Ramirez single with one out in the fourth and a Naquin two-out single in the same frame, another Ramirez two-out single in the sixth, and a two-out single from Martinez in the seventh.
The Indians got a pair of hits in the bottom of the ninth against Jepsen, and again, both came with two outs.
“We weren’t able to get guys on early in innings,” said Francona. “We didn’t get any [big] two-out hits.”
MARTINEZ MAKES 2016 DEBUT
Martinez, whose contract was purchased by the Indians from Triple-A Columbus when the club placed Michael Brantley on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday and transferred catcher Roberto Perez to the 60-day disabled list, made his first start of the season for Cleveland and did so in right field. He went 2-for-4 at the plate with a late two-out single up the middle in the seventh and another two-out single in the ninth.
The Indians will host their in-state “rival”, the Cincinnati Reds, for a pair of games beginning Monday night. The two teams will play two at Progressive Field before transferring the series to Cincinnati for the final two.
Right-hander Cody Anderson (0-3, 7.31) will be the first to the mound for the Tribe in Monday night’s 6:10 PM ET start. Left-hander John Lamb (0-0, 1.80) will counter for Cincinnati in his third start of the season. He has not pitched since May 8.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images