Sometimes, a change of scenery can be a good thing, but for the Indians on Monday, it was a return to home sweet home that did the trick as Jason Kipnis sent the team home victorious in ten innings with his walk-off single to the gap in left-center to give Cleveland a 1-0 win over the Minnesota Twins.
After the Twins put up 37 runs while taking three of four from the Indians at Progressive Field to open the month, the zero put up by Trevor Bauer and the Cleveland bullpen was a welcomed sight. The offense, however, continued to struggle as they put up one run or less for the seventh time in the last eight games. Twice in that span, the Indians have made that one run stand up.
Both teams had an abundance of base runners all game long, but through nine innings, not a one had crossed home plate successfully. In the bottom of the tenth, the Indians ended 19 half-innings of drought between the two clubs with a bunt, several failed bunts, a replay, and a game-winner.
Abraham Almonte stepped in against right-hander Brandon Kintzler (0-1, 1.87 ERA), on for his second inning of relief for the Twins in the tenth. Almonte dropped down a bunt towards first and reached safely. Catcher Chris Gimenez, making his first plate appearance of the night, missed twice on bunt attempts before slashing a single through the right side of the infield to put two on. Rajai Davis, who entered marred in a lengthy slump at the plate, missed on several bunt attempts and fouled off several more pitches before grounding to third. Miguel Sano attempted to tag Almonte running by him, but several camera angles gave the indication that Sano missed before throwing late to first. The call on the field of out was upheld after review, with Almonte retired for the first out. Kipnis made it a moot point two pitches later when he laced the game-winner to the left-center field gap for the walk-off single, scoring Gimenez with ease from second base.
“We talk about it all the time,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “You want to be one run better. Winning 1-0 in extra innings is heck of a lot better than losing 1-0.”
It capped off what had become an impressive pitchers’ duel between Bauer and a familiar face, left-hander Hector Santiago.
Bauer had some company on the bases for the majority of his outing, but he contained the Twins and prevented them from doing damage. He worked around a one-out double from Joe Mauer in the first, a leadoff single from Juan Centeno and a one-out walk from Brian Dozier in the third, a two-out double from Jorge Polanco in the fourth, and a one-out single from Trevor Plouffe in the sixth. Just once did the Twins put two runners on against him as he locked in each time Minnesota reached and limited any additional damage.
Santiago walked a similar line, but his traffic was much more self-induced as he had problems with the strike zone. He walked Kipnis with one out in the first and did the same with Jose Ramirez in the second, but the latter was caught stealing second. Kipnis singled to start the fourth but was erased on a double play. Mike Napoli walked with two outs, but Carlos Santana popped out to end the inning. Ramirez doubled to start the fifth, but was stranded on a strike out, pop out, and ground out. Their best chance against Santiago may have come in the bottom of the sixth, when Francisco Lindor singled and Napoli walked again with two outs, but Santana was retired in the air to end the inning.
Andrew Miller relieved Bauer in the seventh and gave up a leadoff infield single to Polanco and a one-out single to Centeno to put runners on the corners, but he struck out Robbie Grossman and Dozier swinging to lock up another three-strikeout inning. Santiago started the bottom half of the seventh but retreated to the clubhouse after Brandon Guyer reached on an error with one out. Ryan Pressly stopped the bleeding with a pair of strikeouts to end the inning.
Cody Allen came on in the ninth after Lindor was thrown out at third by right fielder Max Kepler to end the bottom of the eighth. He allowed a double to Eddie Rosario with two outs, but struck out Centeno to send the game to the bottom of the ninth. There, Kintzler put the side down in order to send the game to extras.
The tenth was an adventure as Allen returned for a second inning. After retiring Grossman and Dozier to start the inning, he walked Mauer on a 3-2 pitch before Plouffe singled to left-center. Sano drew a walk in a lengthy at bat, sending Francona to the mound for Zach McAllister (3-2, 4.17). After four straight foul balls, Kepler flied to Davis in center as the Indians dodged a major bases loaded bullet, enabling the walk-off magic to follow four batters later.
The Indians (74-56) have now won two straight over the Twins and improved to 6-8 on the season against Minnesota, the only team in the American League Central to post a winning record against Cleveland this season. The Indians’ lead in the division remained at four and a half games over Detroit and five and a half over Kansas City as each team was victorious in their own games Monday night.
“At this time, it’s nice to get a win in any form,” said Kipnis. “Hopefully the more wins we get, the more relaxed we can be.”
For the Twins (49-82), their 50th win remained an elusive one as they dropped their eleventh straight decision. They have officially clinched a losing record for the 2016 season with the loss.
Bauer survived a rough early going in his last start to give the Indians some length and a good quality start overall. On Monday, his numbers told much of the story as he worked six innings of scoreless baseball, allowing five hits and a walk while striking out four. He threw 97 pitches on the night, 61 for strikes, but threw first pitch strikes to just 12 of the 23 batters that he faced.
SANTIAGO SURVIVED CONTROL PROBLEMS
Santiago lasted one out longer than Bauer, giving up three hits and four walks while retiring 19, including two on strikeouts. He threw first pitch strikes to eleven of the 25 batters that he faced and managed 53 strikes of the 93 pitches he tossed. He remained winless in his Twins career, as his record sits at 0-4 in five August appearances.
The walk-off single from Kipnis was the Indians’ eighth game-winner at home this season. It was the third time in Kipnis’ career that he has ended the game with the winning base knock; he last did so on May 17, 2013, with a three-run homer against Seattle to give Cleveland a 6-3 win in ten innings.
The last time the Indians won a game 1-0 in extra innings at home was July 23, 1992. Carlos Baerga was the hero in that contest, delivering the 14th inning sacrifice fly to score Sandy Alomar. Alomar, Kenny Lofton, and Felix Fermin had all reached safely with singles, including those of the bunt variety from the latter two.
The Indians and Twins have now had six of the 14 games between them decided by one run this season. Four of those games have ended with a walk-off hit, three in favor of Minnesota.
BREAKING THE SLUMP
Davis ended an 0-for-20 slide at the plate in the eighth inning when he reached on a bang-bang infield single to short.
NOT VERY RISPY OF YOU
The two teams combined to go 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position on the night. Kipnis had the lone hit of those at bats, as each club had nine ABs in the game with runners on second or third.
Prior to the game on Monday, the Indians announced that they had placed starting pitcher Danny Salazar on the paternity list. Reliever Shawn Armstrong was recalled from Triple-A Columbus to assume his roster spot.
Josh Tomlin (11-8, 4.70) will look to end his personal five-game losing streak on Tuesday in game two of the three-game series between the two clubs. He has allowed 30 earned runs combined in those five appearances. Left-hander Andrew Albers (0-1, 4.32) will make his first start since 2013 for the Twins.
First pitch from Progressive Field on Tuesday is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images