After nine innings of scoreless baseball, Minnesota’s Joe Mauer delivered a two-out walk-off single off of Joe Colon in the bottom of the 12th to give the Twins a 2-1 win over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night.
In what turned out to be a well-pitched performance on both sides, early single runs from each club provided all of the scoring until the third inning of bonus baseball, when the Twins evened up the season series with the Indians at nine wins apiece.
Colon became the tenth Indians pitcher of the night in a bullpen game for Cleveland and retired James Beresford and Byron Buxton on just four pitches before the dangerous Brian Dozier stepped into the box and singled to center. Colon balked Dozier to second after a 1-2 pitch that Mauer fouled off and the lapse proved fatal for the Tribe as Mauer would work the count full before dropping a single into right to score Dozier from second with the winning run.
The Indians (82-59) saw their three-game winning streak come to an end and fell to 35-34 on the road in 2016. They missed an opportunity to gain an important game on the Detroit Tigers, who were shelled 11-3 at home by the Baltimore Orioles.
The Twins (53-89) brought the season series with the Indians back to even after causing Cleveland nothing but problems all season long. One game remains in the 19-game series between the two clubs, set to play out on Sunday afternoon.
Cleveland took an early lead against Hector Santiago in the first inning while the left-hander struggled with command and the strike zone. Rajai Davis doubled to start the game and moved to third on a single to right by Jason Kipnis. Francisco Lindor lifted his league-leading 12th sacrifice fly of the season to center, scoring Davis to put the Indians out in front. After loading the bases on a walk from Mike Napoli and a single by Carlos Santana, the Tribe could not score as both Jose Ramirez and Brandon Guyer flied to center to end the inning.
Santiago completely lost the zone in the next half inning, walking Coco Crisp and Roberto Perez to start the inning. Davis grounded into a double play, moving Crisp to third, but after Kipnis drew the third walk of the inning, Lindor grounded into a force play to strand two more runners on base.
After a relatively easy first inning for Mike Clevinger, the Twins got to him on one swing in the bottom of the second. Miguel Sano, leading off the inning for Minnesota, drilled a homer to left-center to tie the game at one.
Ramirez doubled with two outs in the third, but Santiago figured himself out on the mound, retiring nine in a row before a two-out single by Guyer in the sixth. Like his predecessors, he was left standing on the bases as Crisp grounded to short to end the inning.
Clevinger gave the Indians four innings on the mound before turning the ball over to the bullpen. Perci Garner retired the first four he faced, including two on strikeouts, before the Twins got back-to-back one-out singles in the sixth to threaten. Jeff Manship came on and walked Sano on five pitches, but got a grounder to first for a force at the plate for the second out before Kurt Suzuki flied to right to end a big Twins threat.
Santiago completed seven innings for the Twins before turning the game over to his bullpen after he retired the last four he faced. They kept that trend going as Ryan Pressly worked a perfect eighth and Brandon Kintzler dodged a bullet in the ninth after Cleveland got the go-ahead run to second base with two down in the inning, but could not drive home the run. He was aided on an incredible diving catch by Max Kepler ranging far to his left before diving to make a game-saving grab at full extension.
The game went to extras after Bryan Shaw walked Suzuki to start the ninth before getting three outs. Buddy Boshers retired two before Paul Molitor brought on Alex Wimmers with two down in the tenth, but after a single from Napoli, Santana grounded out to end the inning.
After the single by Napoli, the two teams combined to retire 15 straight batters before Dozier’s single set the stage for the celebrations at Target Field. His extra inning hit extended his hitting streak to 14 straight games.
CLEVINGER STRETCHES OUT
The loss of Danny Salazar with right forearm tightness makes it all the more important for the Indians to get relevant contributions from Clevinger on the mound. He did just that, providing Cleveland with four innings of one-run ball, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out four.
“That was the best we’ve seen,” said manager Terry Francona of his young starter. “The first couple innings there were some walks, but I thought as he sped up his rhythm you saw him be more aggressive and be in the strike zone with good stuff.”
SANTIAGO STIFLES CLEVELAND AGAIN
Santiago earned his first win as a Twin in his last start, one outing after a strong no-decision against Cleveland. Making his fourth start against the Indians in 2016 and his third since August 4, he worked around some early control issues to give Minnesota seven innings on the mound. He gave up five hits and walked four while striking out two, but limited the Indians to just one run, despite several early opportunities.
WHERE IS THE OFFENSE?
The two teams combined for just three runs and 14 hits in the contest. No player had more than one hit in the game. The Indians were 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded ten. The Twins were a similar 1-for-8 with ten left on base. Their lone hit was the game-winner.
Minnesota’s 27-year-old rookie Beresford made his Major League debut after toiling in the minors for ten years and 1,070 games.
After grounding into a fielder’s choice on the first pitch of his first career plate appearance in the second, the Australian native grounded back to the mound in the fifth. He led off the seventh with his first Major League hit, singling up the middle off of Shawn Armstrong.
The Indians announced prior to the game that right-handed reliever Austin Adams had been recalled from Triple-A Columbus to help out the bullpen after shorter outings from Trevor Bauer and Salazar in the previous two games.
The Clippers lost in Gwinnett, Georgia, on Saturday night as the club was eliminated from the International League postseason. More reinforcements from the Columbus roster could potentially join the Indians roster in the coming days.
PLOUFFE TO DL
Trevor Plouffe returned to the disabled list on Saturday with a left oblique strain.
The Indians and Twins will meet for the final time this season on Sunday afternoon.
Right-hander Corey Kluber (15-9, 3.16 ERA) will start for Cleveland, looking to earn a series win. The Twins will start rookie right-hander Jose Berrios (2-5, 9.21), who made his MLB debut against the Indians earlier this season.
First pitch from Target Field is scheduled for 2:10 PM ET.
Photo: Andy King/Getty Images