The bats were alive in Minnesota for the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night as they gave starter Josh Tomlin some room to work with and he returned the favor with a quality start in an 11-4 victory.
The early run support for Tomlin may have been just what the right-hander needed to relax on the mound. He had had a rough go in his first two outings, but he looked much more like the quality back end of the rotation arm that he was for the club last season.
The Indians were the recipient of a first inning gift from the Twins and built off of the extra out quickly and never looked back.
Phil Hughes was on the mound for the Twins, looking to erase the memory of a tough season against Cleveland last season. But instead, he was staring down trouble as Francisco Lindor singled and Michael Brantley followed with a double to right to put runners in scoring position with one down. A grounder to short from Encarnacion scored Lindor to put the Indians on the board before Jose Ramirez lifted was appeared to be a routine fly to deep right. Instead, right fielder Max Kepler misplayed the ball, allowing Brantley to score with the second run of the inning. With an extra out, the Indians delivered again as Lonnie Chisenhall dug out a low pitch and sent it into right field for a single to drive in Ramirez with the bonus run as the Tribe took a 3-0 lead before a line out from Yandy Diaz ended the fun.
Paced with a nice cushion to work with, Tomlin need it as the Twins attacked quickly in the first to make it a ball game again. Brian Dozier reached on an infield single and moved to second on a throwing error by Ramirez. Joe Mauer singled before a strikeout of Miguel Sano. With runners on the corners, Kepler made up some for his defensive blunder as his sacrifice fly to left scored the speedy Dozier to make it a 3-1 contest. Former Indians spring invitee and farm hand Robbie Grossman followed with a double to right that scored Mauer, cutting the Cleveland lead back to one.
Both sides were retired quickly in the second before the Indians got back to work against Hughes in the third. With one down, Brantley singled to right center. After a strikeout by Encarnacion, Ramirez came up big again in a clutch two-out situation as he homered for the fourth time this season, getting back the two runs given up by Tomlin in the bottom of the first to the Twins.
After the RBI-double from Grossman, Tomlin retired seven straight hitters to clear the second and third. The Indians tacked on again in the fourth, as Abraham Almonte doubled with one down and moved to third on a single by Roberto Perez. Carlos Santana singled to right, driving in Almonte and ending the night for Hughes. Another former Indians team member, Craig Breslow, entered for Twins skipper Paul Molitor and got out of the jam as Cleveland stranded a pair.
Kepler started things going for the Twins in the bottom of the fourth as he once again looked to make amends, hustling out a single on a shifted infield. One out later, he moved to third on a single by Jason Castro and a sacrifice fly from Jorge Polanco made it a 6-3 game. Tomlin would settle back down, retiring seven of the final eight batters that he faced before turning the game over to the bullpen with a sizable lead.
The Indians added a pair of runs in the sixth as Lindor tripled home Almonte and Santana, who had reached on a walk and a single, respectively. In the ninth, Brantley was hit by a Michael Tonkin pitch before Encarnacion hit a no-doubter to deep left for his second homer of the season to give the Indians their tenth and eleventh runs on the night.
The half inning prior, Sano took Indians reliever Dan Otero deep with an opposite field blast.
The 11-4 win for the Tribe moved the club back to the .500 mark at 7-7. They improved to 5-3 on the road. The Twins dropped back to even at 7-7 and are 4-4 on the young season.
TOMLIN MUCH IMPROVED
Tomlin entered Tuesday night’s game with 13 runs allowed over just six and one-third innings. He nearly matched that innings workload in his start against the Twins and did much better at not only keeping the scoring to a minimum, but also preventing a Minnesota team with a history of going deep against him from leaving the yard.
He earned the quality start and his first win of the season with six innings of work. He was charged with three runs on seven hits, did not give up a free base runner, and struck out a pair while throwing just 85 pitches on the night.
HUGHES STRUGGLES AGAIN WITH TRIBE
Hughes had a tough time with Cleveland last season and has had issues over much of his career against the Indians. He was 2-2 last season, but had a 6.14 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP in five games (four starts).
His final line Tuesday was three and one-third innings worked, six runs allowed (just four earned) on eight hits, no walks, and three strikeouts. He threw 73 pitches in his short start, including first pitch strikes to 14 of the 19 men that he faced. The loss was his first of the season after coming in with a 2-0 record and a 3.86 ERA in his first two starts.
12 GAMES FOR LINDOR
The hot start to the season for Lindor continued as his first inning single extended his hitting streak to 12 straight games.
Over the course of his dozen game hot stretch, he is hitting 20-for-51 (.392) with four homers, five doubles, and nine RBI.
RAMIREZ CHASING HIS DOUBLE PLAY PARTNER
Not to be outdone, Ramirez has put together a nice little hitting and on-base streak of his own. His third inning home run extended his hitting streak to six games and his on-base streak to eight straight.
During his six-game hitting streak, Ramirez is 14-for-24 (.583) at the plate with three home runs and ten runs batted in.
UPDATE ON KIPNIS
Rehabbing second baseman Jason Kipnis was back in the lineup again for the Columbus Clippers as they played on the road against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. He hit third in the order and was 1-for-4 at the plate with a double and a run scored. He is now hitting .235 in six games in the minors, split evenly between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus.
If things continue to progress for Kipnis, there is a chance that he could rejoin the club on Friday when they open up a three-game weekend set near his hometown as the Indians play the Chicago White Sox.
The weather could be a big issue in Minneapolis on Wednesday night when the Indians and Twins are scheduled to get together again in the third game of their four-game series from Target Field.
The Indians will go for the series win and will send right-hander Trevor Bauer (0-2, 8.44 ERA) to the mound. Bauer will look to combat struggles against Minnesota in his career as he owns a 1-5 record with a 5.32 ERA in 11 career starts. The Twins will send rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia (0-1, 4.05) out to try to throw off the Indians lineup after its good performance on Tuesday. Mejia will be making the third start of the season (and his fourth career appearance overall). He worked five innings his last time out, allowing a run on four hits in a no-decision.
Game time from the Twin Cities is scheduled for an 8:10 PM ET first pitch.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images