For baseball fans who like offense, Friday night’s game at Progressive Field between the Cleveland Indians and the Minnesota Twins was not for you. For those fans who like the old fashion pitchers’ duel, you may have enjoyed the event, unless you are a Cleveland fan, as a first inning solo home run proved to be too much to overcome for the slumping Indians offense as Ervin Santana and the Twins shut out the Tribe, 1-0, on a combined three-hitter.
Josh Tomlin (2-4, 5.87 ERA) looked sharp again on the mound for the Indians on Friday, but was the tough luck loser as one pitch to Miguel Sano just three batters into the game would turn out to be the difference. Santana (6-1, 1.50) worked around traffic on the bases throughout the night, but kept a goose egg in the most important column on the scoreboard for him – Indians runs.
The Indians (18-16) have now dropped six of their last ten and once again failed to open a home series with a win. They have done so just once this season, when they won the home opener against the Chicago White Sox before losing the next two in the series. The Twins (18-14) sit atop the AL Central all by their lonesome with a full game lead over the Indians. They have won ten of their last 14 and have homered in 13 straight during that stretch.
Santana was not as crisp as he has been throughout the season, as he would walk a season-high five batters on the night. But he also was not throwing home run derby as he had in his previous start against the Boston Red Sox, when he allowed six runs and four home run balls in taking his first loss of the season. There was no negative carryover effect for him against Cleveland Friday, as he worked through seven scoreless innings with just two hits allowed and four strikeouts.
The Twins jumped in front just nine pitches into the game, before quite a few fans had even made it to their seats for the night. After Tomlin got a liner to right from Brian Dozier and struck out Joe Mauer looking for the first time in 29 career plate appearances against him, Sano slugged the first pitch he saw the opposite way to right. The ball just cleared the fence and a leaping Brandon Guyer to give the Twins the lead.
The run would prove to be the difference.
The Indians got their first base runner of the night with two outs in the first as Michael Brantley returned to the lineup and singled to center, but he would be stranded there. The Indians would get two into scoring position in the third, but would waste the opportunity on the way to an 0-for-5 effort with runners at second or third on the night. Yan Gomes walked to start the inning and moved to second on a groundout. Carlos Santana walked and both runners moved up 90 feet on a grounder behind the bag at first to Mauer, but Brantley popped out to second to leave a pair.
Mauer would make up for his strikeout with a leadoff single in the fourth, ending a string of seven straight retired by Tomlin after the home run to Sano. He gave up another single to Kennys Vargas after two men were out, but he struck out Eddie Rosario to keep it a one-run game.
Edwin Encarnacion walked to start the home half of the fourth, but was erased on a fielder’s choice off of the bat of Jason Kipnis. He would reach second on a groundout by Jose Ramirez, but a third out on the ground ended the threat once again.
Jason Castro singled deep to right with one out in the fifth, but was picked off of first by Ramirez after the Tribe third baseman snagged a bullet off of the bat of Byron Buxton and threw to first to catch Castro too far off on the scorched liner. Tomlin would allow two more to reach in the sixth on a leadoff single by Dozier and a four-pitch walk to Sano, but Dozier was doubled up on a grounder by Mauer. In the seventh, Jorge Polanco doubled with two outs, but was left there by Tomlin, who would go eight innings deep in the ball game while giving up six hits and a walk and striking out seven on 105 pitches in his second straight promising start on the mound.
The Indians squandered another big chance to drive in a run in the bottom of the fifth. Gomes started things off with a single to center and was sacrificed to second by Guyer. Santana walked before Francisco Lindor struck out. Four straight balls to Brantley loaded the bases and after two more balls to Encarnacion, the Indians slugger sent a liner to center but the speedy Buxton tracked it down to leave the bags juiced. It would be the last big scoring opportunity for Cleveland on the night, as Santana retired the final seven he faced in order before handing the game to the bullpen in the eighth.
Left-hander Taylor Rogers worked a third of an inning to start the home portion of the eighth and exited after giving up a single to Brantley. Matt Belisle got a pair of outs and worked around a miscommunicated pop up in the infield off of the bat of Encarnacion that dropped, but turned into a force out at second of Brantley.
Nick Goody relieved Tomlin in the top of the ninth and struck out Sano swinging before giving the ball to Boone Logan, who retired both men he faced with a strikeout along the way.
Brandon Kintzler, the Minnesota closer, retired Ramirez, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Gomes quickly to end the ball game with his ninth save of the season.
The two teams will meet again on Saturday afternoon in a 4:10 PM ET start featuring a pair of young right-handers.
Mike Clevinger (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will take the mound for the Tribe, looking to build off of an impressive one-hit performance over five and two-thirds innings in his first start of the season last Sunday against Kansas City. Jose Berrios will be recalled by the Twins from Triple-A Rochester to make the start Saturday in his 2017 season debut. A corresponding roster move will need to be made by Minnesota prior to adding the 22-year-old right-hander back to the roster.
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