The Cleveland Indians offense was once again nowhere to be found and the Minnesota Twins ran to an easy 4-1 victory on Saturday afternoon from Progressive Field.
The game came down to another bout of wildness from second-year starter Mike Clevinger, making his second start of the season in place of the injured Corey Kluber, who remained sidelined on the 10-day disabled list with back issues. Making the start against another second year right-hander in Minnesota’s Jose Berrios, Clevinger’s walk issues came back to haunt him in the fourth inning and he finally paid dearly for the control problems.
The Indians held a brief lead against Berrios, who was just 1-2 against Cleveland last season with a 7.82 ERA in three starts. After wasting a two-out single from Michael Brantley in the first, the offense put up a rare run in the third inning as the lineup flipped over. With two outs, Carlos Santana ended a string of six straight retired when he tripled to center and he came in to score as Berrios uncorked a wild pitch to put the first run of the afternoon on the board.
That lead was short-lived as Clevinger quickly got himself into trouble in the next half inning.
The 26-year-old righty had put runners on via walk in each of the first three innings and did it again in the fourth, walking the leadoff hitter of the frame, Robbie Grossman, on eight pitches. Clevinger got ahead of Miguel Sano, but a wild pitch moved Grossman to second before he walked the Twins slugger. Joe Mauer dropped down a bunt to move both runners up, but a throwing error by Clevinger allowed Grossman to score on the hit from the veteran first baseman. Another wild pitch from Clevinger eliminated the double play possibility as Mauer moved into scoring position and a groundout to short on a nice play by Francisco Lindor let the second run of the inning cross. Clevinger struck out Max Kepler swinging for the second out, but Jorge Polanco dropped a single into left center to score Mauer to put the Twins out front, 3-1.
Clevinger left after four and one-thirds innings of work on the mound after giving up a one-out single to Brian Dozier. Dan Otero relieved and got out of the inning, but with two down the next inning, Kepler cleared the fence in right with his third home run of the season to extend the Twins lead to 4-1.
Berrios retired 13 straight after allowing the triple to Santana in the third. That ended in the eighth when he plunked Lonnie Chisenhall to start the inning. But as was the case all afternoon, Berrios kept the Indians lineup in check with a groundout and a strikeout before handing the ball to lefty Taylor Rogers, who got Santana to fly to right to end the inning.
Brandon Kintzler entered in the ninth to make his third appearance in as many days for the Twins. He allowed a one-out single to Brantley, who has four of the Indians’ six hits in the last two days, but he was stranded at second base after a strikeout by Edwin Encarnacion and a line out to right by Jason Kipnis. The save was Kintzler’s third in as many days and gave him ten in eleven chances this season.
The loss dropped the Indians to just a game above the .500 mark at 18-17 on the season. They are just 6-8 at Progressive Field in 2017. With their fourth straight win, the Twins improved to 19-14 and hold the top spot in the American League Central with a two-game lead over both Cleveland and Detroit.
Clevinger (1-1, 2.70 ERA) allowed three runs on three hits, but it was the five walks that killed him as the fourth and fifth free passes that he surrendered in the game came in to score in the fourth inning. He threw 86 pitches, just 49 for strikes, and struck out five batters. He pitched from behind most of the day, throwing first pitch strikes to just nine of the 19 batters that he faced, but also induced 14 swinging strikes from the Twins throughout his start.
Berrios (1-0, 1.17) earned his first win of 2017 and continued his strong start that he was having at Triple-A Rochester. He worked seven and two-thirds innings on the afternoon, allowing one run on three hits with one walk, one hit batter, and four strikeouts. He threw 104 pitches, including 71 for strikes, and got ahead with the first pitch to 17 of the 27 batters that he faced.
In the Mother’s Day series finale, the Indians will look to avoid both a sweep and their first four-game losing streak since dropping six straight from July 23 to July 28 in 2015. Right-hander Trevor Bauer (2-4, 7.36) will take the ball for Cleveland and will look to play stopper for the club on Sunday. He allowed four runs in his last start, something that he has done in five of his six outings this season. His lone start of less than four runs allowed came in a win over the Twins in April. The Twins will call upon left-hander Hector Santiago (4-1, 2.76) to spoil the Indians’ weekend. He has thrown quality starts in five of his six outings this season and has been given plenty of run support by his teammates. He will be in search of his first win over Cleveland since 2012.
First pitch from Progressive Field on Sunday is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
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