In a game that was not highlighted by the most quality pitching seen, the Minnesota Twins rallied back from a 6-4 deficit as Brian Dozier cleared the wall in right with a three-run shot in the top of the eighth off of Bryan Shaw and Minnesota held on to defeat the Cleveland Indians, 8-6, from Progressive Field on Tuesday night.
The Twins (83-74) reduced their magic number to clinch the American League’s second wild card spot down to one game. The Los Angeles Angels pulled out a victory over the Chicago White Sox, 9-3, to keep their hopes alive in the battle for the final playoff spot in the junior circuit, forcing the Twins to postpone any celebrations of their first trip to the playoffs since 2010 for at least one more day. They have now won five games in a row and improved to 6-1 while playing in Cleveland this season. They used 17 hits on the night to keep the bases clogged, giving them ample opportunity to mount a late comeback.
On to protect a two-run lead in the eighth, Shaw was unable to get the job done. He got the first out of the inning, getting Byron Buxton swinging, but Jason Castro singled to center. Niko Goodrum took over for him on the bases and Robbie Grossman singled him to third. Dozier stepped in and took a cutter for strike one, but got another high 90’s cutter down that he drove the opposite way and just over the wall in right for a three-run shot, turning a 6-4 game into a 7-6 contest.
Shaw would get out of the inning, but the Twins would tack on an insurance run in the top of the ninth with two outs, as Max Kepler doubled off of Craig Breslow and scored on a single by Buxton off of Zach McAllister.
The Indians would not be able to do anything against Trevor Hildenberger in the eighth or Matt Belisle in the ninth, as the pair helped establish a new Twins club record for pitchers used in a nine-inning contest at ten.
Neither starting pitcher would make it to the midway point of the night as both offenses started out strong against the opposing starter.
The Twins jumped on Josh Tomlin early to take a lead just three batters into the contest. Dozier led off the game with a double to left. He moved up to third on a groundout by Joe Mauer and came in to score on a grounder to second by Jorge Polanco. Eddie Rosario added to the scoring with a solo homer to right to make it a 2-0 game. Eduardo Escobar tripled to keep the inning alive, but Tomlin struck out Kepler swinging to end the inning.
Former friend of the feather Bartolo Colon got the start for the Twins, but would not last long while battling an illness. Francisco Lindor singled to center and, after a strikeout by Austin Jackson, advanced to third on a double by Jose Ramirez to left. Edwin Encarnacion delivered his first big hit of the night with a single to center, scoring both base runners to knot the game at two.
Tomlin retired the side in order in the second, but Colon was lifted for Tyler Duffey, who worked around a two-out single by Giovanny Urshela before the Twins got back to work at the plate against the Tribe’s starter. Dozier singled to start the inning and moved to third on a single to right by Mauer. Polanco grounded back to the mound for the first out, but Rosario added to his impressive night at the plate with a two-run double to left to put the Twins back on top, 4-2.
The Indians, as they have been prone to doing over the course of the last month, responded quickly again in the bottom of the inning. Jackson got the rally started with an infield single to third. A walk by Ramirez put two on for Encarnacion, who drove in his third run of the first three innings with a single to left-center. After a wild pitch moved both runners up 90 feet, Jay Bruce drove a single to right, scoring Ramirez. Encarnacion, attempting to score from second on the play, blew through the stop sign from third base coach Mike Sarbaugh and was gunned down easily at the plate by Kepler for the first out. Buddy Boshers became the third Twins pitcher of the game and gave up an infield single to Carlos Santana before getting Jason Kipnis to fly to right for the second out. With another runner at third base but two outs, reliever Dillon Gee got Roberto Perez to line to right to end the inning with the game tied at four.
Tomlin would start the fourth, but would not finish it. He gave up back-to-back one-out singles to Castro and Grossman before retiring Dozier and getting the hook for Tyler Olson. The left-hander walked Mauer, but got a fielder’s choice by Polanco to get out of the jam.
Things would remain uneventful until the bottom of the sixth, when the Indians took their first lead of the night. Kipnis sent the first pitch of the inning from Gabriel Moya into right field for a single. Alan Busenitz came on and walked Perez, putting two on for Urshela. The Indians third baseman flied to right, advancing Kipnis to third, and Lindor knocked him in with a fly to center to make it a 5-4 game.
Andrew Miller pitched the seventh, striking out Mauer and Polanco before Rosario and Escobar singled, putting runners on the corners for Kepler. Again with a runner in scoring position, Kepler struck out swinging.
Ryan Pressly came on for the Twins in the bottom of the seventh, but after retiring Ramirez on a liner to center, Encarnacion hit his first home run of the season the opposite way, giving the Indians what appeared to be an important insurance run at the time. It proved not to be enough as the Twins would take the lead for good in the eighth.
The Indians (98-59) lost a game over the Houston Astros for the best record in the American League. The Astros (97-60) were victorious over the Texas Rangers, 14-3.
Tomlin worked three and two-thirds in a no-decision. He allowed four runs on eight hits with three strikeouts. Shaw was hit for three runs, taking his sixth loss and his third blown save of the year.
Colon got the hook due to illness, giving up two runs on three hits in an inning. Duffey gave up two and both Moya and Pressly were charged with one each. Belisle earned his eighth save.
Every hitter in the Tribe lineup had at least one hit except for Perez, who drew one of the team’s two walks on the night. Encarnacion led the way with three hits and four RBI. His home run was his 38th of the season and he surpassed the 100-RBI mark for the fifth time in the last six years. Bruce had two hits and Ramirez scored a pair of runs.
The Twins were backed by big games from Rosario in the cleanup spot and Dozier out of the leadoff spot. Rosario went 4-for-5, coming a triple short of the cycle, while driving in three runs and scoring once. Dozier was 3-for-5, driving in three and scoring three times while hitting his 33rd homer of the season. Four other Twins had two hits on the night.
Game two of the three-game set from Progressive Field is scheduled for a 7:10 PM ET start on Wednesday night. Right-hander Danny Salazar (5-6, 4.48 ERA) will take the mound for the Tribe against Twins left-hander Adalberto Mejia (4-6, 4.48). Salazar allowed a run on two hits in two and two-thirds innings in his last start Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels and will look to make a case for a role on the team’s pitching staff in the postseason. Mejia has not won a game in the second half (his last came on July 3). He has struggled to pitch deep into ball games of late, both before and after a disabled list stint, but allowed just a run on four hits his last time out in four and two-thirds innings in a no-decision against Detroit.
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