Kluber, Lindor, and the Long Ball Lead Tribe to San Juan Win; Indians 6, Twins 1

Corey Kluber was his usual self on the mound for Cleveland, but that story will be lost in the shuffle as Francisco Lindor led the way for the offense with a two-run home run in his return to his native Puerto Rico as the Indians defeated the Minnesota Twins by a 6-1 final on Tuesday.

Cleveland showed little rust after three straight days off as strong starting pitching from the well-rested Kluber and some explosive support from a native son powered the Indians past the Twins in the first game of their two-game series from the capital of Puerto Rico.

Playing at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan in a short series from the Caribbean, one of the island’s top baseball stars took center stage and stepped up in a big moment, giving Kluber some much needed and deserved support while bringing the packed house of 19,516 to an uproar, complete with curtain call.

Through four innings, both starting pitchers looked to be benefiting more from the extended rest. The Indians had been off since Friday night, with rain outs washing away contests on Saturday and Sunday before a travel day on Monday. The Twins were even further removed from action, last playing on Thursday in their series opening win over the Chicago White Sox. The final three games of the series from Minnesota’s Target Field were postponed due to snow and inclement weather.

Jake Odorizzi got the start for the Twins, working around a one-out walk in the first to Jason Kipnis and one-out doubles by Bradley Zimmer in the third and Michael Brantley in the fourth. He sat down four through the first four frames, and kept the Indians off of the scoreboard.

Lindor & Zimmer – AP Photo/Carlos Giusti

Kluber matched him well in the early going. He gave up a single to Miguel Sano with two outs in the first, but recorded his second strikeout of the inning to strand the big slugger at first. He notched his third strikeout to start a quiet second, but got into a little trouble in the third before escaping. Former Indians spring training invitee Robbie Grossman reached on a fielding error by Yonder Alonso to start the inning before Kluber retired the next two batters on fly outs. Joe Mauer drew a five-pitch walk to push Grossman into scoring position with the always dangerous Sano coming to the plate. The Dominican-born third baseman, who entered 1-for-16 (.063) in his career against Kluber, flied to center to strand a pair.

The Tribe right-hander played in traffic again in the fourth. Eddie Rosario, who grew up in nearby Guayama, singled to start the bottom half of the inning. Logan Morrison drew a walk, but Kluber struck out Eduardo Escobar swinging. Max Kepler grounded out to the mound, pushing both runners up 90 feet, but Grossman grounded out to first as a pair were stranded again.

The Indians took advantage in the fifth, finally figuring out Odorizzi. Before the fun started for Cleveland, Yan Gomes and Tyler Naquin each struck out swinging, giving the Twins right-hander six Ks through four and two-thirds. Zimmer doubled to the wall in right for the second straight at bat to bring up Lindor, who had flied out to deep center his first time up and struck out his second. After falling behind 0-2, he worked the count full before jumping on a hanger and sending a high fly ball lofting slowly to the wall in right. It cleared for a two-out, two-run home run to put the Indians on top, 2-0.

After Kluber worked around a leadoff single by Jason Castro in the fifth, the Indians bats got back to work and knocked Odorizzi out of the game. Jose Ramirez took his count full against the Minnesota righty before hitting a carbon copy fly to right. Just like Lindor’s two batters earlier, it just cleared the wall for his fourth home run of the season, giving the Indians a 3-0 lead. But before the dust could settle, Brantley got in on the action, jumping on his first pitch and sending a drive to deep right center and gone for back-to-back blasts to make it a 4-0 game while starting Odorizzi’s island vacation early.

The Indians extended their lead with another run in the seventh. With two outs, Kipnis singled off of lefty Taylor Rogers. Manager Paul Molitor went to his bullpen again for right-hander Alan Busenitz, who allowed back-to-back base knocks from Ramirez and Brantley, with the latter’s single driving home Kipnis to make it a 5-0 game.

The Twins struck through against Kluber in the seventh, ending his outing early, at least early for the two-time Cy Young winner this season. Kepler doubled to start the inning and moved to third two outs later on a groundout by Castro. Brian Dozier doubled to deep right past a leaping Brandon Guyer to score the runner, cutting the deficit to 5-1. Manager Terry Francona called upon lefty Andrew Miller, who walked Mauer but followed by striking out Sano with runners on the corners in the last big threat for the Twins.

Cleveland tacked on one more for good measure in the eighth as Alonso launched a drive down the right field line off of Gabriel Moya, a home run that survived a challenge by Molitor. Miller pitched an easier eighth, striking out one, and Cody Allen worked the ninth, walking Kepler and giving up a two-out single to Brian Dozier before getting Mauer to ground out to end the ball game.

With the win, the Indians (9-6) moved a half-game up on the Twins (7-5) in the American League Central standings. The Tribe is now 3-4 on the road this season and has won six of its last seven games overall.

Kluber – AP Photo/Carlos Giusti


Even in the moments before the game, all of the body language on Lindor spoke volumes about what it meant for him to take the field as a Major League player at Hiram Bithorn. The natives may have even willed his fifth inning drive over the fence with a collective deep breath in a moment too storybook to script.

Lindor erupted with a level of celebration that might have been deemed excessive for the middle innings of a close contest, but his at bat and his results contributed meant far more than the usual mid-April contest. With a pump of the fist several times around the bases, a curtain call from the dugout, and later a graceful bow from short, it was a moment that gave Tribe fans goose bumps and Lindor and his fellow Puerto Rican residents a memory of a lifetime.

It was the second home run of the season for Lindor and accounted for RBIs six and seven on the year.

“These people need to cheer,” shared Lindor after the game, in reference to all that the island has been through in the wake of Hurricane Maria last fall. He gave them quite the moment to do so.


Kluber’s stuff was its usual high quality filth, as he held the Twins to just one late run on five hits with a pair of walks and six strikeouts in six and two-thirds innings. The start, amazingly, was his shortest of the season, following two eight-inning efforts and one of the seven-inning variety.

He threw 104 pitches, 69 for strikes, and came away with his second victory in four starts.


Odorizzi had kept the Indians in check with just three hits through the first two trips through the lineup, but it was that third lap through that did him in. Lindor homered to put the Indians on the board with his two-out, two-run shot in the fifth inning, and then after retiring Kipnis to end the inning, he issued back-to-back jacks to lead off the six to Ramirez and Brantley, spelling an end to his night at five and fly.

He was charged with four earned runs on six hits in his five-plus innings, walking one and striking out six. He threw 97 pitches, including 58 for strikes, and threw first pitch strikes to 15 of 22 batters faced.


Outfielder Byron Buxton was a late scratch for the Twins on Tuesday, as he was dealing with migraines prior to the game.


For our trivia junkies, here are the answers to Tuesday’s Tribe Trivia, themed for the matchup with the Minnesota Twins in Puerto Rico.

I was born in the same city as the stadium in San Juan’s namesake, Hiram Bithorn. I was the last Indians player to record back-to-back 200-hit seasons for the Tribe. I started my career as a third baseman before becoming an All-Star second baseman. Who am I?
– I am Carlos Baerga, beloved former Indian born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. I was one of several former Puerto Rican big leaguers in attendance for the ball game on Tuesday.

A native of St. Paul, I pitched a ten-inning complete game in Game 7 of the World Series while playing for my hometown Twins in my only season in Minnesota. I was named the World Series’ Most Valuable Player that year and would win another ring (my third) the next season. I played my final big league season in Cleveland in the twilight of my career. Who am I?
– I am Jack Morris, part of the newest class of Baseball Hall of Fame inductees. I played for the Indians in 1994 and was released just before the strike hit as my numbers suffered while my attention may have been diverted by the needs on my farm around harvest time…

A veteran of 22 big league seasons, it all began in the Twin Cities. I went to high school in St. Paul and college in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota, where I was a multi-sport star drafted on more than one occasion. I was the fourth overall pick in 1973 and skipped the minors entirely, never once playing a game at that level. I’m a 12-time All-Star, a seven-time Gold Glove winner, a six-time Silver Slugger, and I won a World Series with the above player in 1992. I returned home to Minnesota in 1993, spending two seasons with the Twins before concluding my Hall of Fame career with a season in Cleveland. Who am I?
– I am Dave Winfield, current special assistant to the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. I spent my final season in Cleveland in 1995, serving as the team’s occasional designated hitter in limited duty at the age of 43.


The Indians and Twins will conclude their unconventional series in San Juan with the finale on Wednesday night.

Minnesota right-hander Jose Berrios (2-1, 2.18 ERA) will be the story of the night as the second-youngest active Puerto Rican born player will take the mound for the Twins. The 23-year-old from Bayamon will make his fifth career start against the Indians and brings in a career mark of 2-2 with a 5.31 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP in 20 1/3 innings against them. He has been on his game so far this season, throwing a three-hit shutout to start his season and looking sharp again his last time out, when he allowed three hits over seven shutout innings while totaling eleven strikeouts in a win.

Cleveland will counter with right-hander Carlos Carrasco (3-0, 3.48). The Venezuela product will return to his spot in the rotation behind Kluber and looks to build off of an impressive outing his last time to the mound against the Tigers, when he allowed just one run on three hits in a complete game effort. He dismantled the Twins bats a season ago, winning all three of his starts against them while allowing just two runs and striking out 30 in 19 2/3 innings.

First pitch from Puerto Rico is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.

Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/Getty Images

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