Eddie Rosario’s third home run of the afternoon proved to be the winner as his two-run blast in the bottom of the ninth walked the Minnesota Twins off with a 7-5 win over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
It was another frustrating day for the Tribe’s pitching staff at Target Field as the Twins played home run derby with both starter Mike Clevinger and the Indians bullpen. Cleveland rallied back twice from deficits with big home runs of its own, but Rosario’s career day gave Minnesota a big series win over the scuffling Tribe.
Rosario put the Twins up in the first against Clevinger with his first blast. After Brian Dozier grounded out to start the home half, Rosario took the count full against the Tribe’s right-hander before going the opposite way with a solo shot to give the Twins the lead. Miguel Sano drew a four-pitch walk, but after a strikeout by Logan Morrison, Eduardo Escobar doubled to left-center, scoring Sano with the second run to give the Twins a two-run lead.
Minnesota added a third run in the second. Robbie Grossman walked and moved to second on a one-out single by Bobby Wilson. Dozier drove in his first run of the day with a single to center, making it 3-0.
Twins starter Kyle Gibson channeled results similar to his impressive efforts from his first start of the season against Baltimore, taking a perfect game into the fifth inning on Sunday before he ran into Edwin Encarnacion, who himself had a big game. Down in the count 1-2 leading off the Tribe’s fifth trip to the batter’s box, he crushed a changeup to the second deck in left to end the perfect game, no-hit bid, and shutout with one big swing, making it a 3-1 game.
Encarnacion would come through again with a big clutch hit in the sixth. Gibson got Erik Gonzalez to ground to first to open the inning, but Francisco Lindor worked a walk in a grinding 12-pitch battle with the Minnesota starter. He moved to second on a groundout to Sano, who made a beautiful barehanded grab and throw to nab Michael Brantley at first. Twins skipper Paul Molitor took a trip to the mound, calling upon the usually reliable Ryan Pressly, but he would provide no relief whatsoever. The right-hander walked Jose Ramirez on four straight before Encarnacion found a four-seamer over the plate that he sent into the third deck at a 110 MPH exit velocity, putting the Indians on top for the first time, 4-3.
Clevinger worked around a two-out double by Ryan LaMarre in the sixth, but his offense wasted a leadoff double from Yan Gomes in the seventh (that missed being a home run by inches when it bounced off of the concrete portion atop the left field wall) when he was gunned down at second on a botched bunt from Greg Allen.
The Twins capitalized on the missed scoring opportunity by the Tribe to retake the lead. The ongoing bullpen woes may have led manager Terry Francona to leave Clevinger on the mound to start the inning and the move backfired as Dozier saw a third straight four-seamer from the Indians starter and turned it into a game-tying souvenir. Tyler Olson came on to face the left-handed Rosario, but he turned around a curveball on the second pitch of his at bat and cleared the big wall in right with his second homer of the afternoon and third of the series, putting the Twins back on top, 5-4.
Addison Reed took over on the mound for the Twins in the eighth, but his career-long issues against Cleveland continued. After retiring Lindor on a fly to center, Brantley launched a laser beam up and over the wall in right. His tenth homer of the season tied the game at five.
The Indians dodged a big bullet in the eighth. Oliver Perez returned for the bottom of the inning in his second game with the Tribe and got Max Kepler to fly to center before Grossman singled to right. Zach McAllister came on in relief with Ehire Adrianza taking over at first as a pinch-runner. McAllister’s first pitch to LaMarre was laced down the left field line and off of the wall in foul territory. Brantley made a short, bouncing throw to the cutoff man, who recovered and fired a strike to Gomes to nail Adrianza trying to score all the way from first. A grounder to second by Wilson got the Tribe out of the jam, stranding LaMarre at third.
The Twins turned to Fernando Rodney in the ninth, looking to keep the game tied. He gave up a leadoff single to Sano in a shifted infield. After Gomes lined to center, Kipnis stole second, but with the go-ahead run in scoring position, Allen lined to short and Bradley Zimmer struck out swinging.
Cody Allen, the sixth Indians pitcher of the day, would not retire a batter in the bottom of the ninth. Dozier drew a hard-fought walk in a nine-pitch battle with the Tribe’s closer before Rosario killed a 2-1 fastball, sending it just over the wall in right-center for the game-winning blast.
Rodney earned his second win of the season with a scoreless inning of work in the top of the ninth. Allen was dealt his second loss, allowing two runs on one hit and one walk while not retiring a batter in the final frame. The win improved the Twins to 25-30 as they took the final three of four from the Indians. Cleveland fell to 30-28 on the year and 12-17 on the road. The Indians now marred in a three-game losing skid, but they maintain a two and a half game lead in the AL Central as Detroit’s winning streak ended in an 8-4 loss to Toronto Sunday.
LONG BALLS HURT CLEVINGER
Clevinger overcame some early struggles to pitch deeper into the game than expected. But it was return to the mound for the seventh that would lead to the Twins to tying the game back up. He would work six-plus innings, allowing four runs on seven hits with three walks and three strikeouts in a no-decision.
“I thought he was picking a little bit and fell behind,” said Francona. “He doesn’t give in, he doesn’t quit. We were thinking of maybe getting somebody up in the second or third, but he was out there an hour later.”
GOOD EFFORT FROM GIBSON
Gibson, who opened the year with six no-hit innings against the Baltimore Orioles, was perfect through the first four innings before the Indians got into the hit column and onto the scoreboard. He would exit after five and two-thirds after allowing just two runs on two hits, but his own bullpen would allow two runs immediately after his departure to give the Indians the lead and Gibson a no-decision.
Rosario has not let the change in the calendar month affect his play on the field. After a scorching hot effort in May, June has been kind to the outfielder as he handled the Indians with ease during the four-game weekend set. He went 7-for-15 in the series with four home runs and eight RBI. His three-homer day was the second of his career, nearly one year after hitting three homers and driving in five in a four-hit game at home against Seattle on June 13, 2017.
“The first one he hit, it actually looked like it was a ball,” said Francona. “And that makes you nervous. It wasn’t just the home runs. Sometimes it’s the walks before the home run that make it harder.”
He is hitting .474 during his current nine-game hitting streak.
TWO BLASTS FOR DOUBLE E
Encarnacion’s big day at the plate led to nearly all of the Indians’ offensive production for the day. He went 2-for-4 against the Twins on Sunday with two homers and four RBI to extend his hitting streak to ten straight. He has hit .425 during that hot stretch with six homers, 15 RBI, and 14 runs scored.
His two home runs on Sunday were the 14th and 15th of his career at Target Field in 37 career games at the home of the Twins, making him the all-time leader in visiting home runs at the park (moving him past former teammates Carlos Santana and Jose Bautista and Kansas city catcher Salvador Perez, who were previously tied with 14).
Encarnacion now has 16 homers on the season.
“I love the fact that we fight back. It just hurts when you lose,” shared Francona after the game. “But I like that trait about our team. It will help us.”
DAY OF REST
The Indians will take Monday off, their first of two off days this week. They will open a quick two-gamer with the Milwaukee Brewers from Progressive Field on Tuesday before hitting the road for a seven-game road trip next weekend.
First pitch on Tuesday night is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET from downtown Cleveland.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images