Hand Saves a Nail-biter for Tribe’s First Win of Year; Indians 2, Twins 1
Bob Toth | On 30, Mar 2019
Hanley Ramirez hit a monster home run, Trevor Bauer pitched seven innings of one-run, one-hit baseball, and Greg Allen hit the game-deciding pinch-hit sacrifice fly with one down in the ninth inning as the Cleveland Indians got in the win column with a 2-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.
Both offenses were silenced on a cold and windy day in Minnesota, as the logic of the Twins hosting a season opening series in their dome-less stadium in the Land of 10,000 Lakes was questioned once again with near record setting temperatures and wind gusts coming in from left field at more than 30 MPH. While most players were bundled up as those they were about to hit the ski slopes, Bauer took the mound in short sleeves and showed again why he is one of the top pitchers in baseball today.
The game came down to the very final pitches of the afternoon as the Indians reclaimed the lead in the top of the ninth against right-hander Blake Parker. After getting the first out of the inning, Parker allowed a single to right by Carlos Santana. The Tribe’s first baseman moved up to second on a pitch played poorly by Twins catcher Mitch Garver and he advanced to third on a wild pitch that crossed up the catcher. H. Ramirez was walked on the fourth straight ball from Parker to give Minnesota a chance to escape with a double play ball, but instead, Allen delivered a pinch-hit fly to center that was deep enough to score Santana with the go-ahead run.
Brad Hand came on for the ninth, but he had to work hard to earn his first save of the season. Byron Buxton popped up a fly to shallow right that Brad Miller could not reel in and Tyler Naquin did not make a play on. Buxton pulled into second with the leadoff double. Hand bounced back and struck out Max Kepler for the first out and got Jorge Polanco to line to center, allowing Buxton to move 90 feet from the plate. Nelson Cruz was intentionally walked to set up a left-on-left matchup between Hand and Eddie Rosario, but Hand lost him on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. Two pitches later, C.J. Cron lofted a fly to shallow right, where Naquin closed his glove on the ball to secure a nail-biting 2-1 win for Cleveland’s first W of the season.
Minnesota starter Jake Odorizzi was surprisingly sharp to open the season. He matched Bauer toe-to-toe and had the strikeout pitch moving early, striking out the side in the first and adding three more over the next two innings despite allowing his first base runners of the day in the second (H. Ramirez) and third (Leonys Martin) on a pair of free passes. Neither team had a hit through three.
Odorizzi made it seven strikeouts with a swinging K of Naquin to start the fourth inning and Santana popped up to shallow center for the second out. Odorizzi then lost the strike zone, missing three straight before leaving a 3-0 four-seamer where Ramirez could reach it middle in. Ramirez launched a rocket to the second deck in left, cutting through the wind with a shot to the US Bank Home Run Porch to give the Indians a 1-0 lead and their first run in 12 2/3 innings on the year.
Ramirez’s 113.8 MPH exit velocity shot was the fastest of any Indians home run since Statcast began data collection in 2015. He reached base in all four trips to the plate on Saturday, hitting his home run, a single, and drawing a pair of walks on the day.
“I only hit 3-0 when I feel good,” said Ramirez after the game. “If I don’t feel like my timing is there, I won’t swing. I was looking for a pitch I could handle and that’s exactly what he threw.”
Bauer was perfect through the first three innings, striking out one in the first, two in the second, and two more in the third. But just batters after being given the Indians’ first lead of the 2019 season, the score was tied up. Kepler drove a 1-2 slider off of the wall in right with one out in the bottom of the fourth. Cruz stepped in and worked the count back to even before slapping a grounder down the first base line. Santana was able to make a diving stop, but it allowed Kepler to score from third with the tying run.
ODORIZZI’S RECORD DAY
Odorizzi remained on the mound for the Twins through the sixth, retiring the final seven batters that he faced. Not considered the type of pitcher to rack up strikeouts, he set down eleven Tribe hitters on the day while allowing just one run on two hits with two walks in a tough no-decision as his teammates struggled to get anything going against Bauer.
In addition to the solid performance from the 29-year-old, he matched a career-high with eleven strikeouts, exceeding teammate Jose Berrios’ performance from Thursday afternoon. His previous career best strikeout game incidentally came against Cleveland on May 9, 2014 (doing so in just five innings). He struck out ten batters in his first start of the 2016 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
BAUER’S BITE AND CRUZ’S BARK
Things got a bit testy in the bottom of the seventh. Bauer had retired seven in a row, including striking out the side in the fifth. After an uneventful sixth, Bauer walked Polanco after the stretch and plunked Cruz with a four-seamer in. Cruz took exception and barked at Bauer before heading down to first base. With the go-ahead run now in scoring position, Bauer got the big outs he needed, retiring Rosario on a fly ball to left before getting Cron to ground to second, where Miller started a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
Bauer was finished after seven, allowing just one run on one hit with one walk, one hit batter, and nine strikeouts in the no-decision.
“My changeup is designed to slip, so when there’s no grip on the ball, it makes it real nice,” Bauer said Saturday in regards to the advantages of pitching in cold weather. “I didn’t throw many curveballs, but the slider and changeup were really good.”
SHUT OFF THE STRIKEOUT MACHINE
For the second straight day, the Indians piled up the strikeouts. In addition to the eleven by the starter Odorizzi, Adalberto Mejia tacked on two more in the seventh inning to give the Twins 13 on the day. Minnesota pitching combined for 13 strikeouts in their season opening win on Thursday.
Naquin was the biggest culprit once again. Hitting in the three-hole for the second straight game, he struck out in three of his four plate appearances and has now struck out in six of seven at bats so far this season. Jose Ramirez and Roberto Perez each struck out twice and remain hitless on the year. Max Moroff, making his first start with the Indians, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Only Santana and the DH Ramirez avoided strikeouts on Saturday.
As for the Twins, their pitching performance thus far this season has been almost unheard of in Major League Baseball history. Dating back to 1893, only one other team has had their starting pitchers record ten or more strikeouts in the first two games of the season. The other team did so in 2001, when the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling started the year with ten and twelve strikeouts, respectively.
The cold temperatures in Minnesota on Saturday afternoon were far more representative of an NFL matchup between the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings than the MLB’s Indians and Twins.
The 34 degree first pitch temperature for Game 2 marked the third-coldest game of the Target Field era in Minneapolis.
ONE FOR THE BOOKS
Cleveland reliever Jon Edwards earned his first career win, working two-thirds of an inning of relief in the eighth. The 31-year-old made his first appearance of 2019 while working in his 41st career game. He debuted in 2014 with the Texas Rangers and pitched for the club in 2015 before joining the San Diego Padres. He made nine relief appearances for Cleveland last September.
WHO’S GOT NEXT?
The rubber match of the series is scheduled for another 2:10 PM ET first pitch on Sunday afternoon. Right-hander Michael Pineda, who did not pitch in 2018 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, will make his return to the center slab and his first start with the Twins. Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco (17-10, 3.38 ERA in 2018) will counter for the Indians.
Photo: AP Photo/Paul Battaglia