Cold weather did not slow or stop the Minnesota Twins in game three of the season, as they tallied nine runs off of Cleveland Indians pitching to earn a series victory with a 9-3 win on Sunday.
The rubber match of the season opening series in Target Field did not favor the Indians, as they fell behind early as the Twins tallied a run in the second and two more in the fourth, but it was a disastrous fifth inning that broke the game wide open. Paced to an 8-0 lead at the time, the Twins breezed to an easy win from there, especially facing an anemic Indians offense that racked up 13 strikeouts for the third straight game.
Carlos Carrasco drew the starting nod for the Indians with the series on the line. He dodged an early first inning threat after a two-out double by Nelson Cruz, but the second inning would become problematic on a big two-out hit from Willians Astudillo. With C.J. Cron standing on first after a leadoff single, the third-string Twins catcher clobbered a blast to the gap in left-center, scoring Cron from first to give the Twins an early 1-0 lead.
Carrasco worked out of a jam in the bottom of the third inning after a leadoff walk by Max Kepler and a single by Jorge Polanco, getting a double play ball around the horn from Cruz before Eddie Rosario fouled out to Jake Bauers on a nice catch reaching into the seats.
Michael Pineda made easy work of the Indians while paced to an early lead. He struck out the first two batters of the afternoon in his first start since July of 2017. Carlos Santana’s leadoff single in the second was erased after he bluffed a move towards second on an overthrow, only to be picked off by Astudillo backing up the play. After getting out of the second unscathed, Pineda retired the side in order on three straight strikeouts in the third, getting Kevin Plawecki and Eric Stamets swinging around a caught looking from Brad Miller as Pineda faced the minimum through three. A double play ball with one out in the fourth erased a one-out walk from slumping Jose Ramirez.
The Twins tacked on with more in the bottom of the fourth with a two-out rally. After a groundout by Cron and a foul out by Marwin Gonzalez, Jonathan Schoop laced a single to left. Astudillo drilled another liner to the gap in left-center, with the ball bounding over the wall for a ground-rule double. With two in scoring position, Byron Buxton cashed in by driving in the pair with a double to left, giving the Twins a 3-0 lead. Kepler fouled out to leave the score close.
Martin Perez took over on the mound after four scoreless from Pineda, but he had to work early. Santana singled before a strikeout by Hanley Ramirez. Greg Allen drew a walk to put two on, but Plawecki fouled out to first and Miller was cut down swinging.
The Indians suffered the consequences of their missed opportunity as the fifth inning quickly and painfully escaped Carrasco. Polanco singled to left and Cruz launched the first homer of his Twins career to left to push the Minnesota lead to 5-0. Rosario struck out swinging, but Cron lined a double over the head of Bauers in left. Neil Ramirez came on for Carrasco, but he failed to stop the scoring. He walked Gonzalez on seven pitches before giving up a 1-2 double to left to Schoop to score another run. Astudillo got under a pitch and lifted a fly to center, scoring Gonzalez easily. The relay throw had Schoop dead to rights at third, but Santana, who cut the throw to the plate, airmailed the throw to Ramirez at third, allowing Schoop to trot home with ease with the fifth run of the inning and eighth of the day. Buxton, the eighth man to bat in the inning, flied to center to end the threat.
Perez worked around a one-out walk of Martin in the sixth and a leadoff single by Santana in the seventh to leave it an eight-run edge. Cleveland, however, got on the board to avoid a second shutout in the series with a big hit from Santana in the eighth. Stamets reached base safely for the first time in his big league career with a one-out walk. After a strikeout by pinch-hitter Max Moroff for the second out, J. Ramirez got his first hit of the season with a single through the hole on the right side of the infield. Bauers added his first hit of the season with a single to left-center to load the bases for Santana, who ripped his fourth hit of the game down the third base line and off the wall in left for a bases-clearing two-out three-run double to make it an 8-3 game. Perez was hooked by manager Rocco Baldelli, and Trevor Hildenberger struck out H. Ramirez looking to end the Indians’ only real threat of the game.
The Twins added one more off of right-hander Shane Bieber in the bottom of the eighth in his second inning of work (after it was announced before the game that he would be available in relief and would not be starting this coming week during his normal turn in the rotation). He plunked Astudillo with the first pitch of the inning before Buxton singled to left. Jake Cave followed with a single of his own two pitches later to push Astudillo across with the ninth run of the day. Buxton was thrown out at third on the play for the first out of the inning and Bieber got the next two on a foul out and a strikeout to end his outing.
Carrasco was hit hard and hit often in a short outing for the Tribe. He lasted just four and one-third innings, allowing six runs on ten hits with a walk and four strikeouts. He was aggressive with the strike zone, throwing 45 of his 65 pitches for strikes, but the Twins were on him throughout the day and sent several hard hit balls to places on the field that the Tribe position players could not defend them.
PINEDA AND PEREZ MAKE TWINS DEBUTS
Pineda was on point in his first start since 2017 (while still a member of the New York Yankees). Baldelli kept his inning limit low, working him just four frames, but the 6’7” right-hander controlled the Tribe in his short start. He worked the four innings, allowing just a hit and a walk while striking out five. He threw 40 pitches, including 28 for strikes.
Perez, who will be in the rotation when the Twins need five starters, worked three and two-thirds innings in his first appearance with the Twins after spending the first seven years of his big league career with the Texas Rangers. The southpaw threw the ball with excellent velocity, but the Indians got to him late in his relief appearance. He was charged with three runs on five hits with six strikeouts and three walks, throwing 82 pitches in his first outing of the year while taking home his first victory as a member of the Minnesota roster.
Minnesota Twins pitching struck out 13 more batters, giving the club three straight games with exactly 13 strikeouts of Cleveland Indians hitters. Pineda and Perez accounted for eleven of them, giving the Twins 31 strikeouts total between their four starting pitchers to throw in the three-game series.
TWINS HOT IN THE COLD
The cold weather again on Sunday did not stop the Twins from putting up nine runs on 15 hits off of Indians pitching. Cruz led the way with his best game as a Twin so far, going 3-for-5 with two singles, a homer, and two runs batted in. Polanco and Cron each had a pair of hits, as did the team’s seven through nine hitters (Schoop, Astudillo, and Buxton), who accounted for four runs scored and another five RBI.
The Twins entered with six hits in their first 56 at bats in the series before their big day at the plate Sunday.
SANTANA’S BIG DAY
Santana, working in the four-hole for the third straight game, had his best game back with the Indians. He went 4-for-4 and drove in all three of the Tribe runs while accounting for four of the team’s six hits on the day. He had three singles and his first double of the 2019 season.
The Indians will head back to Cleveland to start a brief two-game series with the Chicago White Sox, beginning Monday, before hosting the Toronto Blue Jays for four straight beginning Thursday evening. Mike Clevinger will handle the starting duties on Monday, with Corey Kluber going in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon.
The Twins will take Monday off before opening a seven-game road trip. Their first series will come in Kansas City, where Minnesota will play a pair before back-to-back interleague matchups with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets.
Photo: AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn