Progressive Field served as a launching pad on Tuesday night as Cleveland and Minnesota combined for six home runs, but the Indians had four of the blasts to earn a much needed victory over the Twins in a 5-2 final.
Right-hander Shane Bieber’s strong second campaign for the Tribe continued as he pitched into the eighth inning, allowing a pair of solo homers and five hits in total while striking out seven to earn his fifth win of the season. Francisco Lindor figured out rookie southpaw Devin Smeltzer, who was pesky his first couple of trips through the order but had few answers for the Indians’ All-Star shortstop, who put a pair of souvenirs into the bleachers to help pace the Cleveland offense.
Bieber got a big caught stealing in the first to erase a one-out single by Jorge Polanco. The Indians wasted an opportunity of their own in the bottom half against Smeltzer, when Lindor drew a leadoff walk but was forced out on a fielder’s choice. Carlos Santana joined Oscar Mercado on the base paths after singling to left, but Jordan Luplow popped out to third and Jose Ramirez lined out to center.
Minnesota took an early lead in the second with the first of many homers on the day. After Bieber retired the tough Eddie Rosario on a grounder to first and struck out Mitch Garver with his third strikeout of the first five outs, Marwin Gonzalez continued his positive results against Tribe pitching with a solo homer to right-center to give the Twins a 1-0 lead. Bieber had to work to escape the inning after walking Miguel Sano and giving up a two-out double to left to Jonathan Schoop, but he got Byron Buxton to pop out to Ramirez to end the frame.
The Indians went down in order in the second but got a big lift in the third to tie the game. Smeltzer struck out Leonys Martin to start the inning, but Lindor drove an 0-2 pitch over the wall in left for his ninth homer of the season, tying the game at one.
Bieber gave up a hustle two-out double to Gonzalez in the fourth and retired the side in order in the fifth before the Indians claimed the lead with more work from Lindor. With two down, Martin drew a walk on an inside fastball that just missed the plate. Lindor caught the next pitch, a changeup down the middle, and drove it to the left of center for his second homer in as many at bats, putting the Tribe on top, 3-1.
Rosario got the Twins a run closer as Minnesota responded for a run in the top of the sixth. With two down in the inning, he attacked a first pitch four-seamer from Bieber and cleared the wall in right with the Twins’ second homer of the day, making it a 3-2 game on his American League lead-tying 18th homer.
Smeltzer got a big double play ball in the sixth in a seven-pitch inning and came back out for the seventh, but manager Rocco Baldelli left him in a couple of batters too long. After he won the left-on-left battle with Jason Kipnis, inducing a fly to center, Roberto Perez crushed his eighth homer of the year 439 feet to center to make it 4-2. On the very next pitch, Jake Bauers just cleared the wall in right with his sixth homer, giving the Indians a more comfortable 5-2 lead. Smeltzer was hooked by Baldelli for Ryne Harper, who got the final two outs around a two-out double by Lindor, his third hit of the night and fourth straight plate appearance reaching base safely.
Bieber started the eighth, but an error by Lindor allowed Buxton to reach safely. Manager Terry Francona went to his bullpen, calling on veteran left-hander Oliver Perez to face lefty Max Kepler. Perez got him on three straight strikes, then followed it by striking out Polanco and Nelson Cruz swinging to strand the runner at first.
Brad Hand came on in the ninth, in search of his 17th straight save to start the season. He got Rosario to pop to third before he hit Garver with a slider. Gonzalez, who has had several clutch moments against the Tribe in his career, did not deliver this time, as he grounded to short to start a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
The Indians climbed back to .500 at 30-30 and picked up a game on the Twins, who fell to 40-19 on the season and 21-10 on the road.
Bieber threw 104 pitches in seven-plus innings of work. He brought his swing-and-miss stuff and racked up seven strikeouts on the night. He allowed two runs on five hits and walked one batter to improve to 5-2 on the season while lowering his ERA to 3.57.
Smeltzer was punished by the long ball despite looking good for stretches of the night. He went six and one-third innings, allowing five runs on five hits with three walks and two strikeouts in his second Major League start. Four of the five hits that he allowed left the yard. The Indians used an aggressive approach against him throughout the night, as Smeltzer was over the plate with first pitches 17 of 26 times. The Indians put 20 of his 82 pitches in play and swung and missed just four times in the game.
An error was the only blemish on Lindor’s stat sheet on Tuesday as he went 3-for-3 at the plate with a double, two homers, and a walk while driving in three and scoring twice. He is now hitting .306 on the season with a .377 on-base percentage.
“I know we’re far from first place right now,” Lindor said after the game. “It’s inevitable to see how many games out we are, but it doesn’t matter. We’ve still got a long way to go.”
The Twins got nothing from Kepler and Cruz, who combined to go 0-for-8 with six strikeouts (three apiece).
The Indians will look to take the series in the middle game on Wednesday night on Mike Clevinger bobblehead day. Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (4-6, 4.98 ERA) will look to get back into the win column after dropping each of his last three starts. Left-hander Martin Perez (7-2, 3.71) will try to earn his eighth win of the campaign while looking to overcome some rough numbers against the Indians in his career.
First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images