Rains could only delay an impressive come-from-behind victory by the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night as they used three homers in the final two innings to steal a 9-7 victory from the Minnesota Twins.
The news of the day was bad for the Tribe, as the day’s probable starter, Carlos Carrasco, was placed on the 10-day injured list as the pitcher will step away from baseball for a length of time yet to be determined to address a blood disorder. The Indians went with a bullpen game and fell behind early, but scraped their way back into the game before homering their way to victory after interference by Mother Nature.
The Indians trailed 6-5 at the time of the rain delay with six innings in the books. After a one hour and 43 minute pause in action, play resumed in the seventh with Nick Wittgren taking over on the mound for the Tribe. Miguel Sano singled to kick off play before Wittgren struck out Jason Castro and Byron Buxton. Max Kepler drew a walk to push Sano into scoring position and two pitches later Jorge Polanco padded the Twins’ lead with a single to left-center to score Sano from second. On the play, Kepler got caught up in a run down between second and third to kill the Minnesota rally.
Rocco Baldelli went back to his bullpen for the bottom of the seventh, but Blake Parker could not protect the two-run lead and lost it quickly. Carlos Santana doubled deep to right-center on an 0-2 pitch and Jordan Luplow drove a grooved fastball 425 feet over the wall the same direction to tie the game at seven. Parker recovered to get Jose Ramirez and Jason Kipnis for the first two outs, but Roberto Perez gave the Indians their first lead of the night with a solo shot the opposite way to right to make it an 8-7 Cleveland advantage.
Adam Cimber nearly pitched himself into trouble in the top of the eighth, but worked out of the jam. After retiring Nelson Cruz on strikes and Eddie Rosario on a fly to center, he issued back-to-back walks to C.J. Cron and Marwin Gonzalez to push the tying run into scoring position. But despite Cimber missing the plate on eight of his previous ten pitches, Sano jumped on the first pitch and grounded out to end the inning.
In a tough series with the Twins, every run was going to count and the Indians got a big insurance run in the bottom of the eighth with one out. Francisco Lindor took the first offering that he saw from Tyler Duffey and drove the knuckle curve over the wall in right with his third homer in the last two days to give the Indians a 9-7 lead.
Brad Hand entered for the ninth and locked down his 18th save with ease. He struck out Mitch Garver swinging before getting consecutive groundouts by Buxton and Kepler.
The Indians (31-30) picked up a second game on the Twins (40-20) in the divisional race and now trail by nine and a half games in the American League Central.
Cleveland led after one against left-hander Martin Perez as they loaded the bases in the bottom of the first after a 1-2-3 first inning by reliever Tyler Clippard (starting in place of Carrasco). A leadoff walk by Lindor was followed by a single to right by Oscar Mercado. After a lineout to center by Santana, Luplow singled to left to load the bases. Ramirez grounded to first, scoring Lindor to get the Tribe on the board, but with two still in scoring position and two outs, Kipnis grounded to first to end the inning.
The Twins blistered the Indians bullpen in the second to take what appeared to be a commanding lead. Rosario tripled to center and scored on a double by Cron to tie the game. Gonzalez was hit by a pitch to put two on, but Cron was cut down at third on a fielder’s choice to Ramirez. Tyler Olson came on in relief and got a force at second off of the bat of Castro for the second out, but Buxton clouted a 454-foot shot to left on a 2-0 fastball to give the Twins a 4-1 lead.
Minnesota added another in the third off of Olson as Cruz took the southpaw deep the other way to make it a 5-1 score on his first home run since being activated from the 10-day injured list.
The Indians chipped away at the lead in the home half to cut the deficit in half. Lindor reached on an infield single, stole second, and moved to third on a wild pitch by Perez after a fly out by Mercado. Santana walked before a strikeout by Luplow for the second out. A passed ball on the catcher Castro allowed Lindor to score and Santana to move into scoring position, which came up big as Ramirez delivered an RBI-single to right to score the latter, making it a 5-3 game.
Nick Goody retired the first six that he faced before Polanco gave the Twins their third homer of the game, depositing a 2-0 slider over the wall in right to get a run back in the fifth, making it 6-3 Minnesota.
The Indians responded with another big inning and chased Perez from the mound in the bottom of the fifth. Lindor reached on a throwing error by third baseman Sano and moved to second. Mercado advanced him to third with a sacrifice to the pitcher. Santana grounded to short, but Lindor was cut down trying to score. He did keep the run down moving long enough to allow Santana to move to second. Luplow worked the count from 0-2 to 3-2 before doubling to right, cutting the score to 6-4. Ramirez added another with his second RBI-single in as many at bats to make it 6-5. Perez was hooked for Ryne Harper, who retired Kipnis on a liner to left to end the inning.
The Indians had a chance to add on before the rains came in the bottom of the sixth, but failed. Perez walked and Jake Bauers reached on an infield single against the shift to put two on, but Tyler Naquin and Lindor both struck out swinging before Mercado lined to second.
Wittgren earned his third win of the season despite allowing a run on two hits with a walk and two strikeouts in the seventh. Cimber’s hold was his sixth of the season, while Hand earned his 18th save with a perfect ninth.
Perez was charged with five runs (just two earned) on six hits with a pair of walks and one strikeout in four and two-thirds innings as his career-long woes against Cleveland continued on Wednesday. In seven games in his career, he has an 8.26 ERA and a 2.08 WHIP against the Indians.
Luplow led the Indians offense with a three-hit day at the plate in five at bats. He fell a triple short of the cycle, hitting a single, an RBI-double, and a two-run homer to give him three RBI on the day. He also scored a pair of runs. Ramirez also drove in three with a 2-for-4 day at the plate, while Lindor scored three times on a two-hit day.
Prior to the game, in addition to placing Carrasco on the IL, the Indians optioned outfielder Greg Allen to Triple-A Columbus. A pair of relievers were recalled to add needed depth to the bullpen, as both Jon Edwards and Goody joined the team from International League action.
The pitching matchup of the series is scheduled for the finale on Thursday night. Right-hander Trevor Bauer (4-5, 3.76 ERA) will look to start a new month with better success after going 0-4 in May. Fellow right-hander Jose Berrios (7-2, 3.71) will continue his march to a spot in this season’s All-Star Game at Progressive Field for the Twins.
First pitch is tentatively scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire (via Getty Images)