Minor Bests Bieber as Tribe Offense Silenced; Rangers 4, Indians 2

Mike Minor’s strong start to the 2019 season continued on Thursday as he limited the Indians to just three hits over eight one-run innings to lead the Texas Rangers to a 4-2 win over Cleveland from Globe Life Park.

The Rangers (40-35), looking to avoid a series loss to the Indians (39-35), got a couple of early runs and got two more late on solo homers off of AJ Cole to split their four-game set against Cleveland. The win moved the club back in front of the Indians, who were unable to take advantage of a low scoring contest from Arlington. Despite taking the L, Cleveland still returns home with positive overall numbers from a 5-2 road trip through Detroit and Texas.

Texas took its early lead with two quick runs off of Shane Bieber in the first. Danny Santana’s hot June continued in his first at bat of the day as he doubled to left-center. He stole third before Elvis Andrus put the Rangers on the board with a triple on a ball played poorly in center by Leonys Martin. Andrus scored on the next pitch on a ball in the dirt from Bieber that deflected out in front of the plate off of catcher Kevin Plawecki.

Minor worked around some early traffic to protect his lead. He walked batters in the first two innings, stranding Jose Ramirez at second in the second after his leadoff walk and stolen base. Minor retired the side in order in the third with a pair of strikeouts and got a double play ball to end the fourth after a leadoff single by Carlos Santana.

Bieber matched his counterpart after falling into the early 2-0 hole. He stranded Ronald Guzman on second after a one-out double in the second. He struck out the side in order in the third and left Delino DeShields at first after a two-out single in the fourth.

Both pitchers retired the side in order in the fifth, with Bieber adding two more Ks to his tally. The Indians bats then got to work in the sixth with a two-out rally, but wasted a key opportunity in the game. Oscar Mercado started the scoring threat with a single to left. Santana walked and Jordan Luplow put the Indians on the board with a single to left. An ill-advised throw to third by Willie Calhoun allowed Luplow to advance to second on the play. With a chance to put the Indians on top, Ramirez lined the second pitch of his at bat to left, where Calhoun made it interesting, but pulled in the catch to end the inning with two big base runners left stranded.

Bieber ended his outing strong in the home half of the sixth, getting a groundout from Andrus before striking out both Asdrubal Cabrera and Calhoun.

Minor returned for the seventh and got three outs in the air in a seven-pitch inning, putting him in position to return for the eighth. The Indians made him throw 16 pitches, but the results were the same as Martin, Francisco Lindor, and Mercado were all retired on outs in the air.

With Cole on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, the Rangers got a pair of key insurance runs. After a fly out by Shin-Soo Choo to start the frame, Santana homered on a 2-0 four-seamer left over the plate to make it a 3-1 game. Taking a page out of the Indians’ playbook from the series, Andrus gave the Rangers back-to-back blasts with a shot to left on a 3-2 payoff slider to extend the lead to 4-1. Brad Hand came in to get some work after not pitching in the club’s previous two blowout wins and retired the two batters that he faced to end the onslaught.

Down to their final three outs, the Indians brought the tying run to the plate against closer Shawn Kelley, who was in search of his ninth save of the season. Santana worked the count full leading off the inning before driving the sixth pitch of his AB over the wall in right. Instead of tying the game, it made it a 4-2 contest. Pinch-hitter Tyler Naquin grounded to Kelley and Ramirez popped to short for the first two outs before Jason Kipnis kept hopes alive with a single to center. Mike Freeman grabbed a bat for Plawecki and fouled off three straight 0-2 pitches before cutting and missing on a sixth straight slider to end the ball game.

Minor moved to 7-4 on the season and lowered his ERA to 2.52 with eight quality innings of one-run, three-hit baseball. He walked three and struck out four while minimizing any issues that could have been caused by his free passes. The win was his second in a row and marked the third time this season that he has won back-to-back decisions. He has now pitched into the eighth inning in two of his last three starts and he has limited opposing teams to three hits or less while throwing seven or more innings three different times this season. The eighth-year big leaguer has resurrected his career in Texas, posting a 12-8 mark last season with a 4.18 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP in his first year with the club.

Bieber allowed just the two first inning runs and shut the Rangers down from there, but his offense could not get going in a tough matchup against the southpaw Minor. He allowed five hits and did not issue a walk in six innings in another quality start. He threw 102 pitches, 71 for strikes, and registered eight strikeouts on the afternoon. He dropped to 6-3 on the season with just his second career road loss.

“I thought he battled his [expletive] off. First inning, he’s giving up some hard contact, a couple runs and then he just battled the rest of the way,” manager Terry Francona said after the game. “Matter of fact, if we tied that game, we were going to let him go back out.”

Andrus, who has made a career out of torching the Indians, did so again on Thursday. He tripled in the first before scoring on the wild pitch and homered for the seventh time on the year in the eighth to put the game out of reach. Seven of the eight Rangers hits in the contest dropped for extra bases (four doubles, one triple, two eighth inning homers).

The Indians managed just five hits on the day after posting double-digit hit totals in the two middle games of the series. Santana had a pair, including his team-leading 15th home run of the year. They had just four opportunities with runners in scoring position and stranded five men on base.

The Indians will return home to Cleveland to kick start a three-game weekend set against the Detroit Tigers on Friday night. Trevor Bauer (5-6, 3.41 ERA) will draw the starting nod in the set against left-hander Matthew Boyd (5-5, 3.35).

Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

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