Kepler Goes Yard Twice as Twins Roll Tribe; Twins 6, Indians 2
Bob Toth | On 13, Jul 2019
Max Kepler hit three homers against Trevor Bauer in his last game against the Indians right-hander on June 6 in his second matchup against him of the season. He added two more in the first two innings on Saturday to help pace the Twins to a 6-2 win over the Indians from Progressive Field.
The Indians’ six-game winning streak came to a close on Friday night, but the club looked to get back into the win column and continue a hot stretch on the diamond and turned to Bauer to do so. He gave up three runs early, with Kepler to blame for the bulk of the damage, but settled in to give the club a quality start before the bullpen let things get out of control late.
Kepler saw two four-seamers up in the zone from Bauer to start the contest, but Bauer left one over the plate with his third offering and Kepler put a jolt in it, sending it over the wall in right field to give the Twins a 1-0 lead one batter into the game. Things only appeared to get worse from there for Bauer, as he gave up a single to Jorge Polanco and a walk to Nelson Cruz before retiring his first batter with a swinging strikeout of Marwin Gonzalez. Luis Arraez loaded the bases with a single to right-center, but Bauer walked a tight-rope and struck out Jonathan Schoop before getting Jason Castro to ground into an inning-ending force at second.
All-Star Jake Odorizzi returned from the injured list for his first start of the second half and kept the Indians quiet. The first batter that he faced, fellow All-Star Francisco Lindor, reached on an infield single to open the bottom of the first, but he was erased on a double play ball to calm the Indians uprising.
The Twins got back on the board with a pair of long balls in the second. For the second straight inning, Minnesota led off its offensive attack with a deep fly as Jake Cave sent Bauer’s payoff pitch over the 19-foot wall in left for a solo shot to make it 2-0. Byron Buxton flied out for the first out to turn the lineup over, but Kepler did his thing again, driving a curveball to right-center for his fifth homer of the season off of Bauer, all coming in his first five ABs against him this season. Bauer walked one more in the inning, but sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around it.
Cleveland got on the board in the bottom of the second as a quiet bat woke up. With one down in the inning, Jose Ramirez drove a 1-0 cutter over the wall in right for his eighth homer of the year, making it a 3-1 game.
Bauer settled in after his early mess. He retired the side in order in the third. He walked Cave to start the fourth before striking out the next three, including Kepler after falling behind 3-0 in the count. He gave up a one-out single to Gonzalez in the fifth and ended his outing with a perfect sixth, striking out Castro and Cave before getting Buxton to line to right.
While Bauer kept the score at bay, the Indians could not chip away against Odorizzi. A double play ball ended the bottom of the third after a one-out single by Greg Allen. Odorizzi retired the side in the fourth and allowed only a one-out walk to Bobby Bradley in the fifth. He put two on in the sixth, plunking Allen and giving up a one-out walk to Oscar Mercado, before manager Rocco Baldelli went to the bullpen and called on Ryne Harper. With the tying runs on base, he got Carlos Santana to fly to center before striking out Jason Kipnis.
Tyler Olson and Tyler Clippard worked the seventh, stranding Polanco after his one-out single. The Indians then got back on the board against Tyler Duffey. Ramirez lined to right to start play after the stretch, bringing the rookie Bradley to the dish. He fouled off three pitches and worked the count to 3-2 before the eighth pitch of his at bat was crushed to the deepest part of right field, 457 feet away from the plate, to cut the Tribe’s deficit to 3-2 with his first Major League home run. The Indians stranded the tying run on first after a two-out single by Roberto Perez, but Blake Parker came on in relief and got pinch-hitter Jordan Luplow to foul out to right.
Clippard came back out for the eighth, but he could not keep the score at one run. Arraez reached on an infield single to first and moved to second on a single to right by Schoop. Castro moved both runners up on a sacrifice and Cave added to his RBI total for the day with a two-run double to right, opening up the game to 5-2. A.J. Cole was summoned from the bullpen and got the next two batters on outs in the air.
Parker retired the side in order in the home half of the eighth before the Twins added another insurance run off of Cole. Polanco singled to center and moved to third on an error by Ramirez on a ball in play by Cruz. Gonzalez stepped in with two in scoring position and plated Polanco on a sacrifice fly to left to make it a 6-2 ball game. Cole prevented further damage by getting Arraez to fly to center and Schoop to strike out swinging.
Down to their final three outs and trailing by four, the Indians had to face tough left-hander Taylor Rogers for the second straight night. He handled the middle of the Tribe’s lineup with ease, getting Kipnis to fly to left, Ramirez to ground to second, and Bradley to strike out looking in a quick and effective eight-pitch inning to give the Twins a series win in a key divisional battle against the Indians.
Minnesota moved to 58-33 on the season and 30-18 on the road while moving to 5-3 against Cleveland this year. The Indians dropped to 50-40 and 25-20 at home while falling to seven and a half games in back of the top club in the AL Central.
The Indians’ offense was provided by homers from Ramirez and Bradley, with the latter launching a tape measure moon shot more than impressive enough for a first career home run. Other than that, the club had just three hits and went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position while stranding four.
The Twins had eleven hits, with Polanco leading the way with three in five plate appearances. Kepler hit his 22nd and 23rd homers of the year with his barrage off of Bauer to become the first player ever to homer five straight at bats against a pitcher during the same season. Cave plated three of the Twins’ six runs and hit his second homer of the season. The Twins went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine men.
“It’s unfathomable that it’s happening right in front of our eyes,” Baldelli said regarding Kepler’s homer-happy ways against Bauer. “Nobody has seen anything like it.”
Odorizzi moved to 11-4 with a five and one-third inning performance. He allowed just one run on three hits with two walks and a pair of strikeouts on 89 pitches in his first start off of the injured list while recovering from a blister on his right middle finger. He was backed by strong work from the Minnesota bullpen, as the four relievers to take the mound allowed just one run on two hits the rest of the way.
Bauer fell to 8-7 on the season despite a quality start. He allowed three runs over the first two innings before settling in, giving up six hits and three walks on the night while striking out eleven. Three long balls proved to be the damage in his 117-pitch outing. The bullpen behind him let the game get away, as Clippard and Cole allowed three more to cross in the final two frames.
“How do you explain it? It’s just one of those baseball things…he’s just locked in against me, for whatever reason,” said Bauer of his issues with Kepler. “It won’t be that way forever. He’ll cool down and he’ll go through a 0-for-10 with seven punchouts or whatever and miss pitches. It’s just one of those things right now.”
Cleveland will look to avoid a sweep on Sunday afternoon and will turn to its All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, Shane Bieber (8-3, 3.45 ERA). Minnesota will call on the services of fellow All-Star Jose Berrios (8-5, 3.00 ERA) for his first start of the second half.
First pitch on Sunday from Progressive Field is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images