The Twins rallied for three runs in the seventh, but Carlos Santana saved the day with his second homer of the second half as the Cleveland Indians held on to defeat Minnesota by a 4-3 final.
Desperate for a win after opening play after the All-Star break with two tough losses to the first place Twins (58-34), the Indians (51-40) got back into the win column and reduced the gap in the American League Central Division back to six and a half games with a quality start by Shane Bieber that was spoiled by a three-run Twins outburst in the top of the seventh. After Santana slugged the Tribe back in front, the bullpen closed the door despite allowing the tying run to reach in each of the final two innings.
Bieber opened the first with a quick inning, allowing a two-out single to Nelson Cruz. In a tough matchup against fellow All-Star hurler Jose Berrios, the Indians put on a pair in the first before a big hit from a needed contributor to the lineup. With two down in the inning, Santana and Bobby Bradley each drew walks. Jose Ramirez saw the count go even at 2-2 before driving a double to right, scoring Santana to put the Indians up early. Jake Bauers stepped to the dish with a pair in scoring position, but he left them there with a fly out to left.
Bieber worked around a one-out single in the second by Marwin Gonzalez before retiring the next eight batters while his offense wasted a two-out double by Tyler Naquin in his return to the lineup in the bottom of the second and a leadoff single by Jason Kipnis in the third.
The Indians expanded their lead for Bieber in the fourth. Bauers doubled to open the inning and scored on a single by Greg Allen. Kevin Plawecki moved the runner into scoring position on a grounder to short before Naquin made it 3-0 with a single to center. Naquin moved all the way to third on a stolen base and an error as Francisco Lindor struck out for the second out, but Kipnis was K’d to leave the runner at third.
Bieber’s streak of eight in a row set down ended with a Gonzalez double to center for his second hit of the afternoon. He moved to third on a one-out fly out by Jake Cave, but Jonathan Schoop grounded out to strand another runner. Bieber got a big double play ball to make easier work of the sixth.
Manager Terry Francona left Bieber on the rubber to open the seventh, but the inning quickly got away from him. Luis Arraez drew a five-pitch walk and two pitches later, Mitch Garver joined him on the bases when he was hit by a pitch on a ball that appeared to go off of the knob of the bat. The Indians challenged, but the call was upheld. Gonzalez singled home Arraez and Miguel Sano singled to load the bases. On an 0-2 pitch, Cave was plunked on another ball that appeared to hit the knob of the bat, forcing in the second run of the inning after the Twins replay came up in their favor. Bieber struck out Schoop for the first out of the inning and Francona came to the center of the diamond to bring on left-hander Oliver Perez, but he failed his lefty-lefty matchup as Max Kepler singled to center to tie the game at 3-3. Perez recovered to strike out Jorge Polanco for the second out and Adam Cimber came on and froze Cruz looking to leave the ducks on the pond.
Trevor May became the third Twins pitcher of the night when he took over for Zack Littell in the bottom of the seventh with the game tied. He got Lindor to ground to short and Kipnis to strike out swinging. Santana stepped in and fouled off two four-seamers before catching a curveball over the dish and parking it into the seats in right for the go-ahead solo shot, his 21st of the year.
Cimber returned for the eighth and gave up a leadoff double to Arraez. With the tying run in scoring position, he got Garver to ground to third. Gonzalez lined to center to move the runner to third, but Sano struck out swinging to strand a man.
Tyler Duffey retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth to set the stage for a one-run save situation for Brad Hand. He got ahead of Ehire Adrianza before the batter reached on a fielding error by Kipnis. Once again facing a situation with the tying run on base, the Indians got out of it as Hand fired eleven of the next 12 pitches over the plate. Schoop struck out swinging on a 1-2 pitch. Kepler was KO’d on three straight sliders for out number two. All-Star teammate Polanco fouled off a pair of sliders before cutting and missing on a 95 MPH heater to end the ball game.
Bieber was solid in his first start since winning the All-Star Game MVP Award on Tuesday. He worked six and one-third innings, allowing three runs (all in the seventh) on five hits with a walk, two hit batters, and nine strikeouts.
“That’s the way the game is,” Bieber shared after the game about the two questionable hit by pitch calls. “Sometimes things don’t go your way. Unfortunately, that’s kind of what replay is for.”
Perez was charged with his third blown save, but Cimber took home the win, his fifth. Hand’s save was his 24th in 25 opportunities as he hurled 14 of 15 pitches over the plate.
Berrios went just five innings for the Twins in his first outing since pitching in the All-Star Game. He allowed three runs on six hits with three walks and six strikeouts on 92 pitches. The bullpen allowed just one hit behind him in three innings of work, but the Santana homer off of May proved to be the difference.
The win moved the Indians to 4-5 against the Twins this season and ended a three-game losing skid to Minnesota.
“It’s nice for us to get punched in the stomach and come right back,” Francona said. “That was a good ending, too. That would’ve been a tough day.”
Hat tricks were prevalent in the series finale from Cleveland. Cleanup man Bradley went 0-for-3 with a walk and three strikeouts for the Indians. Three different Twins hitters struck out three times – Kepler, Cruz, and Sano. Polanco, Garver, and Schoop each struck out twice as the Twins struck out 15 times in total on the day.
The Indians will remain at Progressive Field to continue their homestand on Monday night as the Detroit Tigers come to town. Adam Plutko (3-1, 4.95 ERA) will draw the starting nod for Cleveland, while Detroit will send out left-hander Daniel Norris (2-8, 4.96).
First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire (via Getty Images)