Texas’ Mike Minor came into Monday night’s series opener at Progressive Field with video game numbers against the Cleveland Indians. The left-hander had pitched seven times against the Indians in his career (six relief appearances with the Kansas City Royals in 2017 and one start this June for the Rangers), allowing just one run on seven hits with 18 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings of work.
He continued that mastery of the Indians with seven shutout innings on Monday as he combined with two relievers to blank Cleveland on eight hits, 1-0.
Minor made his first start in August after a disastrous July that wrapped around the first All-Star nod of his career. He went 1-2 with a 6.59 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP in five starts last month as he struggled with both his command and the long ball. He got both of those things in check against the Indians, as he scattered seven hits and a walk in seven shutout innings, striking out seven while making the one lone Rangers run stand strong.
Aaron Civale was recalled prior to the game from Triple-A Columbus to make the start for Danny Salazar as he settles into a spot in the Indians starting rotation for the weeks coming up. He pitched his tail off, allowing just one run on three hits with one walk and seven strikeouts while taking a tough defeat while moving to 1-1 on the season.
Civale allowed a two-out single to Elvis Andrus in the first and pitched out of a potential mess in the second after Willie Calhoun opened the inning with a double and was joined on base when Rougned Odor drew a walk on five pitches, but Civale struck out Logan Forsythe before getting Isiah Kiner-Falefa to ground into a costly double play. He retired the side in order in the third before Andrus jump-started the fourth with a triple to right-center over a leaping Oscar Mercado. Nomar Mazara lofted a fly ball to the outfield deep enough to get the runner home ahead of the throw as the Rangers took the 1-0 lead.
Minor was not always great, but he got out of every jam that came his way. He stranded a pair in the first after Mercado singled with one out and Yasiel Puig tallied a base hit with two down before a fielder’s choice force at third by Jose Ramirez. Jordan Luplow was stranded at first after a leadoff single in the second and two more runners were left on the bases after Carlos Santana and Puig both singled with two outs in the third before Ramirez popped to third.
Pitching with the lead for the first time, things changed for Minor as he retired the side in order in the fourth and fifth before walking Santana to start the sixth. A double play grounder by Puig to second quieted the brief threat.
Minor’s final inning in the seventh had a little extra drama to it. Luplow reached on an infield single and moved to second on a bunt single by Jason Kipnis. Franmil Reyes flied to center for the first out as he was unable to get the runners over. Luplow stole third base to bring the tying run 90 feet from the plate, but he left the game with a leg cramp and was replaced by Tyler Naquin. Roberto Perez, who was in the box when Luplow moved up, struck out looking on the ninth pitch of his at bat before Francisco Lindor grounded into a force at second to miss out on a huge scoring opportunity.
Civale ended his day by retiring the final nine batters that he faced and Tyler Clippard pitched a perfect seventh before working out of a jam in the eighth. Forsythe walked but was erased on a double play grounder by Kiner-Falefa. The light-hitting Jeff Mathis skipped a double off of the wall in left and Shin-Soo Choo was plunked by a pitch to bring the dangerous Danny Santana to the plate, but after fouling off a pair of payoff pitches, he was cut down swinging to leave two big insurance runs stranded.
Jesse Chavez threw a 1-2-3 eighth for the Rangers, retiring Mercado, Santana, and Puig. Hunter Wood made his Indians debut and worked around a one-out single by Mazara to keep it a one-run game with the hopes that the five, six, and seven hitters could deliver at least one run against Texas reliever Jose Leclerc. The odds looked good after Ramirez dropped in a double that just grazed the right field foul line and a sacrifice by Naquin got the tying run to third base with only one out. Kipnis grounded softly to Forsythe at first for the second out and Reyes hit the ball sharply, but right at the center fielder Delino DeShields to end the ball game.
The Indians’ three-game winning streak came to an end as the club dropped to 66-46 on the season and 4-3 on this current nine-game homestand. The Rangers moved back to four games over the .500 mark at 58-54, six games in back of second place Oakland (prior to the conclusion of its game against the Chicago Cubs). Texas has won five in a row.
Minor won his third career game against the Indians and his second this year. He threw out the subpar efforts of July with his first quality outing since June 26, when he fired a complete game against the Detroit Tigers (one game after eight one-run innings against Cleveland). He moved to 10-6 on the season, with Chavez earning his eighth hold and Leclerc saving his seventh.
Civale drew the tough luck loss despite allowing just one run on three hits in his second career start and second straight quality outing. He struck out a new career-high seven Rangers hitters and he has allowed just one earned run over his first 12 Major League innings (0.75 ERA).
Puig and Luplow each had a pair of hits on the day to account for half of the Tribe’s eight hits on the day. Those hits failed to drop in with runners in scoring position, as Cleveland went 0-for-7 while stranding eight men on base.
The Rangers mustered just five hits, but earned the win in their well-pitched game. Andrus had two of those knocks, including his big triple that led to the only run of the day in the fourth. Choo struck out in each of his first three at bats of the game while facing Civale before being plunked by Clippard in the eighth.
The Indians may have some extra hope added to the club in the future as two starting pitchers are taking good strides in their stints on the injured list. Right-hander Corey Kluber is expected to make his first rehab start at Triple-A Columbus on Thursday. Fellow righty Carlos Carrasco will throw bullpen sessions on Wednesday and Saturday this week in his first work since landing on the injured list with chronic myeloid leukemia.
Game two of the three-game series between the Indians and Rangers is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET from Progressive Field. A pair of young hurlers will take the mound for their respective clubs, as 24-year-old rookie right-hander Zach Plesac (6-3, 3.41 ERA) and 23-year-old second-year righty Ariel Jurado (6-6, 4.92) will set their sights on their seventh victories.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak