Tribe closer Brad Hand gave up a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth to allow the Twins to tie the game at three, but Carlos Santana sent the Indians to a victory as he hit a grand slam in the top of the tenth to give Cleveland a 7-3 win over Minnesota on Sunday.
In the biggest series of the year for the Indians to date, the club showed up big in the Twin Cities and stole three wins in a four-game series to tie the Twins for the top spot in the American League Central for the second time in the last three days. They needed some late inning heroics, capped by a dynamite defensive play to avoid a dramatic loss in the bottom of the ninth before Santana crushed the backbreaker in the next half inning to send Cleveland home with an impressive series win from Minnesota.
Hand, who has had some shakier moments in the last month and a half, came on in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run lead to protect. His first pitch of the afternoon was driven to right by Eddie Rosario for a leadoff double. Hand fell behind Mitch Garver 3-0 before bouncing back with two strikes looking before getting the Twins backstop to cut and miss on a payoff slider for the first out. Luis Arraez cut the deficit to one run as he pounced on a first pitch four-seamer and sent it to right, scoring Rosario on his base hit. C.J. Cron singled to left-center on the tenth pitch of his at bat to put two on before he was lifted for pinch-runner Ehire Adrianza. Marwin Gonzalez, who has a known history as an Indians killer, fouled off four straight offerings from Hand before sending a drive deep to left off of the base of the wall. Left fielder Tyler Naquin, still acclimating to a new position, barehanded the ball and threw a strike to cut off man Francisco Lindor. Arraez scored easily on the play to tie the game, but Lindor threw a perfect seed to catcher Kevin Plawecki to nab Adrianza trying to score all the way from first with the would-be winning run. With the winning run still standing at second and two men out, Jonathan Schoop grounded to Jose Ramirez at third to send the game to extras.
Taylor Rogers, who worked a two-inning save in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Cleveland, entered for the tenth for manager Rocco Baldelli. He gave up a leadoff single to Plawecki before walking Lindor on four straight. Greg Allen dropped down a bunt to move the runners up, but reached safely to load the bases. Santana got ahead in the count 2-1 before sending a low two-seamer 398 feet to the bullpen in left to crush the Twins with an extra inning grand slam, putting the Tribe up, 7-3. Yasiel Puig struck out looking for the first out before Cody Stashak came on in relief for the sixth time in his Major League career and got the next two outs in the air to send the game to the bottom of the tenth.
Hunter Wood took over for Tribe skipper Terry Francona in the bottom of the tenth with a four-run lead to protect. He lived in the zone, throwing eight of his nine pitches in the frame for strikes. He got a first-pitch grounder to first by Max Kepler before Jorge Polanco grounded an 0-2 pitch back to the mound. Miguel Sano hung around for five pitches, ultimately grounding the 1-2 offering to Lindor at short for the final out of the day.
The Indians and Twins are tied again atop the AL Central at 71-47. The Twins have dropped five of their last six, while the Indians have won five of six. The Indians lead the season series between the two clubs, seven games to six.
The Indians jumped out to an early lead against All-Star Jose Berrios, who was looking to recover from a nine-run disaster his last time out against Atlanta. After retiring Lindor on three pitches to open the day, a surprising source of power put the Indians on the scoreboard as Allen blasted a deep homer to right to give Cleveland a 1-0 lead. Santana walked on five pitches and Puig drove him in with a double to center to double the Tribe’s lead to 2-0.
The lead shrank in the second inning as the Twins got on the scoreboard against rookie right-hander Aaron Civale, making his third big league start. After retiring the side in order in the first, he gave up a leadoff double to Rosario to open the second. Garver moved him to third with a fly out and Arraez lofted a sacrifice fly to right to make it a 2-1 game.
The Indians got the run right back in the next half inning. Lindor doubled to left and, after a fly out by Allen, he scored on a single to center by Santana to give the Indians a 3-1 lead.
Civale cleared six innings in a quality outing against a top notch team. After the Twins got on the board in the second, he allowed just three more base runners. Schoop singled with one out in the third and Cron and Gonzalez hit back-to-back one-out singles in the fifth before Civale got Schoop to pop to first and Kepler to strike out swinging.
Berrios settled in after allowed runs in two of the first three innings. He set down eleven in a row after the Santana single before the Indians put together a threat in the seventh. Kipnis and Franmil Reyes each singled to knock Berrios out of the game. Tyler Duffey came on and got Naquin and Plawecki on outs in the air before Lindor drew a walk to load the bases. Baldelli turned to Ryne Harper, who got Allen to line out to second to leave three big runners on the base paths.
Nick Goody gave the Indians a scare to resume play after the stretch. He walked Garver and gave up a single to Arraez to put two on with nobody out, but he took matters into his own hands from there, getting Cron to fly to center, Gonzalez to pop to short, and Schoop to cut and miss to strand a pair.
Harper and Trevor May kept the Indians in check in the eighth and Oliver Perez and Adam Cimber retired the side in order in the eighth to keep it a two-run game. May struck out a pair in a perfect ninth before the Twins were able to rally to send the game to extras.
Civale was dealt a tough no decision as he continued to dominate opposing teams. He made his third straight quality start to open his MLB career, allowing just one run on four hits with five strikeouts and no walks. He has now allowed just two runs over his first three starts, a span of 18 innings of work.
Hand’s blown save was his third of the season (and his third since June 25), but he was given the win as the pitcher of record when the Indians reclaimed the lead in the tenth to move to 5-3 on the year. He allowed two runs on four hits with a strikeout in one inning of work.
Berrios gave the Twins a quality effort in a good bounce back from his previous effort. He allowed three runs on six hits with a walk and four strikeouts on 96 pitches. He set down eleven in a row after struggling over two of the first three innings that he worked. Three relievers combined to shut down the Indians over the final three innings of regulation before Rogers had his tenth inning meltdown, as he allowed four runs on three hits and a walk with a strikeout in just one-third of an inning to fall to 2-3 on the year.
The top of the Tribe lineup did the bulk of the heavy lifting on Sunday as Lindor, Allen, and Santana combined to go 5-for-12 with six runs scored, six runs batted in, and three walks. All three scored twice. Allen and Santana had a pair of hits and the latter had five of the seven runs batted in on the afternoon. Since the Indians’ surge in the standings since June 4, Santana has reached base safely in 53 of 57 games while the Indians have gone an MLB-best 42-17, according to the Associated Press.
The same top three trio in the Minnesota lineup (Kepler, Polanco, and Sano) combined to go 0-for-15 with six strikeouts. Arraez, Cron, and Gonzalez each had two-hit games for the Twins.
The Indians will return home to Progressive Field for another big series against a contender, this time the visiting Boston Red Sox. Game one of the three-game set from downtown Cleveland is scheduled for a 7:10 PM ET first pitch on Monday night, with rookie right-hander Zach Plesac (6-3, 3.13 ERA) set to make his second start of the season against the Red Sox. Boston will send out left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (13-5, 4.17), who will look for his career-high 14th win in the opener.
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