Offense Absent as Tribe Shut Out by Twins; Twins 2, Indians 0
Bob Toth | On 14, Sep 2019
Facing a slew of arms out of the Minnesota bullpen, Cleveland could do nothing as the Twins used a third inning two-run home run by Jorge Polanco to claim a 2-0 win over the Indians in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader from Progressive Field.
In as must-win of a scenario as the Indians have faced this season, the offense came out flat and could not get anything of substance going against the suspect Twins bullpen as the club had to rely on its relief staff in game one on Saturday after Friday’s series opener between the two teams was washed out by heavy rains. The Twins had a tough time doing much against Mike Clevinger over eight solid innings from the right-hander, but it took just two quick hits to change the outcome of the game, and possibly the season, for the Tribe.
It was an unfortunate situation for Clevinger as he got no support from his offense, which was shut out for the 13th time this season. A team of five relievers, led first by Devin Smeltzer, quieted the bats, with each one giving up one hit a piece. Clevinger, meanwhile, gave up a leadoff double to Max Kepler to start the day, but left the runner stranded as he struck out each of the next three batters swinging. He allowed a one-out single to Luis Arraez in the second, but struck out his fourth and fifth batters of the first two innings to leave another man on base.
Smeltzer retired the first six before he got offensive support. After Willians Astudillo flied to right, Kepler singled to right. Just as he did prior to the cancellation of Friday’s game, Polanco followed a Kepler single with a two-run home run, putting the Twins up 2-0.
The Indians finally put together a threat in the home half. Smeltzer hit Jason Kipnis with a pitch and Roberto Perez got the Tribe’s first hit of the game with a single to center. Yu Chang flied to right and Francisco Lindor popped out to third for the second time in three innings for the second out. Oscar Mercado worked the count from 0-2 to 3-2 and drew a walk to load the bases. Carlos Santana stepped in with a chance to get the Indians on the board or more and he battled Smeltzer for eight pitches before ripping a shot to short, where Polanco made a game-changing diving grab to end the inning.
Clevinger kept the Twins at bay, giving up a walk in the fourth before his first perfect inning in the fifth, but the Indians lineup remained landlocked as Zack Littell retired six of the seven men that he faced in the fourth and fifth, giving up only a one-out single to Perez in the fifth.
Clevinger worked out of a jam in the sixth. After getting Nelson Cruz and Eddie Rosario on fly outs, Mitch Garver singled to left and Arraez reached on a ground-rule double to put two in scoring position for Miguel Sano. He was outmatched by Clevinger, who used four straight four-seamers to blow the slugger away to leave two big runs on the bases.
Tyler Duffey entered in the bottom of the sixth for manager Rocco Baldelli. He gave up a single to Mercado, but he moved no further than first as Duffey got the next three in order. He returned for the seventh and got a pair of groundouts before hitting Perez with a pitch on the arm. Sergio Romo came on and struck out the pinch-hitter Mike Freeman swinging.
Clevinger came back out to save manager Terry Francona’s bullpen in the top of the eighth and added two more strikeouts to his daily total, getting Polanco swinging and Cruz looking before Rosario popped up to Freeman at third.
Romo got Lindor to line to center to start the bottom of the eighth before Mercado singled for the second straight at bat. Baldelli went back to the mound for his closer, Taylor Rogers, who struck out Santana looking as the strike zone started to move all over. Yasiel Puig may have gotten an extra strike on a curiously missed call on what would have been strike three and he took advantage of the opportunity by singling through the left side to put runners at first and second. With the tying runs on base, Greg Allen could not come through as he struck out looking to leave a pair.
James Hoyt took over for Clevinger in the ninth, allowing just a Sano single before the Indians came up for their last ditch efforts against Rogers. He got Franmil Reyes to ground to second before Kipnis reached on a fielding error by Rogers. The southpaw took over from there, striking out both Perez and Freeman to earn his 26th save of the season while dealing a devastating blow to the Indians.
Minnesota (90-57) increased its lead in the American League Central to four and a half games over Cleveland (86-62). The Indians trail Tampa Bay by a game and a half for the second wild card spot.
Clevinger did his part in a strong start, going eight quality innings while allowing two runs on six hits with a walk and ten strikeouts. It marked the sixth time this season and eleventh time in his career that he has reached double digit strikeouts in a game. The loss ended a ten-game winning streak for the right-hander, who has been nothing short of impressive time and time again throughout the second half of the season.
Smeltzer worked a game-high three innings for the Twins, keeping the Indians in check. Littell earned his fifth win of the season with two innings of one-hit relief. Duffey and Romo each earned holds while Rogers struck out four of the six batters that he faced to slam the door in the face of the Indians.
Mercado and Perez accounted for four of the Indians’ five singles on the day. Cleveland left nine men on base while going 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.
Polanco’s 22nd homer of the season was the difference for Minnesota. He struck out in two of his other three trips to the plate. Kepler and Arraez each added a single and double in two-hit performances. Cruz struck out three times in four trips to drop his batting average back below the .300 mark by one point.
Game two on Saturday will start at the originally scheduled 7:10 PM ET time. Both clubs will go with bullpen games, as the Indians start Tyler Clippard (1-0, 2.65 ERA) for the third time this season in his 50th appearance overall. The Twins had not formally announced a starter for the nightcap at the time of this story.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images