Sano’s Eighth Inning Slam Sinks Tribe’s Hopes; Twins 9, Indians 5
Bob Toth | On 14, Sep 2019
Miguel Sano’s first pitch grand slam off of Nick Goody in the top of the eighth capped a six-run frame for the Minnesota Twins, which held on for a 9-5 win over the Cleveland Indians to complete a doubleheader sweep on Saturday night.
The Twins may have turned out the lights at Progressive Field on Saturday with back-to-back significant victories to knock the Indians six games back in the loss column in the American League Central Division. Cleveland was in desperate need of a three-game sweep over the weekend, which would have cut the Central deficit down to just one game. Instead, the Indians not only are plummeting quickly within the division, but they are losing ground at a rapid pace in the AL Wild Card race as well.
With both teams taking the bullpen game approach, the Twins jumped out in front against the Cleveland relief staff. Tyler Clippard made his third bullpen game start of the season and got Max Kepler to fly out on the first pitch of the game, but game one’s hero Jorge Polanco singled to right-center for the first hit of the night. Nelson Cruz was retired on a fly to right for the second out, but Eddie Rosario crushed a two-seamer 433 feet deep into the seats in right to give the Twins a 2-0 lead on his 29th big fly of the year.
The Indians, just as they did on Friday when the Twins jumped out to a two-run lead in the first, responded in a big way in their first trips to the plate. Tasked with left-hander Lewis Thorpe, the first five batters reached safely. Francisco Lindor walked on four pitches. He moved to third on a double by Oscar Mercado and a single by Carlos Santana made it a 2-1 game. Eight of the next ten pitches from Thorpe missed the zone as Yasiel Puig walked to load the bases and Jordan Luplow had the same five-pitch experience as his walk forced in the tying run. With momentum appearing to be all in the Indians’ favor, 13 of the next 17 pitches from Thorpe were strikes as Franmil Reyes, Yu Chang, and Kevin Plawecki each struck out swinging as the Twins reliever somehow got out of the jam while leaving the bases full of Indians.
Clippard concluded his outing with a perfect second while the Indians wasted more opportunities in the second against Thorpe. Mike Freeman drew a leadoff walk before being erased on a double play ball from Lindor. Mercado doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch, but Santana could not give the Indians the lead, grounding to second to leave the go-ahead run 90 feet from touching home.
In between two perfect innings from Hunter Wood in the third and fourth, the Indians took the lead with a big fly of their own. Facing Thorpe for the third inning, Puig flied out before Luplow pummeled a 2-0 fastball to the bleachers in left to put Cleveland up, 3-2.
The Indians added on against Thorpe in the fourth with a two-out rally. Lindor reached on a single to third with two down and trotted the rest of the way home as Mercado hit his eleventh homer of the year to make it a 5-2 game.
Despite a three-run advantage, the Indians bullpen could not protect the lead. Carlos Carrasco pitched a 1-2-3 fifth, but back-to-back two-out hits in the sixth against him made it a ball game again. Polanco singled to right to keep the inning alive. Carrasco got ahead of Cruz 0-2, but a curve low and in was belted to left-center for a two-run shot. Cruz’s 37th cut the Twins deficit to 5-4.
The Indians were unable to add on against rookie Brusdar Graterol in the sixth and seventh, while Adam Cimber held off the Twins in the road half before the stretch. He returned to the mound for the eighth, but he gave up a first pitch single to Jonathan Schoop before manager Terry Francona came to the center of the diamond and called on left-hander Oliver Perez. His first offering was grounded to Santana, who got the force of pinch-runner Ian Miller at second, but Lindor was charged with a throwing error as Freeman and Perez failed to make the grab on the return throw to first. Polanco promptly drove the next pitch off of the wall in left for a game-tying RBI double. Cruz was intentionally walked and Perez walked Rosario on four straight to load the bases. Francona came back out for Goody, but the aggressive Twins approach at the plate continued as he clobbered the right-hander’s first offering over the wall for a grand slam, putting the Twins up 9-5. Goody walked Luis Arraez before striking out C.J. Cron, then James Karinchak, making his Major League debut, got the final out of the inning with a fly to center by Jason Castro.
Trevor May put the Tribe down in order in the eighth while Karinchak got through the ninth with his first three big league strikeouts. May stayed in for the final three outs against the nine, one, and two hitters, and he set them down on nine pitches, getting Freeman to ground to short before Lindor and Mercado each flied out.
The Indians dropped to 86-63 on the season and trail the Twins by five and a half games. Tampa Bay and Oakland both added to their leads in the Wild Card race as the pair were victorious in their games on Saturday. Minnesota is now 91-57.
Graterol earned his first big league win with two scoreless innings of relief. He struck out three. Thorpe was charged with five runs on seven hits with four walks and six strikeouts over three and two-thirds innings, yet somehow his outing could have been much worse. His tightrope act out of the first prevented far worse scoring and allowed the Twins to climb back in later.
The bullpen behind Thorpe allowed just one base runner over the final five and one-third innings while striking out six.
Perez took the loss for Cleveland after giving up three runs on one hit with two walks (one intentional) in just one-third of an inning. Clippard and Carrasco each gave up two runs in two innings of work, while Goody and Cimber were charged with one each.
The Twins had just two at bats with runners in scoring position. Each delivered runs as Polanco’s double and Sano’s slam provided key eighth inning runs.
Six of the Tribe’s eight hits came from the top three hitters in the order. Mercado went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and two RBI. Santana had a pair of hits while Lindor singled and walked while scoring twice.
The Indians will look to keep their fleeting playoff hopes alive on Sunday with All-Star right-hander Shane Bieber (14-7, 3.17 ERA) on the mound against right-hander Randy Dobnak (0-1, 2.25). Bieber is 1-0 in three starts against the Twins this season. Dobnak will make his third start of the year and seventh overall appearance. He has faced the Tribe twice thus far, giving up two runs on nine hits in six innings of work.
First pitch from downtown Cleveland is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images