Perez’s Homer Pushes Tribe Past Twins; Indians 7, Twins 5

Roberto Perez’s three-run blast in a four-run sixth put the Cleveland Indians up for good as they defeated the Minnesota Twins, 7-5, on Sunday afternoon.

In the biggest series of the season, the Indians salvaged their final regular season game against the Twins to claim the season series against Minnesota, 10-9. Needing a sweep over the weekend, Cleveland was only able to earn a win in the finale, coming back from a 4-2 deficit to hold off the top club in the American League Central.

Shane Bieber had an atypical experience on the mound on Sunday as the Twins put runners on base against him throughout the afternoon. Three straight one-out singles in the first should have plated a run, but the first hit of the three, a single by Miguel Sano, turned into an out as he was thrown out attempting to take a second base before thinking better of it. Jake Cave and Eddie Rosario both followed with singles, with the latter one not driving in the run that it could have. Willians Astudillo flied to right to leave runners on the corners.

The Indians took a 2-0 lead in the first as the Twins used a bullpen game for the third time this weekend and called on Randy Dobnak. Francisco Lindor singled and moved to second on an error by Rosario. Oscar Mercado moved the runner to third with a single to center. Carlos Santana scored the first run of the game with a fielder’s choice grounder to first that led to Mercado being forced for the first out. Yasiel Puig walked to put two on and Jason Kipnis grounded into a fielder’s choice, with Puig forced at second. A wild throw from Ronald Torreyes went for error, allowing Santana to score on the play with the second run of the inning. Franmil Reyes struck out swinging as Dobnak got out of the mess.

Perez – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Bieber left a man at second in the second, but his teammates squandered a scoring opportunity in the bottom half of the inning after Perez singled and Greg Allen was hit by a pitch to put two on base. Ryan Flaherty grounded into a double play and Lindor struck out looking to leave Allen at third.

The Twins got their first of three homers on the day with one out in the third. Sano made up for his earlier blunder that cost Minnesota a run by crushing his second homer in as many days, cutting the deficit to 2-1 on his 29th homer of the year. Cave followed with a double before he was left stranded at second.

Bieber had his first 1-2-3 inning in the fourth and got a double play ball to get out of the fifth. The sixth proved to be a far bigger concern for the All-Star right-hander after he struck out Cave to open the inning. Rosario’s struggles against Cleveland went out the window as the slugger knocked his 30th blast over the wall in right to tie the game at two. Bieber walked Astudillo on four straight before bouncing back to strike out Jonathan Schoop for the second out, but his first offering to LaMonte Wade Jr. was belted to right-center for a two-out, two-run shot (the first of his career) to give the Twins their first lead at 4-2. Two more singles from C.J. Cron and Jorge Polanco spelled the end of Bieber’s afternoon, but Nick Wittgren got Luis Arraez swinging to stop the bleeding.

Dobnak completed five full frames before turning the game over to Fernando Romero. He struck out Puig for the first out, but Kipnis doubled to left and Reyes walked. The pair moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch by Romero and Allen grounded to Schoop, but the first of his two errors on the day allowed Kipnis to score to cut the score to 4-3. Manager Rocco Baldelli went to the bullpen for Kyle Gibson, who just started Thursday’s game for the Twins. That move proved costly as his second pitch to Perez was sent 417 feet away from the plate for his 23rd home run of the season and a key three-run shot to put the Indians back out in front, 6-4. Gibson got the next two, but the damage was done.

The two-run Tribe lead quickly shrank to one the next half inning. After Wittgren struck out Sano and got Cave to ground to short, Rosario jumped on a first pitch changeup and parked it over the wall in right for the second time on the day, moving the deficit to 6-5. Astudillo followed with a single before Wittgren got a big strikeout of Schoop to leave the tying run on base.

The Indians added a big unearned insurance run after the Seven Inning Stretch against Gibson. Mercado drew a walk before Santana lined to center. Puig grounded to third, but the throw to force Mercado at second was missed by Schoop, allowing both runners to reach safely. Mike Freeman hit for an injured Kipnis and singled to left-center, scoring Mercado to give the Indians a 7-5 lead. Ryne Harper got the final two outs and needed just two pitches to do so, getting Reyes to ground into a double play.

James Hoyt used seven pitches to retire the Twins in order in the eighth, getting three groundouts around the infield. Harper stranded Allen at second after his leadoff single and eighth stolen base of the season in the home half before Hoyt returned to the mound in the ninth, looking for a possible two-inning save. He walked the leadoff man Arraez after getting ahead of him in the count, 0-2. He struck out the next two, getting both Sano and Cave swinging. Tribe skipper Terry Francona turned to southpaw Oliver Perez to face the left-handed Rosario, who had homered in each of his previous two at bats, but he popped up his second pitch behind the plate where the catcher Perez secured the ball and the win for the Tribe.

Bieber – Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Indians are now 87-63 on the season and sit four and a half in back of the Twins, including five in the loss column. The Twins dropped to 91-58 on the year.

Bieber did not have his best stuff on the mound as he allowed a season-high eleven hits over five and two-thirds innings. He allowed four runs, walking one and striking out four. All four runs scored off of Bieber came via three home runs allowed. Wittgren earned his fifth win of the year despite allowing a run on two hits over an inning and one-third. Hoyt got his first hold with five big outs, while O. Perez locked down his first save of the season.

Dobnak took a no-decision for the Twins despite worked five strong innings. He allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits with a walk and two strikeouts on 74 pitches. Romero took the loss, giving up three runs (two earned) on one hit with a walk and a strikeout in just one-third of an inning. Gibson gave up another two runs (one earned) on two hits with a walk in an inning of work.

Perez provided the bulk of the Indians offense, driving in three runs in a two-hit day. Mercado and Allen each had a pair of hits and scored a run. Rosario was 3-for-5 for the Twins with two solo homers on the day. Sano and Cave added two hits each.

Kipnis left the game after aggravating a right wrist injury. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday.

The Indians will take Monday off before welcoming the Detroit Tigers into town for the middle series of three in the final homestand of the year for Cleveland. Adam Plutko (6-4, 4.42 ERA) is expected to draw the starting nod in game one of the series, while the Tigers will send out left-hander Matthew Boyd (8-11, 4.54). All three games of the weekday series are scheduled for 7:10 PM ET starts.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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