Few expected the Cleveland offense to be the bright spot of the 2020 season with a loaded pitching staff, but the Indians’ woes at the plate continued to drag the team down on Saturday night as the Tribe mustered just two infield singles in a 3-0 shutout against the victorious Minnesota Twins.
Making his first career start against the Cleveland Indians, Kenta Maeda limited the Tribe to just two base runners over six shutout quality innings, striking out six. His counterpart, Carlos Carrasco, provided the Indians with a quality outing of his own, but three solo home runs, including two by the slumping Miguel Sano, proved to be the difference as the Cleveland bats slumbered once again during a tough stretch early in the pandemic-shortened campaign.
Both pitchers were good in the early going. Maeda walked Francisco Lindor with two down in the first, but stranded him there. He retired the side in order in the second and struck out the side in the third.
Carrasco set down the first six in order with a pair of strikeouts before his first blemish leading off the third. Sano watched a first pitch slider down the middle for strike one, then pounced on a four-seamer and hit a frozen rope over the wall in left-center for a 427-foot clout. His second hit of the season, coming a night after manager Rocco Baldelli benched the slugger, gave the Twins an early 1-0 lead. Marwin Gonzalez followed with a single to left, but he was doubled up later in the inning on a 3-6-1 double play ball from Max Kepler.
The Twins added run number two with two down in the fourth. After a groundout by Jorge Polanco and a strikeout swinging by Nelson Cruz on a sinker-slider diet, Eddie Rosario caught a slider over the plate and poked it over the wall in left for an oppo taco, putting the Twins up by a 2-0 count.
Maeda took a no-hitter into the fifth, when the Indians scratched across their only hit off of him. With one out in the inning, Bradley Zimmer pulled his hands way in and hit a squib shot to short second, but he legged out a base hit by a nose. He moved to second with a stolen base as Domingo Santana struck out for the second out and he was stranded there as Sandy Leon grounded to second.
Sano found another mistake from Carrasco leading off the fifth and made him pay. With the count at 1-1, Carrasco grooved a slider middle-middle and Sano pulled it to left for his second solo shot of the game, moving Minnesota up by a 3-0 advantage.
Maeda worked an easy top half of the sixth in his final frame of work, while Carrasco had to work out of a jam in his final inning in the bottom half. With one out, Cruz singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Rosario walked to put two on, but Carrasco responded with a foul out by Mitch Garver and a strikeout looking of the pesky Luis Arraez to end his night.
The Indians got the tying run to the plate in the seventh against Trevor May, but were unable to muster anything. Lindor led off the inning with a single to Arraez in shallow right. The ball was fielded and thrown to first by Arraez in plenty of time, beating Lindor by several steps, but some bad fundamentals with the footwork by Sano allowed him to reach base safely with the team’s second hit of the game. Carlos Santana struck out swinging for the first out and Franmil Reyes grounded out deep in the hole at short, putting Lindor at second with two outs. Zimmer worked a walk to put two on, bringing the tying run to the plate in D. Santana, but he chopped a 1-2 pitch back to May, who threw to Sano to end the inning.
The Tribe bullpen got the job done in two innings of relief, with a perfect seventh from Adam Cimber and a 15-pitch eighth from Cam Hill, who hit Cruz with a slider for his only mark against him. The Twins matched the scoreless performance from their predecessors, as Cody Stashak worked around a two-out walk by Cesar Hernandez in the eighth with a swinging strikeout of Jose Ramirez, and Taylor Rogers completed his second save in as many nights with a perfect ninth, retiring the heart of the order on a liner and back-to-back swinging strikeouts to end it.
The win moved the Twins to 6-2 on the season and 4-1 at home. The Indians dropped to third place in the American League Central with a 5-4 record. With three runs scored over their last four games, manager Terry Francona knows that there is no time to waste.
“It doesn’t matter the length of the season,” Francona said. “We’re in August now and that’s how you treat it. We’ve got to kind of sprint to the finish. We’re trying to get games under our belts quickly so guys get comfortable.”
Carrasco took his first loss of the season despite a second straight quality start. He allowed three runs on six hits, including the three solo home runs. He struck out five, walked one, and hit one in an 84-pitch outing. While the end results were a fourth loss in the bad column for the Indians, Carrasco was encouraged by how he feels in the early going.
“Last year, I went one inning and the second inning I felt tired,” he shared after the game. “Now I feel strong from the first inning to the last inning.”
Maeda earned his second win to begin his Minnesota career, allowing just a single and a walk in six innings of shutout work. He struck out six batters and left with 83 pitches thrown. Like Randy Dobnak the night before, he had the Indians guessing badly at the plate.
Lindor and Zimmer were the lone weapons in the Tribe lineup on Saturday night, combining for both of the team’s hits and two of its three walks. The rest of the lineup combined to go 0-for-24 against Twins pitching with a walk and eleven strikeouts. C. Santana struck out three times in an 0-for-4, while Reyes and Leon each struck out twice.
Sano, who was buried in a deep 1-for-17 slump at the plate, went 2-for-3 with a pair of solo homers for Baldelli’s Twins. Gonzalez added a pair of base hits as the two accounted for four of Minnesota’s six hits.
The Indians did announce a roster move prior to the game. Reliever James Hoyt, designated for assignment on Tuesday afternoon, was traded to the COVID-19 ransacked Miami Marlins for cash considerations. The Twins placed reliever Zack Littell on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain and recalled pitcher Jorge Alcala from the team’s alternate training site.
The rubber match of the four-game series from Target Field is scheduled for a 2:10 PM ET start on Sunday. Veteran Homer Bailey was scratched from Sunday’s scheduled start and will instead pitch on Monday. Tyler Clippard (0-0, 2.25 ERA) will make his second appearance of the series and will serve as an opener for the club instead. Cleveland will send second-year right-hander Aaron Civale (1-0, 3.00 ERA) to the mound for his second start of the season.
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