Twins Pitching Baffles Tribe Bats Again; Twins 3, Indians 1

Quality starting pitching can only get a team so far and the Cleveland Indians are a prime example of that right now. Despite holding the league’s top scoring team to just ten runs over the weekend, the Tribe took a third straight loss on Sunday as the Tribe bats mustered just two hits off of Minnesota relievers in a bullpen game for manager Rocco Baldelli, falling in a 3-1 final from Target Field.

With scheduled starter Homer Bailey scratched from his start and placed on the injured list (retroactive to June 29) with right biceps tendinitis, Baldelli opted to go for a series win over the Indians with a bullpen day. The move paid off as the Indians woes at the plate continued with an abysmal performance in a key early series in the shortened 60-game slate.

The Twins jumped out early with solo runs in each of the first three innings against Indians’ second-year right-hander Aaron Civale. Max Kepler hit the third pitch of the game down the right field line and landed at third with a triple. The Indians challenged that the ball was foul. While the umpires did not overturn the call, they did send Kepler back to second base as the ball had exited the field and bounced off of a chair before returning to the field of play. Jorge Polanco blooped in a single the opposite way to left to score Kepler with the first run of the game. Civale settled and got the next two before Polanco was caught stealing with Mitch Garver at the plate.

Polanco – Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Tyler Clippard served as the Twins’ opener in his second appearance of the series and faced the minimum in two innings of work before the Minnesota bats got back to work. Garver, who had already seen five pitches in his incomplete first plate appearance, working Civale to a 3-2 count. On the second payoff pitch of the battle, he defeated Civale, driving a slider over the wall in left for his first homer of the season, giving the Twins a 2-0 lead. Civale struck out the next two before retiring Marwin Gonzalez on a fly to center.

Devin Smeltzer came on for the third inning for Baldelli and got three outs in the air before the Twins added another tally. After striking out Byron Buxton, Indians’ kryptonite Kepler doubled again to right. Polanco struck out looking for the second out, but Nelson Cruz tacked on the third run of the game with a single to shallow right-center to make it a 3-0 Minnesota advantage. Eddie Rosario was cut down swinging to end the inning with Civale’s sixth strikeout.

The Indians finally found some offense in the fourth. Cesar Hernandez doubled to right-center to kick off the inning against Smeltzer. Jose Ramirez was unable to advance the runner, grounding to short for the first out. Francisco Lindor laced an 0-1 pitch to left, scoring Hernandez on the play, but Rosario played the bounce perfectly off of the wall and gunned Lindor out by plenty at second to short-circuit the rally. Slumping Carlos Santana drew a walk and scampered to second on a passed ball, but Mike Freeman flied to left to leave a man in scoring position.

To give Civale credit, he contained the tough Twins lineup over his final three innings of work, retiring ten in a row to finish his outing with three more strikeouts to match his career-high of nine, established in his first start of the 2020 campaign.

Smeltzer worked two more batters, striking out both in the top of the fifth, before turning the game over to Matt Wisler. He got the last batter of the inning and worked around a one-out walk of Hernandez in the sixth. Tyler Duffey worked a perfect seventh with a pair of strikeouts to open and close the inning.

Nick Wittgren took over for the Tribe in the seventh and retired the side in order as the Indians remained close, but the bats continued to whiff against the Twins relief corps. Bradley Zimmer opened the eighth against Trevor May with a strikeout looking. Oscar Mercado reached on an error on a grounder to third to give the Indians their fifth base runner of the day. With the tying run now coming to the plate with one out, Franmil Reyes grabbed a bat and hit for catcher Beau Taylor, but he was set down on three straight strikes for out number two. Hernandez fared no better, working the count full before he was called out looking on a borderline two-seamer on the outside part of the plate.

James Karinchak kept the score at 3-1, striking out three in the bottom of the eighth while working around a leadoff single by Gonzalez and a two-out single from Polanco. Sergio Romo entered in the top of the ninth looking for his second save, with closer Taylor Rogers rested after saving the previous two outings. With the best bats in the Tribe lineup coming to the plate, Ramirez popped out to Ehire Adrianza in shallow left on the eighth pitch of his at bat. Lindor chopped the second pitch of his at bat to Luis Arraez in shallow right for the second out. Santana, who may have upset home plate umpire Jerry Meals during his plate appearance after becoming visibly frustrated with the extended strike zone in all directions, chased a 1-2 changeup off of the plate, fouling it off, before watching a changeup right over the plate for a called third strike to end it.

The Twins improved to 7-2 on the season after taking three of four from the Tribe. Cleveland fell to fourth place in the American League Central with a 5-5 record. The Indians have scored just four runs over the last 49 innings.

Civale – Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

CIVALE SETTLES LATE

Civale worked six innings, allowing the three early runs on five hits before shutting down the Twins bats. It marked the ninth time in ten starts for Tribe pitchers that the starting staff had recorded a quality start, but with the team’s bats in a state of slumber, it has still left the team at .500 through the first ten games.

“He had a little bump in the road in the beginning of the game and settled down and kept us in the game,” said interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. “He kept his composure.”

Civale matched his career-high with nine strikeouts and did not issue a walk, giving him 18 strikeouts and one walk through his first 12 innings of work.

BULLPEN BAFFLES BATS

Smeltzer was credited with the win after pitching a Twins’ high two and two-thirds innings. He allowed the Indians only run on both of their hits, walking one and striking out a pair on 39 pitches.

The former Indian Clippard worked two perfect innings, striking out a batter as the opener. Wisler worked a scoreless inning and a third with a walk and a strikeout for his first hold of the year. Duffey logged his third hold with a pair of strikeouts in a perfect seventh. May struck out the side around an error in the eighth for his second hold. Romo threw 11 of 15 pitches for strikes, throwing ten sliders and five changeups and no one pitch faster than 79 MPH.

“At times they are [pressing]. The guys are continuing to do their jobs. Our offense is in a funk right now. We need to have more quality at bats,” said Alomar Jr. “It’s still early. We just need to have better approaches.”

NO FRANCONA

The Indians were without manager Terry Francona, who missed the game with a gastrointestinal issue. He was set to return to Cleveland for further analysis at the Cleveland Clinic. According to team president Chris Antonetti, he has been dealing with the issue since spring training.

Alomar Jr. worked as his replacement. Kyle Hudson, the team’s Major League Staff Coordinator, took Alomar’s spot in the first base coaching box. Francona could miss the series in Cincinnati due to the logistics and appointment times.

NO DONALDSON AGAIN

The Twins played for the second straight game without Josh Donaldson, who is day-to-day with a calf issue. He exited Friday’s game after one plate appearance.

Minnesota recalled right-hander Sean Poppen from their alternate training site on Sunday with the roster spot opened by the placement of Bailey on the injured list.

HEADING HOME…KIND OF

The Indians will head back to Ohio, but not home right away, as they begin a quick two-game set in Cincinnati against the Reds (which were scheduled to play two games in Detroit on Sunday). The two clubs will take the series north to Progressive Field for Wednesday and Thursday.

Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

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