Sixth Inning Tribe Rally Backs Bieber to Sixth Victory; Indians 4, Twins 2
Bob Toth | On 25, Aug 2020
The Cleveland Indians put up three runs on the Minnesota bullpen in the bottom of the sixth to back another quality showing from Shane Bieber and defeat the Twins by a 4-2 count on Tuesday night at Progressive Field.
Bieber was not quite as crisp as he had been through his first six starts of the season, needing a few innings to settle in and look more like his usual self. But being the pitcher that he has been throughout his brief big league career, Bieber minimized early damage and kept the game close long enough for the Indians bats to finally break through with a big inning in the sixth to provide the decisive runs of the contest.
The Indians gave Bieber an early lead, but it was short-lived. Facing former Cleveland reliever and left-hander Rich Hill, the Tribe bats put up a run in the bottom of the first and had a chance for more after Bieber worked around a one-out single in the top half. Jose Ramirez pulled the hands in nicely and singled to left with one out. Hill tried to pick him off but Ramirez was running and got a great jump, beating a bad throw from Miguel Sano with a head first at second for a stolen base. He swiped third in much more conventional fashion, but Francisco Lindor grounded right to the third baseman Marwin Gonzalez for the second out. Hill fell behind Carlos Santana 3-0 before working the count full on three straight foul balls. On the second pay-off pitch, Santana singled to left to score Ramirez with the game’s first run. Franmil Reyes drove an 0-2 pitch off of the wall in left, moving Santana to third, but the batter was thrown out by plenty trying to advance to second on the deep drive.
Bieber made a mess for himself with an uncharacteristic effort in the second. He walked the leadoff man Sano on five pitches before striking out LaMonte Wade Jr. Gonzalez drew a four-pitch walk to put two on for the pesky Luis Arraez, who found the gap in left-center to score Sano, tying the game at one while extending his hitting streak to seven straight. Ryan Jeffers grounded the next pitch to Ramirez and the Tribe’s third baseman fired to Roberto Perez at the plate to cut down the potential go-ahead run after a brief rundown. That mattered less a few pitches later as Max Kepler drove in Arraez with a two-out single to right to put the Twins on top, 2-1. Bieber got Jorge Polanco to ground into a force at second to prevent more damage.
Hill pitched his best game of the season in limited work as he stretched back out after missing time on the injured list earlier in the month. He walked Jordan Luplow to start the second before picking him off in an otherwise uneventful inning. He retired the side in the third and the first two batters in the bottom of the fourth before letting the next two reach on a Reyes single and a second walk by Luplow. With a chance to tie the game, Domingo Santana struck out swinging. Hill finished his return to Cleveland with a dominating fifth frame, striking out the side in order.
Bieber’s command was off in the early going. He gave up his third free pass in walking Sano a second time after opening the third inning with back-to-back strikeouts of Nelson Cruz and Eddie Rosario. But as he is prone to do, he handled matters on his own, getting Wade Jr. to fly to center. Bieber allowed a leadoff single in the fourth to Gonzalez, but a pair of ground balls sandwiched around a strikeout got him out of the inning. It was after the Gonzalez single that he started to settle in, as he retired the side in order in the fifth with a strikeout before matching Hill’s fifth with three Ks in a perfect top of the sixth. Despite ten strikeouts and just two runs allowed over six innings of work, Bieber looked to be done for the night on the short end of the win column with the Tribe still trailing, 2-1.
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli went to his bullpen for the first time on the night in the bottom of the inning, bringing on right-hander Jorge Alcala. With the soft-tossing breaking ball artist Hill out of the game, the Tribe bats sped up and struck through in a big and needed inning. Ramirez went with a 1-1 pitch and singled a slider to right. Lindor fell behind in the count 1-2 before clobbering a no-doubter to the Progressive Insurance advertising in the right field seats. The animated Lindor tossed his bat emphatically and chest thumped numerous times around the bases while motioning into the Indians dugout as his fifth homer of the year gave the Indians a 3-2 lead. The rally continued as C. Santana worked an eight-pitch walk. Reyes grounded out to second for the first out, but pinch-hitter Tyler Naquin delivered a hit in the clutch, catching a changeup at the bottom of the zone and drilling it sharply into right field for an RBI-double, extending his hitting streak to six straight while making it a 4-2 game. Alcala struck out D. Santana before Perez grounded to short.
Bieber, now the pitcher of record, turned the game over to the crafty veteran Oliver Perez. He got Arraez on a grounder to second before Jeffers reached with a single to right. Kepler drew a walk, bringing pitching coach Carl Willis out to the mound, but staring down his likely last batter of the night, Perez got Polanco to send a grounder to Ramirez. He fielded, stepped on third, and fired across his body to C. Santana, who swiped Polanco running by to complete the inning-ending double play.
The Indians wasted a pair of leadoff walks by Delino DeShields and Cesar Hernandez after the stretch against Sean Poppen, who also retired the side in order in the eighth as the Tribe was unable to add to its lead.
James Karinchak, who had been warming with O. Perez on the mound, came out for the top of the eighth against the dangerous part of the Twins lineup. He retired Cruz on a flyball that handcuffed Naquin in right for the first out and got Rosario to fly to center for the second out. Sano kept the inning and his hitting streak alive with a single to right, but the Majors’ leading strikeout reliever punched out another, getting Wade Jr. swinging with his 31st strikeout of the season.
Closer Brad Hand got the call for the ninth, facing the bottom third of the Twins’ lineup while in search of his eighth save. Gonzalez, with a history of coming through against Cleveland, launched a deep fly to DeShields, but he tracked it down at the warning track in right-center. Arraez was caught looking on a pitch on the outside corner for out number two. Pinch-hitter Ildemaro Vargas, batting for Jeffers, blooped a pop into shallow right, where a charging Naquin called off Hernandez for the final out.
The Indians’ brief two-game losing skid came to a close as Cleveland improved to 18-12 on the year and 8-7 at home. The Twins dropped to 20-11 on the season and 8-8 away from Target Field as their three-game winning streak came to an end.
Bieber had some of his usual swing-and-miss stuff, but he walked a season-high three batters on the night after entering the game with just six free passes issued over 40 2/3 innings of work. He was charged with the two second inning runs on four hits while striking out ten, giving him five double-digit strikeout efforts in seven starts. Hanging on just in time for the Tribe’s rally in the bottom of the sixth, he was the pitcher of record when he exited to improve to 6-0 on the year.
“We saw tonight, maybe he wasn’t quite on top of his game, so to speak. Kind of tough to say when he goes six innings, gets ten punch outs, and only four hits against a Twins team that can swing the bats,” said pitching coach Willis. “He had to work himself into it tonight, I think around the latter part of the fourth inning he started to get it in line a little better. Particularly in the fifth and sixth, we kind of saw him be what we had seen before.”
Bieber’s ERA “jumped” to 1.35 after allowing the two runs. He has now struck out 75 batters in 46 2/3 innings on the year.
“He seems to be over-rotating with his lower half and he was out of whack a little bit so he didn’t have his best command early in the game,” said interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. “Later on in the game, he got better and he was able to go through six. He wanted to go back in the seventh, but he had to fight too hard so we convinced him that that was enough.”
Hill frustrated Tribe hitters in five innings of work. He faced 19 batters, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out five, including the last four batters that he faced in a no-decision. Trying not to rush him back too quickly after experience fatigue in his previously operated on left shoulder, the 40-year-old was limited to just 78 pitches on the night in his third start of the season and second since being activated.
The loss went to Alcala, who allowed three runs on three hits with a walk and a strikeout in an inning of work.
The Indians got nice contributions at the dish from Ramirez and Reyes, who each got a pair of hits. Ramirez added a pair of stolen bases to give him eight on the season. Lindor drove in a pair and C. Santana supplied one of his own, giving both men 15 RBI on the season.
Team president Chris Antonetti updated the media on the status of manager Terry Francona prior to the middle game of the series on Tuesday. Speaking on behalf of Francona and with his blessing, Antonetti shared that blood clots found by Cleveland Clinic doctors led to a quick decision to insert a stent to improve his blood flow. The Tribe’s skipper is recovering, but is going to need some time due to soreness from the procedure.
“Tito is in the process of recovering from that,” said Antonetti. “The outlook is obviously very good, but he’s banged up from the procedure…He’s still pretty sore, in fact, very sore. That’s not unexpected, but it will just take him a little while to feel better. So he’s on the path to recovery, but it may take a little bit of time for him to get back into the dugout.”
The Indians made some minor roster moves on Monday that did not get shared here previously, as the team optioned left-hander Logan Allen to the team’s alternate training site in Lake County and activated catcher Sandy Leon from the family medical emergency list.
The Indians will have to have to make another roster move on Wednesday in order to bring back their starter for the game, Mike Clevinger (1-1, 3.24 ERA in three starts). He will be recalled from the team’s alternate training site to pitch for the first time since earning his first win of the season against the Cincinnati Reds on August 5 and landing himself in the team’s doghouse later in the week. The Twins will counter with Jose Berrios (2-3, 4.75 ERA in six starts), who will look to improve upon a 5-3 career record against the Indians in 12 starts.
Game time for the series finale from an empty Progressive Field is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET on Wednesday night.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images