Twins reliever Sergio Romo had an animated back-and-forth with the Indians dugout in Cleveland’s loss to Minnesota on Monday. Those same players made sure to have the last laugh on Wednesday before Romo left town as Cleveland broke a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the eighth with three big runs off of him and the Twins bullpen to secure a series win in a 6-3 final.
Games across the nation in multiple sports came to a pause on Wednesday as players, teams, and entire leagues took pause to use their respective platforms to stand up and voice their united displeasure with the ongoing racial divides, discrimination, hate-filled brutalities, and inequalities present in the United States, most recently and notably in Kenosha, Wisconsin, this week.
The game went on for some. The Indians and Twins played their series finale from downtown Cleveland, while games in Milwaukee (against Cincinnati), San Diego (versus Seattle), and San Francisco (hosting the Los Angeles Dodgers) were postponed on the heels of the cancellations of the day’s NBA first round playoff series and WNBA action.
There was plenty of attention on the Progressive Field mound just after 7:00 PM as the Indians’ Mike Clevinger made his return to the Majors after his demotion earlier in the month for violating team protocols regarding the pandemic. After kicking off some early inning rust and possibly some jitters, Clevinger settled in to provide his Cleveland teammates with a quality effort as both he and his teammates looked to move on from his mistake of a few weeks ago.
The Twins took the lead three pitches into the ball game as Clevinger struggled out of the gate with command. After falling behind Max Kepler 2-0, the left-handed leadoff man hit his third game-opening blast and seventh long ball of the season to give the Twins an early lead. A walk on five pitches by Jorge Polanco led to further discomfort, but Nelson Cruz grounded sharply into a double play. Eddie Rosario kept the inning alive with a single and Marwin Gonzalez matched that with a single to right, but Rosario was thrown out at third testing Tyler Naquin’s arm to end the inning.
Standing 60’ 6” away from the Tribe bats on Wednesday was foe Jose Berrios, who was hit and miss throughout the night. He walked the leadoff man Cesar Hernandez, but he was picked off of first. Jose Ramirez popped to short before a single to right by Francisco Lindor. A walk by Carlos Santana put the Indians’ first runner in scoring position on the night, but Franmil Reyes was unable to cash in, flying to right to end the inning.
Clevinger started to lock in on the strike zone in the second, but the Twins used that to their advantage to add on. Luis Arraez lined an 0-2 pitch to left for the first out before a double to the gap in left-center by Miguel Sano. LaMonte Wade Jr. fell behind 1-2 before yanking a 1-2 changeup at the bottom of the zone into right-center for an RBI-single, extending the Twins lead to two. Clevinger got out of the inning with no further damage, striking out Alex Avila on three pitches before picking off Wade Jr.
Berrios pitched a 1-2-3 second, while Clevinger worked around a leadoff base runner in the top of the third when Jake Cave, on for Kepler after injuring himself fouling off a pitch in the second, reached on error. Clevinger got the next three in order.
The Indians took advantage of a good scoring opportunity in the third against Berrios. Delino DeShields opened the frame with a single to left and swiped second base before a walk by Hernandez. Berrios missed with his first offering to Ramirez before the Tribe third baseman caught a changeup and put some air under it, just barely clearing the wall in the right field corner for a three-run home run to put Cleveland on top, 3-2. Berrios retired the next three.
Clevinger struck out a pair in the fourth, working around a single with one down by Arraez. Berrios allowed the leadoff man to reach for the third time in four innings on a single by Naquin, but the tough right-hander struck out the bottom third of the Tribe order to leave the runner at first.
Clevinger stranded a runner in the fifth, recording another strikeout along the way, while the Indians left a runner at third in the home half as a two-out double by Lindor and an advance to third on a wild pitch was wasted as Santana struck out swinging on a changeup away.
Despite limited work in simulated games, Clevinger came back out for the sixth with his pitch count in good shape. He got the first two batters of the inning before Arraez got him again with a single to right-center, but Clevinger got Sano to ground to short for the final out of his night.
Berrios started the sixth for the Twins, but a lot of traffic led to his early departure. Reyes reached on an infield single to start the inning before he was erased on a double play ball by Naquin. Greg Allen doubled to left and was joined on base after a walk by Roberto Perez. Rocco Baldelli turned to his bullpen, bringing on former friend of the feather Tyler Clippard, who struck out DeShields swinging at a changeup on the black to strand a pair.
The Twins came through against the Tribe bullpen in the seventh to tie the game. Ehire Adrianza, pinch-hitting for Wade Jr., doubled Oliver Perez’s first pitch of the night to center. Avila moved him up to third with a fly to right and Cave came through with a bloop single to right between Hernandez and Naquin to knot the game at three. Phil Maton came on for manager Sandy Alomar Jr. and fired four strikes, with the final one bounced to third to start a 5-6-3 double play.
Tyler Duffey pitched a scoreless inning after the stretch for the Twins, while Maton came back on for the meat of the order and got Cruz, Rosario, and Gonzalez in order to bring the Tribe bats up with a chance for some late inning heroics.
Romo, the veteran soft-tossing right-hander, took over for the Twins as their fourth pitcher of the night. Facing the middle of the Indians lineup, he allowed a second-pitch single to right-center by Santana. Reyes worked a walk on six pitches to push the go-ahead run into scoring position and two pitches later, Naquin ripped a deep drive to the edge of the warning track and off of the wall the opposite way to the left field corner to score Santana with ease, putting Cleveland back in front, 4-3. Allen’s productive day at the plate continued as he skied a fly to right, deep enough to push across the hard-charging Reyes from third to make it 5-3. R. Perez was hit by a pitch, bringing Danny Coulombe on in relief. He got the second out on a fly to right by DeShields that moved Naquin to third, but Hernandez singled to right to score Naquin and make it a 6-3 games. A walk by Ramirez loaded the bases, but Lindor struck out swinging on a curve to leave the bags full.
Out to protect a three-run lead while looking for his ninth save, Brad Hand got exactly that. He got Arraez to fly to center and Sano to pop to short before Adrianza ended the series with a liner that DeShields had to snag just above the ground after initially misplaying the hard-hit ball.
After taking two of three from the Twins (20-12) in their lone home series against Minnesota this season, the Indians (19-12) sit just a half game out of first place in the American League Central Division.
Clevinger settled in nicely to give the Indians six innings after a shaky first couple of frames. He allowed just the two runs in those innings on eight hits, walking one and striking out six in a no-decision. He tried to emphasize that his focus was not to be a distraction further because of his prior actions and instead sought to put the Tribe in position for a victory.
“They didn’t just kick me to the curb, but they let me know how they felt. I really understood how much I disappointed them and the staff and everybody around,” said Clevinger after the game. “The hardest pill to swallow was that I made a really selfish choice.
“It was my mistake,” he said. “It was my mess up that caused a whirlwind for everybody for a while and it wasn’t my place to come into the clubhouse and be the same ‘Sunshine’ and rah-rah. I’m walking on a tightrope right now as I should be.
“I’m making sure I contribute and not be a distraction.”
Maton earned the win, getting five outs on 12 pitches in an inning and two-thirds of perfect relief.
Berrios was dealt a no-decision in his second outing against the Indians this season. With generally positive marks against Cleveland throughout his career, he had to work a little bit as the Indians ran up his pitch count. He left in trouble with two outs in the sixth, officially working five and two-thirds innings of three-run baseball with seven hits allowed, four walks surrendered, and six strikeouts. Romo was dealt his first loss of the season after giving up three runs on two hits with a walk in just one-third of an inning.
Both teams had ten hits, but it did not equate to equal opportunities to score with runners in scoring position. The Indians went 3-for-8 on the day and left nine. The Twins were 2-for-3 with five stranded.
Hernandez reached base three times for the Indians with a single and two walks. Lindor and Naquin each had two hits. Ramirez drove in three on his sixth homer of the campaign.
Tribe outfielder Allen made some strong statements in a night filled with emotional comments from athletes across the country.
“There’s clearly a whole lot going on in today’s world and in our society,” Allen began. “You have people across the board who have their opinions, and the people living in this country, we’re all entitled to that. But I think at the very foundation, whether you’re on one side of it or the other, I think we all understand that there needs to be some kind of change. Something needs to be addressed. It’s not something that can happen overnight. I can’t sit here and tell you that I have all the answers. I don’t think any one person can. I think it’s going to take a collective effort. I think it’s about getting to understand the people next to you regardless of gender, race, creed, age, and any other type of predisposition and really understanding just that human, core level, the world that we live in. We’re all in this together. And the only way this gets better is by relying on one another. So it’s a tough time, but I definitely have hope. Hope for our country. Hope for the people even in today’s world, even in this current generation, that we have the ability to affect change.”
Prior to the game, the Indians optioned catcher Beau Taylor to the team’s alternate training site in Lake County to create a roster spot for Clevinger.
The Indians will take Thursday off before hitting the road for six games in Missouri over the next week. The first games of the road trip will be in St. Louis against the Cardinals, with rookie right-hander Triston McKenzie (1-0, 1.50 ERA) donning the number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day in his second big league outing. The Cardinals will counter with right-hander Daniel Ponce de Leon (0-2, 5.25).
The series opener from Busch Stadium on Friday is scheduled for an 8:15 PM ET start.
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