The Cleveland bats took advantage of the slumping Minnesota Twins pitching staff on Tuesday night as the Indians claimed a series win with some extra base magic in a 7-4 victory.
Franmil Reyes put on an impressive display of hitting and power to lead the Tribe to a third straight victory, fresh on the heels of a season-high four-game losing skid. He posted three hits, including a pair of majestic home runs, with the first blast tying the game in the second and the latter giving the club the lead in the bottom of the sixth against Minnesota starter Kenta Maeda. The Cleveland lineup used seven extra base hits to back starter Aaron Civale, who lasted seven and two-thirds innings despite giving up four runs on the night.
Minnesota jumped out to an early lead against the Cleveland starter with a two-out rally. Byron Buxton, back in the lineup after dealing with knee soreness in the opener of the series, reached on an infield single. The rare triple by Nelson Cruz plated a run and a single by Alex Kirilloff knocked in a second before he was thrown out on a nice play in left by Eddie Rosario.
The Indians got a run back against Maeda in the bottom of the first with a clutch two-out hit of their own. Down in the count 1-2, Jose Ramirez caught up with a fastball down in the zone and ripped it over the right field wall for his sixth homer of the season, making it a 2-1 game.
Civale allowed a hit, but no damage in the top of the second before Cleveland knotted the game up at two in the home half. On the first pitch of the inning, Maeda missed down the middle with a slider and Reyes relocated the ball 452 feet to left, three-quarters of the way up the bleachers, to make it a 2-2 contest.
Civale retired the side in order in the third before his teammates gave him his first lead to work with. With one down in the inning, Cesar Hernandez, back in the leadoff spot, doubled to right. After a strikeout by Jordan Luplow, Ramirez delivered his second RBI of the game, doubling to left to drive home his infield mate to move Cleveland out in front, 3-2.
The Twins responded with a run of their own in the fourth to tie the game. Cruz reached on an infield single to short and advanced to second on a throwing error by Andres Gimenez. Kirilloff struck out swinging, but Willians Astudillo singled to right-center, scoring Cruz from second with the tying run. The rally efforts continued as a double by Jake Cave put a pair in scoring position for Minnesota with one out for Mitch Garver. The eight-hitter grounded to third, where Ramirez made a nice grab and throw to the plate to cut down Astudillo attempting to score. A fielder’s choice to short by Andrelton Simmons got Civale out of the jam.
The Indians had a pair of base hits in the fourth against Maeda, but could not score as a double play ball by Josh Naylor wiped out the first two outs of the inning. He followed it with a 1-2-3 effort in the fifth, while Civale made it eight straight retired by setting down the top two-thirds of the lineup in the fifth and sixth frames.
Maeda returned for the bottom of the sixth, but he did not survive the inning as Cleveland took the lead back for good. After a pair of groundouts from Ramirez and Rosario, Reyes recorded his third hit of the game, dropping another souvenir into the bleachers. His second homer of the night, this time on a first-pitch heater in on the hands, put the Indians on top by a 4-3 count. Naylor delivered the knockout blow to Maeda three pitches later, doubling to the gap in center to bring Rocco Baldelli out of the first base dugout for left-hander Caleb Thielbar. His first offering to lefty Jake Bauers was driven off of the wall in right for a third straight extra base hit for the Tribe and the team’s fifth run of the game to make it 5-3. Roberto Perez struck out swinging on three pitches to end the rally.
Civale set down the side in order in the seventh, while the Cleveland bats squandered a pair of two-out walks against the Minnesota bullpen. Civale returned for the top of the eighth and got the first two batters of the inning, but Buxton’s hot start to the 2021 campaign continued with his second hit of the game, a solo homer to left to cut the Twins’ deficit to 5-4. James Karinchak replaced Civale and punched out Cruz with three straight strikes after opening the at bat with three straight out of the zone.
Alex Colome, on for the second night in a row and for the first time since losing his closer title after allowing the two-run walk-off homer to Luplow on Monday, had all sorts of issues in the eighth as Cleveland extended its lead with a pair of odd insurance runs in a hitless inning. Naylor was hit by a pitch with one out and moved to second on a walk by Bauers. Perez was cut down swinging for the second out, but Gimenez walked on five pitches to load the bases. Colome missed on the next four to Hernandez, forcing home a run and ending his night. Jorge Alcala replaced him and proceeded to plunk Luplow to push another run across before he struck out Ramirez to stop the scoring onslaught.
Karinchak completed the ninth inning with relative ease, getting Kirilloff to line to right, Astudillo to pop to first, and Cave to strike out on high heat. His second save of the season moved the Indians back to the .500 mark at 11-11, while the Twins have now dropped four straight and 13 of their last 15 to sit at 7-15 on the year.
Civale moved to 4-0 on the season with a strong start on the mound. He survived a pair of early runs and kept the team in the contest, coming up just one pitch short of a quality effort overall on the mound. He allowed four runs on eight hits, giving up no free passes while striking out four on the night. Karinchak threw 11 of 16 pitches for strikes in his four-out save.
Maeda lasted five and two-thirds innings, hurt most by three long balls off of him. He was charged with five runs on eight hits, issuing no walks while striking out three.
Reyes continued to dominate the opposition while hitting at home. His three-hit game pushed his season home slash to .435/.458/.978. Those numbers include three doubles, two triples, six homers, and 14 RBI over his 12 home contests. He is now hitting .308 on the year with a team-high seven homers and 17 RBI.
Ramirez and Bauers each chipped in two hits for the Tribe.
Buxton and Cruz accounted for half of the Twins’ hits and all of the team’s runs. Cruz hit his first triple of the season, giving him 16 RBI on the season, while Buxton’s homer was his seventh.
The finale of the three-game set will be a quick turnaround for the two clubs on a getaway day. A pair of left-handers will take the mound, as Logan Allen (1-3, 6.28 ERA) will make his first career start against the Twins, while J.A. Happ (1-0, 1.69 ERA) will make his third start of the season and his first against Cleveland since July of 2017.
First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 PM ET from Progressive Field.
Photo: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire (via Getty Images)