Cesar Plays the Hero with Walk-Off Homer in Tenth; CLE 5, MIN 3
Bob Toth | On 22, May 2021
Cesar Hernandez pulled back on a bunt attempt on the first pitch that he saw from Alex Colome to start the bottom of the tenth. For fans opposing the use of bunt in baseball and especially in extra innings with the free runner standing at second base to open the inning, they got their wish on the next pitch as Hernandez stroked a 92 MPH fastball left right over the heart of the plate and ripped it just over the right field wall for a walk-off two-run home run, giving the Cleveland Indians a 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday afternoon.
Hernandez’s heroics gave the Indians (24-19) a needed win less than 24 hours after a crushing loss to the Twins (16-29) in the opener of a three-game set from Progressive Field. The Tribe jumped out to an early lead, only to lose it bit by bit in the middle innings as the Twins pulled all the way back to tie the game at three while ending Shane Bieber’s start at just five and one-third innings. The bullpen picked up for the staff ace, firing four and two-thirds hitless and shutout innings in relief, while the offense finally scratched out the runs it needed to seal a win.
Bieber was not as sharp as normal, running up a high pitch count and working through several jams. One of those came in the first, when Minnesota had a pair of base runners, but Luis Arraez was caught stealing after his leadoff single and Max Kepler was stranded after a two-out double to center.
Kenta Maeda was on the mound for the Twins and got into trouble early as Franmil Reyes continued to torture him. With two outs in the inning, Jose Ramirez was hit by a fastball. Maeda’s next pitch was belted to the bullpen in center for a two-run clout, putting the Indians up, 2-0.
Bieber had a 1-2-3 second before the Indians added another run on a two-out knock. Amed Rosario doubled and scored on a bloop single to right by light-hitting catcher Austin Hedges to put the Indians up by a 3-0 advantage.
The Twins got the run back in the top of the third. Rob Refsnyder, the one-time Clevelander, singled to left. He moved to second on a groundout by Andrelton Simmons and over to third on a single to center by Arraez. Josh Donaldson lofted a fly ball deep enough to right to score the runner from third to make it 3-1. Arraez moved to second on the sac fly and over to third on a wild pitch, but was stranded there as Bieber punched out Kepler swinging.
Maeda set down the Tribe in order in the home half with a pair of strikeouts before the Twins added another run. Miguel Sano slugged a 1-2 fastball that caught too much of the plate and poked it 415 feet to center to cut the Minnesota deficit to 3-2. Bieber walked the next man before retiring the next three in order.
Both teams had base runners in the fifth, but made no noise. That changed in the sixth as the Twins knocked Bieber out of the game. Kepler hit a deep fly to the wall in left-center that hit a ledge adjacent to the in-wall auxiliary scoreboard that ricocheted away from Harold Ramirez for a triple. Bieber got a big strikeout of Sano for the first out, but Alex Kirilloff slapped a 1-2 curveball into right for an RBI-single to tie the game at three. Manager Terry Francona replaced Bieber with Nick Sandlin, who proceeded to load the bases on a hit by pitch and a walk sandwiched around a strikeout before setting down Simmons swinging to leave several key runs stranded on base.
Jorge Alcala replaced an injured Maeda in the sixth and faced the minimum, but the most notable event of the inning was Reyes leaving in the middle of an at bat after a violent swing left him holding his left side. Jordan Luplow drew a walk in his stead but was erased on one of three straight double play balls that the Indians would hit into over three innings.
Bryan Shaw worked around a walk of Josh Donaldson in the seventh and Emmanuel Clase pitched a perfect eighth. He got the first two batters in the ninth before James Karinchak took over and got Arraez to line to right.
The Indians had a chance to win it in regulation, but luck did not go their way. Facing Hansel Robles, Naylor walked with one out and advanced to third on a double to the base of the right field wall by H. Ramirez. Jake Bauers struck out for the second out before A. Rosario walked to load the bases. Hedges worked the count full, but on the payoff pitch with the bags full of Indians, he popped out to short.
Karinchak left the go-ahead run on third in the tenth. He got Donaldson to line to center and he struck out Kepler. Sano struck out swinging for the final out before Colome surrendered the game-winning shot two pitches later.
Bieber lasted five and one-third innings on the afternoon, allowing three runs on eight hits with a walk and six strikeouts in a no-decision. The bullpen behind him worked four and two-thirds innings of no-hit baseball, giving up two walks while striking out six.
“It’s less of a stuff thing and more of an execution thing for me,” Bieber said about his outing. “I’ve got to be better.”
Maeda allowed three runs on three hits with a walk and six strikeouts on 73 pitches in five innings of work. Colome, who lost his closer job earlier in the year, dropped to 2-4 with his third straight rough outing against the Indians this season and his second loss against the club in extra frames. Minnesota is now 0-8 in extra inning contests.
The Indians are expected to announce more information on the injury status of Reyes on Sunday. He was scheduled for imaging on his left side. Maeda exited after five for Minnesota with a strained groin that tightened up as the game went on.
Prior to the game, the Indians announced that starting pitcher Triston McKenzie had been optioned to Triple-A Columbus. He was shelled for six runs in just three and one-third innings on Friday night. Left-hander Kyle Nelson was recalled from Columbus.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images