The first of four remaining series against current three-time AL Central champions Cleveland Indians began this Friday at Progressive Field and the Twins prevailed with a late rally and took the first game, 5-3. Minnesota maintains recent success playing in Cleveland and overcome Kyle Gibson’s shortest start in almost two years.
Image courtesy of FanGraphs
Gibson: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 57.5% strikes (46 of 80 pitches)
Bullpen: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
Home Runs: Cruz (17), Garver (14)
Multi-Hit Games: none
Top 3 WPA: Polanco .363, Rogers .200, Sanó .150
Bottom 3 WPA: Buxton -.176, Gibson -.166, Kepler -.055
Despite ruling the division in recent years, Cleveland hasn’t quite dominated the Twins. Since the start of 2015, they have a 45-44 record overall against Minnesota. When it comes down to games played in Ohio during that period, the Twins actually have the advantage, holding a 23-21 record after this game.
Gibson was removed from the game early, but the bullpen shut out the Indians in over five innings of work. For nearly a month now (since Jun. 14), Minnesota relievers are having an impressive run and now hold a 2.91 ERA in that span. They were again led by Taylor Rogers, who once again pitched a six-out save and is still having a historical season. This was also the first time since 1990 that a Twins reliever pitches back-to-back six-out or more saves.
Starters off to a rough start
Mike Clevinger was on his way to a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the first, but Nelson Cruz had other plans. He smashed a two-out solo home run to center field, on a low four-seamer, to put the Twins on the board. Although he allowed only the one run in the first half of the game, the Tribe starter had a hard time getting outs. The Twins lineup rode him to nearly 70 pitches to complete the first four innings.
Gibson also had to work up a sweat early. He actually cruised through the Indians lineup the first time through the order, retiring eight of them, only giving up a single in the first to Oscar Mercado. The trouble came the second time through, when he gave up a game-tying home run to lead off the fourth and then pitched himself into a jam. Cleveland claimed its first lead with a two-out, two-run single by Roberto Pérez. Both those runs scored were unearned, because of a throwing error by Ehire Adrianza.
After hitting number nine hitter Greg Allen, reaching 80 pitches, Gibson was done for the night one out shy of four innings pitched. Not counting his “opener” start against the Rangers last Sunday nor his relief appearance against the Rays on June 27th, this was Gibson’s shortest start since September 29th of 2017.
Clevinger pitched around a leadoff single by Luis Arráez, followed by a double from Miguel Sanó. Even though the Twins didn’t score, the long fifth inning was sufficient to get the Indians starter out of the game before he could record an out in the sixth.
Offense snaps its struggles with a rally
With those runners stranded by Clevinger in the fifth, the Twins fell to .233 with men in scoring position since the start of July, which would rank seventh worst in the majors. The numbers didn’t get any better after Cruz and Marwin Gonzalez reached safely in the sixth with one out and then Mitch Garver grounded into a double play against reliever Adam Cimber.
But Max Kepler started the Twins rally in the seventh in exciting fashion. With two men on and two outs, the greatest German in the world hit a grounder towards right field and was originally called out at first. But Rocco Baldelli challenged it and the call was overruled, allowing Sanó to score from third. Immediately after that at-bat, Jorge Polanco hit a clutch, bases-clearing double and the Twins retook the lead.
It didn’t stop there. Cleveland bullpen couldn’t stop the Bomba Squad… Garver hit his 14th of the year to leadoff the eighth, adding one more insurance run and giving the game its final numbers.
With the win, the Twins improve to 57-33 and are now six and a half game ahead of the Indians on top of the division. They will bring Jake Odorizzi to face Jake Bauers tomorrow.
Postgame With Baldelli
Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
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