Indians trim Twins 7-5 to salvage AL Central series finale
Published 10:02 am Monday, September 16, 2019
CLEVELAND — After getting rained out, beaten twice and nearly counted out, the Indians saved something from their biggest weekend this season.
They’re not finished yet.
“We’re going to keep fighting,” said starter Shane Bieber.
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The Indians kept their faint hopes of winning the AL Central alive on Sunday with a 7-5 win over the big-swinging Minnesota Twins, who hit four more homers and tied a major league record with four players getting at least 30.
Roberto Perez’s three-run homer in the sixth off Kyle Gibson put the Indians ahead and they bounced back after dropping a doubleheader on Saturday that seemed to doom their postseason chances.
But the Indians didn’t fold and stopped the Twins from extending their lead.
“We responded very well,” said Perez, who has 23 homers and is batting .406 in his last 10 games. “The first two games were tough losses. It was a must-win. We came out with a lot of energy. I thought guys had better at-bats and I’m glad we got the win.”
Perez’s 417-foot shot to center field capped a four-run rally in the sixth inning that began with Jason Kipnis hitting a double off Fernando Romero (0-1) after re-injuring his right wrist.
Nick Wittgren (5-1) relieved Bieber and held the Twins to one run in 1 1/3 innings before manager Terry Francona, who didn’t have closer Brad Hand available this weekend, then got creative to close out the Twins.
James Hoyt worked the eighth and got two outs in the ninth before Oliver Perez popped up red-hot Eddie Rosario for his first save this season — and first since 2017 with Washington.
“My stomach was in my throat,” Francona said. “But I’ll tell ya what, Hoyt, that’s a big ask. I mean coming on the heels of pitching yesterday and just not being in that role here. He did a good job.”
With the win, the Indians are back within 4½ games of the Twins while they chase Oakland and Tampa Bay in the wild card race.
Rosario homered twice and Miguel Sanó and rookie LaMonte Wade Jr. connected as the Twins became the 13th team — and first since the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies — to have four players reach 30 homers in the same season.
Sanó, who homered in the third off starter Shane Bieber, has 29 and two weeks left to reach the milestone, which would give Minnesota the record in a year when home run marks are falling all around baseball.
Rosario’s 419-foot homer in the sixth tied it 2-2 and gave him 30 homers, joining Nelson Cruz (37), Max Kepler (36) and Mitch Garver (30) at the plateau.
“It is really awesome,” Rosario said. “But I’m going for more and more and to get to five guys — if that’s the record for five guys hitting 30 homers, that’s awesome.”
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop had two of four errors by the Twins, who lost for just the third time in their last 17 road games.
They came to Cleveland looking to put away the Indians and nearly did with another power-packed performance, only to be undone by defensive lapses.
“It was too much for us to overcome,” said manager Rocco Baldelli, who rested several regulars and pushed All-Star José Berríos’ scheduled start back one day. “That being said, we pitched well enough to win. We swung the bats well enough to win. We just didn’t get the job done in the field.”
Bieber eclipsed 200 innings this season after throwing 114 2/3 for the Indians as a rookie. At 24, he’s the youngest Cleveland pitcher to reach 200 innings since CC Sabathia did it as a 21-year-old in 2001.
Kipnis is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday. He missed three games earlier this month with a similar condition.
The Twins have the upper hand in the standings, but the Indians won the season series 10-9.
Indians rookie Oscar Mercado is on a tear at the plate.
He has six multi-hit games in his last 11 and is batting .400 (18 of 45) over the span with seven runs.
Twins: Utility INF Ehire Adrianza rejoined the club Saturday to begin treatment for a strained right oblique. Adrianza, who got hurt while swinging against Washington on Thursday, hopes to be playing by the end of the regular season.
Indians: Hand threw in the outfield before the game. The left-hander has struggled during the season’s second half and the club is hoping rest will help. There’s no timetable on his return. … RHP Corey Kluber didn’t have any issues after playing catch for the first time since straining an oblique. The two-time Cy Young winner hasn’t pitched for Cleveland since breaking his arm on May 1.
Twins: Open a three-game series at home against Chicago with Berrios (12-8, 3.63 ERA) starting against White Sox right-hander Reynaldo López (9-13, 5.35).
Indians: Following an off day, Cleveland opens a three-game series against Detroit with Adam Plutko (6-4, 4.42) facing Matthew Boyd (8-11, 4.54). The Indians have won 13 straight over the Tigers.