Today’s Recap in Gif Form
The Cleveland Indians share first place in the American League Central after winning three of four from the Minnesota Twins this weekend. It took a blown save, followed by an incredible play at the plate to save the game, followed by a clutch grand slam by Carlos Santana to do it. The 7-3 victory gives the Tribe a tremendous momentum boost going into a tough stretch of games.
A Cleveland Indians player launched 439-foot home run in the top of the first inning. Think of our roster. Pick which player you think performed such a feat.
Unless you caught today’s game, I doubt Greg Allen jumped into your head. Allen quickly took advantage of Oscar Mercado’s off-day by pelting a section sign on the second deck of the right field seats.
(Of course the next time Allen came up to the plate, a runner stood on second with no outs. He squared to bunt—no telling whether he was told to—and he luckily fouled it off of the ground, and then his face. He swung at the next pitch and popped it up, anyway.)
Carlos Santana followed that up with a walk, and then the player many of you may have picked — Yasiel Puig — doubled to bring him home.
They were the only runs for the Tribe in the first, but it gave Aaron Civale the lead before he even stepped on the mound.
The lone run allowed today by Aaron Civale came in the second inning. Eddie Rosario smacked a lead-off double. He advanced to third on a Mitch Garver flyout, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Luis Arraez.
Overall Civale worked for six innings, allowing five hits and striking out six. No Twins player drew a walk against him, and at the peak of his powers today Civale ripped a 95 mph comeback fastball for a strike. There are plenty of reasons to be intrigued by his future potential.
The Indians gave him another run of support when Santana singled in the third. Civale handed the 3-1 lead over to the bullpen to start the seventh, and things went smoothly through two innings from Nick Goody, Oliver Perez, and a ROOGY turn from Adam Cimber.
The bottom of the ninth didn’t go well for the Indians
Brad Hand came in for the close and started the inning off with a double to Rosario. He bounced back from a 3-0 count to strike out Mitch Garver, but didn’t improve much more. Arraez singled Rosario home, then advanced to second on another single by CJ Cron. With the winning run standing on first base and one out, Marwin Gonzalez continued his heel role against the Indians by fouling off four consecutive pitches before bombing a double to deep left.
Tyler Naquin barehanded a hop off the wall as Arraez scored. He fired a seed to Lindor as Adrianza — in to pinch-run for Cron — rounded third. Lindor relayed it to the plate and Kevin Plawecki smothered Adrianza as he tried to slide home.
The Twins decided to challenge this because they evidently believed that a catcher is not allowed get in the way of the runner at all, ever, for any reason, including for the purposes of tagging him out. Had Plawecki stood in the base path and recieved it there, hindering Adrianza’s ability to make an attempt to score, then yes, they might have had a point. Instead, Plawecki stood in front of the of the base path. The throw pulled him toward third, and because it arrived well before Adrianza, he tagged him out.
What else would you want a catcher to do?
With the tie preserved, Brad Hand exited the inning by forcing Jonathan Schoop into a groundout.
The top of the tenth went somewhat better
Plawecki furthered his impact on the game by leading off with a single, his only hit. Oscar Mercado came in to pinch run. Francisco Lindor drew his second walk of the game, and then Greg Allen squared around to bunt. Again. I won’t analyze the decisions mathematically because we’re going to open an academy of sciences dedicated entirely to dissecting bunts at the rate we’re going. Here’s what happened:
Allen laid down a hard bunt that scooted past the outstretched glove of Taylor Rogers, and Miguel Sano stood flat-footed in case of a force out opportunity. A single! A bunt single! Bases loaded! Even if Rogers had fielded it cleanly, an out at first (or any other bag) was far from a sure thing with Mercado, Lindor, and Allen all flying down the basepaths.
That’s when Carlos Santana stepped to the plate. Tom Hamilton noted how low Taylor Rogers’ career ERA against the Indians was. He begged for the Indians to not let the opportunity go to waste by scoring even a single run. He demanded multiple.
Lando Carlossian delivered, and I’ll let Hamilton explain the rest.
The Twins retired the next three hitters in order, but Hunter Wood returned the favor by eliminating all three Twins hitters on nine pitches in the bottom of the tenth. Ballgame.
While Santana’s five-RBI day and late-inning heroics are rightfully the main story from today’s game, I want to pause quickly. Aaron Civale pitched a fantastic game, Francisco Lindor played like the MVP candidate he is, and Greg Allen bookended his day with important contributions.
But what does it all mean?
Right now, it means that the Indians are tied for first after winning a dogfight against the team that entered the game — and series — in sole possession of the spot. They continue to be the hottest team in baseball since the beginning of July, surrendering only when down 13 runs to the Orioles.
What will it mean? It’s easy to think that this series may be defined as the true turning point of the season for the Tribe, but there is a lot of baseball left to play.
I think this series is ultimately a lot more important for the Twins, to be honest. The massive momentum swing from thinking you’re about to walk-off take a two-game lead in the division to losing on an extra-innings grand slam is not easy to absorb. How they respond to this weekend might be the most important story to watch in the AL Central as the rest of the season unfolds.