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Indians strike first in huge series, defeat Twins 7-5

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Thumbs up indeed

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Minnesota Twins Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Clevinger was excellent, the Tribe’s offense rocked Twins starter Kyle Gibson, and the Indians bullpen hung on (barely!) in the Tribe’s 7-5 win over Minnesota Thursday evening.

Sure it’s just one win, but my gosh will we take it. The victory moves the good guys to just one game behind the Twins in the AL Central.

The Tribe’s first run came in the second inning, with leadoff hitter, Yasiel Puig, blasting a 93 mph Gibson fastball off the big wall in right field of Target Field. Puig raced into third with a triple and scored on a Gibson throwing error from a pickoff attempt. Gibson never works very fast (zzzzzzzz) and the second inning seemed to take a very long time, with credit due to the Indians for making Gibson work through 18 rather stressful pitches.

The fourth inning saw the Tribe score three more runs. Puig used his wheels again, beating out a tailor-made double play ball after walks to Oscar Mercado and Carlos Santana started the inning. Jose Ramirez followed with an RBI single to centerfield to plate Mercado and move Puig to third base. Jason Kipnis then stayed back on a slow Gibson breaking ball, doubling to left-center to score Puig and Ramirez.

The Twins cut the lead in half, scoring two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Clevinger allowed a walk, two singles, and hit-a-batter in the frame. It was his only real trouble of the evening.

The fifth inning saw more scoring action, with Gibson loading the bases and getting pulled for right-hander Zack Littell. Ramirez roped the reliever’s first pitch down the right field line for a two-run double to bump the Tribe’s lead back to four.

With Clevinger’s pitch count trending high all night, it wasn’t certain he’d pitch past the sixth inning (an inning in which he struck out the side). But Terry Francona let Clevinger pitch and finish the seventh, another clean inning. Clevinger allowed just three hits and those two runs, striking out nine and walking one batter. It was absolutely a great outing.

The Twins’ eighth inning wasn’t fun for us Cleveland fans. Adam Cimber followed Clevinger and allowed three straight left-handed batters (odd move from Tito) to reach base. A run-scoring ground ball followed in which it looked like Jose Ramirez could easily have gotten Max Kepler jammed up between third and home. Then a Miguel Sano lazer-like double to score the Twins third run of the inning. Yikes. Brad Hand came on to finish the inning and limit the damage.

The bottom of the ninth wasn’t all that fun either. Hand got into trouble and had some bad luck (bloop hit), as the Twins loaded the bases. The Tribe’s closer got Eddie Rosario to fly out to secure the victory. The sweet, sweet victory.

Notes and Stuff

  • Franmil Reyes worked a nice walk in the fourth, showing plenty of patience to lay off Gibson’s offspeed stuff. Other than that, another tough night.
  • Nelson Cruz, the incredibly hot Minnesota slugger, left the game in the fourth with an apparent wrist injury. He violently swung through a Clevinger fastball.
  • Mercardo made another really nice catch in centerfield. Thanks St. Louis!
  • Tyler Naquin had some lousy at-bats Thursday evening, but baseball is a game of patience (for players and fans). Naquin smoked a solo shot in the top of the ninth inning for an insurance run. Good for Tyler.