The bad news: For five innings, the Cleveland Indians’ lineup struggled against a soft-tossing 40-year-old starting pitcher who has to grunt to push a 90 mph fastball over the plate.
The good news: He left, and Francisco Lindor proceeded to erase a 2-1 deficit with the swing of a bat, taking a moment to shout to his own dugout before rounding the bases.
Lindor’s sixth inning go-ahead home run saved the Indians from squandering another outstanding Shane Bieber start, helping lead the Tribe past the Minnesota Twins, 4-2.
Bieber was his usual self, save for a rough second inning. He issued a rare pair of walks to put runners on first and second with one out, and Luis Arráez made those two free passes hurt with a double to the gap in left center to tie the game. Two batters later, Max Kepler singled in the go-ahead run. But that was all the damage the Twins could inflict on Bieber. Outside of that second inning, he only surrendered two more hits and one walk, striking out 10.
But even as Bieber wrapped up six solid innings of work, the Indians’ lineup seemed poised to saddle the Cy Young candidate with his first loss of the season.
The Tribe’s hardest contact of the night against Twins starter Rich Hill came on a Franmil Reyes single (110.7 mph exit velocity) and a Roberto Pérez flyout (105.1 mph). They managed all of four hits against the soft-tossing southpaw, drawing two walks and scoring only one run in his five innings of work. That one run came courtesy of José Ramírez, who singled in the first inning and then stole second and third before scoring on a two-out single by Carlos Santana.
Once Hill departed in the sixth inning and Jorge Alcalá took the mound in relief, it was again Ramírez who got things started, serving up a leadoff single. Then Lindor stepped to the plate and blasted a two-run homer into the stands in right field for a fresh 3-2 lead. Believe it or not, the Indians were even able to add on an insurance run after that. Tyler Naquin pinch hit for Jordan Luplow and scorched an RBI double to score Carlos Santana from second.
The Tribe bullpen took it from there. Óliver Pérez nearly got himself in trouble, putting runners on first and second with one out in the seventh inning. But he managed to get Jorge Polanco to ground into an inning-ending double play. James Karinchak did what he does, pitching a scoreless eighth. And Brad Hand earned his eighth save this season in the ninth.