Mike Clevinger made his return to the mound for the first time in three weeks, but it was another missing piece of the Indians that stole the show tonight: the offense.
Tonight’s contest looked like a pretty standard issue 2020 Indians game early on. Clevinger looked good, but had the audacity to give up more than one run — a lead-off home run to Max Kepler and an RBI single in the second inning. As a result, the Indians fell behind and didn’t look like they’d come back.
Only this time they did.
First, José Ramírez hit his sixth home run of the season and first since Aug. 16 to plate Delino DeShields and César Hernández and give the Indians a one-run lead in the bottom of the third.
An inning after Jake Cave tied it up in the seventh, the Indians offense went off. Tyler Naquin doubled home Carlos Santana, Franmil Reyes scored on a sac fly, and César Hernández continued to be a gem by singling Tyler Naquin home.
The two runs of the eighth inning came off Sergio Romo, who had some words for the Indians dugout in Monday night’s game when he shut the them down for an inning. He was noticeably quiet tonight. But you know wasn’t? José Ramírez. The Indians’ star third baseman could be heard chirping all throughout the inning — loudly. He and Francisco Lindor were the biggest cheerleaders for the bottom of the lineup as they racked up runs off Romo. It led to this picture-perfect moment of the two of them watching from the dugout.
Despite all the runs, the Indians didn’t hit any of the Twins’ relievers all that hard. It was a bunch of dink and dunks. All of the Indians’ hard-hit-by-definition balls came off José Berríos; most went for singles, but Greg Allen’s surprising bullet in the sixth inning left his bat at 100.5 mph. For someone with an average exit velocity of 80.5, it’s pretty impressive to hit triple digits against someone with stuff as nasty as Berríos’.
Early on, Mike Clevinger certainly looked like a pitcher who had recently emerged from the nether-dimension known as the alternate site. His first inning was a mess — along with the aforementioned Kepler bomb, his command just wasn’t there and he did not induce a single swinging strike on 17 pitches while four balls were put into play and hit hard. He eventually got his stuff under control, and ended up with nine whiffs and seven called strikes with his four-seamer with the help of some Roberto Pérez framing magic.
Speaking of targets and visualization, the exaggerated glove show by Perez resulted in an elevated pitch and swing and miss pic.twitter.com/DrFeBl6H6M— Travis Sawchik (@Travis_Sawchik) August 27, 2020
Oliver Pérez allowed his first earned run since Aug. 12 (perhaps because he’s 100 years old and pitching for the third night in a row), but overall the bullpen looked as solid as ever even with James Karinchak taking a night off.
Phil Maton struck out a batter in 1.2 innings and Brad Hand had maybe his cleanest 1-2-3 save of the season.
The win helps the Indians keep pace with the Twins, who now hold a slim 0.5-game lead in the Central, and they’re tied with the plucky young White Sox squad. They have an off day tomorrow before a six-game road trip against the Cardinals and Royals.