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Cleveland comes alive late to capitalize on J.C. Mejia’s strong start

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Eddie Rosario’s two-run single delivered the go-ahead run

Cleveland Indians v Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Cleveland broke a 1-1 stalemate with Minnesota late Thursday night, with former Twins slugger Eddie Rosario delivering the fatal blow in a 4-1 victory to open the four-game series.

J.C. Mejia was... not bad, actually? He seemed headed for disaster in the first inning, after a leadoff single, a walk, a balk, and a wild pitch allowed the Twins to take a 1-0 lead. Mejia was able to limit them to that one run but needed 31 pitches to do so. Fortunately, he settled in from there, holding Minnesota scoreless over the next five innings and notching six strikeouts in his best start of the season. Mejia had a better feel for the zone as the game went along and effectively mixed his sinker, slider, and changeup to keep the Twins’ bats off balance.

The team needed Mejia to settle in not only for the sake of their bullpen but also because Minnesota starter José Berríos worked his own magic on the mound. Cleveland was able to take advantage of a leadoff walk by Bradley Zimmer and a Harold Ramirez single to start the second inning, tying the score at 1-1 thanks to a two-out broken-bat RBI single courtesy of Austin Hedges. But that was all they could muster against Berríos, who struck out nine and only allowed four hits, two walks, and one earned run over 6.1 innings of work.

Berríos had all four of his pitches working Thursday night, finishing the game with a 39% CSW%. Cleveland simply had no answer for his curveball or his sinker.

In the eighth inning, Cleveland was in business with no outs thanks to back-to-back singles by Austin Hedges and Cesar Hernandez. Amed Rosario grounded into what the first base umpire thought was a double play, but replay review corrected the call, putting runners at first and third with one out. The Twins responded by intentionally walking José Ramírez and bringing in left-hander Taylor Rogers to face Eddie Rosario with the bases loaded.

On the first pitch, Rosario singled up the middle, flipped his bat in the direction of the Twins’ dugout, and plated a pair of runs to break the tie and give Cleveland a 3-1 lead. Bobby Bradley tacked on an insurance run with an RBI groundout to make it 4-1.

Rosario’s late-game heroics made up for his baserunning blunder earlier in the game. He stole second on a Bobby Bradley strikeout in the sixth inning after the ball squirted past Andrelton Simmons and ended up in shallow center field. Rosario rounded the base and then lackadaisically wandered back to second, oblivious to the fact that Simmons had thrown the ball to Jorge Polanco, who promptly tagged Rosario out to end the inning.

Bryan Shaw pitched a scoreless eighth inning, setting the stage for James Karinchak in the ninth. Karinchak retired the first two batters of the final frame on two pitches before surrendering a two-out double to Jorge Polanco, the one and only extra-base hit on the night for either team. Alex Kirilloff grounded out to first to end the game.