The Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins kicked off their series with a strong pitching matchup on Friday night with the Twins winning 3-1 thanks to two home runs.
Friday night was the first of a three-game set between the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins. A low scoring affair, the pitcher’s in both dugouts commanded the game early and often.
Starting the game for the Twins was Kenta Maeda, who entered the night with a Major League Baseball best 0.72 WHIP. Maeda demonstrated his dominance against the Tribe throughout the game, logging seven strikeouts over seven innings.
On the mound for the Tribe was AL Cy Young favorite, and potential MVP candidate, Shane Bieber. Like Maeda, Bieber has had an elite start to the season, leading Major League Baseball in six statistics, including ERA at 1.25 and strikeouts at 94.
Despite the early pitcher’s duel, it was Bieber that had the first slip up. After a one-out double in the second inning by Jake Cave, the Twins gained a two-run lead thanks to a home run off the bat of Byron Buxton. The long ball was Buxton’s seventh of the season and just the fifth that Bieber has allowed in 2020 so far.
With his sixth strikeout of the game in the bottom of the fifth, Bieber became the first pitcher in club history to log 100 strikeouts in just 10 starts to begin a season. Bieber is also averaging over 14 strikeouts per nine innings, a stat that has never been maintained for a full season.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the seventh that another run was scored and it came via another home run. With two outs in the inning, Ryan Jeffers sent a line drive to left that cleared the wall for his second home run of the year to extend the Twins’ lead to 3-0.
In the top of the eighth inning the Twins made a change on the mound, calling on Sergio Romo out of the pen. Romo worked through a scoreless inning that ended with both teams clearing the dugouts and bullpens with a heated exchange between Romo and Francisco Lindor, two players that have chirped at each other more than once this season.
Back to baseball, the Indians also made a pitching change in the eighth with James Karinchak entering the game. Over seven innings of work, Bieber allowed three runs on five hits and two walks with the three runs coming on two home runs. He continued his high strikeout rate by sending down eight Twins.
Karinchak picked up where Bieber left off in the strikeout column, sending down the Twins in order by striking out the side.
In the ninth the Twins made another change on the mound, bringing in closer Taylor Rogers to close down the game, looking for his ninth save of the season.
In the ninth, Jose Ramirez gave the Indians a run in the final inning, the second game in a row the Tribe broke the shutout in the ninth. With one out, Ramirez ripped his 10th home run of the season to shave the lead to 3-1.
That would be the only run the Indians would get with Rogers finishing out the game and securing the 3-1 victory for Minnesota despite a two out double by Franmil Reyes.
The loss for the Indians moves them to 26-19 on the season while the Twins bump up to 28-18. Minnesota remains one game out of first place, trailing only the Chicago White Sox who also won on Friday night. As for Cleveland, they stay in third place and trail the White Sox by 2.5 games for the AL Central lead. The loss was also Bieber’s first of the season, dropping his record to 7-1 on the season.
On Deck: The Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins will continue their series on Saturday with a scheduled 8:07 p.m. EST first pitch. The Indians are set to send Zach Plesac to the bump to face Rich Hill for a matchup that will have 15 years in age separating the two starters. Saturday’s game will be the second of three with the series concluding on Sunday at 2:10 p.m. EST.