The Indians ended a grueling, dramatic and crucial series with the Twins Sunday afternoon. Since the beginning of June, when the Tribe trailed the Twins by 11.5 games, many counted them out of the pennant race. Fast forward to August and Cleveland sent a strong message to the Twins by taking the four-game series (3-1) in their house. The Tribe now shares first place amongst the AL Central with the Twins.
Indians Aaron Civale, making just his third big league start for the team, turned in yet another strong performance. Civale was able to hold the Twins to one run in six innings. He had five strikeouts and didn’t allow a walk. The rookie looked composed on the mound having some run support early on, with a solo shot from Greg Allen and a double by Yasiel Puig. Civale is continuing to be a shining example of Cleveland’s ability to develop young pitchers. He’s in good company with his 2016 MLB draftees, Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac.
All-Star closer Brad Hand entered the 9th with a two-run lead. In what is only Hand’s second blown save of the season, he allowed two runs and the Twins tied it up. However, what did save the Indians was outfielder Tyler Naquin’s arm. He barehanded a double, by Marwin Gonzalez off the wall in left field, and made a perfect relay to Francisco Lindor to throw out Ehire Adrianza at the plate. Adrianza represented the winning run and Naquin and Lindor’s accuracy allowed the game to go into extra innings.
Twins closer Taylor Rogers struggled in the 10th inning. Rogers loaded the bases by allowing a single to Kevin Plawecki, walking Lindor and putting Greg Allen on base with a sacrifice bunt that ended up a hit. With nobody out enter Carlos Santana…he gave the Indians a 7-3 lead by smashing a grand slam, his 28th career homer against the Twins. The Tribe’s relief pitcher Hunter Wood’s sat down the top of the Twins order with just nine pitches in the bottom of the 10th. Despite Hand’s struggles, he was credited with the win in what was a true team effort.
The Tribe returns home for a series with the Red Sox beginning Monday. It’s an exciting time for Cleveland baseball. The team has an energy around it and hope to build on that after the hard-fought series in Minnesota. Critics were saying the schedule would be harder and the Tribe would most likely have to settle for the Wild Card spot. Yes, there’s seven weeks of regular season baseball left, but something’s brewing in Cleveland. This team has grit, strong pitching and an offense that heats up when it’s needed. If they continue at this pace – the fans are in for a fun and wild ride.