After being on the wrong side of back-to-back eight-run comebacks the last two nights, the Minnesota Twins decided they’d had enough.
After digging huge holes against pitchers making their first career starts on consecutive evenings, the Twins weren’t going to let the Cleveland Indians make it three in a row.
Before the game, Brian Dozier had the team gather at 5:30 in the clubhouse — he told Dan Hayes of The Athletic that he didn’t want to call it a meeting due to possible negative connotations — for an informal conversation just to keep the team headed in a positive direction.
He helped take care of that right away, opening the game with a double against Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco and going 2-for-5 overall to spur the effort in a 7-4 win over the Indians at Target Field on Friday night.
The win, which was manager Paul Molitor’s 250th of his career, kept the Twins from falling further back in the AL Central, as they now trail the Detroit Tigers by two games and the Indians by 5.5 with still a lot of baseball out in front of them.
Here’s what we saw from our vantage point
The Twins jumped Carrasco early
Dozier doubled to deep right on the third pitch he saw from Carrasco, and the Twins offense was off and running. Eddie Rosario flew to left and Miguel Sano struck out swinging, but Logan Morrison followed with a walk — he’s had a few of those lately — and then Escobar crushed an 0-1 curve to right for his 10th homer of the year.
“It was nice to see a little reversal in terms of how the game began,” a seemingly relieved Molitor said after the game. “To get three runs off Carrasco right off the bat and then with Rosie’s (fourth-inning) hit, it gave us a little room, which you need with that offense.”
The Twins added another run in the second, as Robbie Grossman led off the inning with a walk, and came around to score as Rosario scalded an 0-1 changeup back up the box to give Minnesota a 4-0 lead with runners all cashed in with two outs.
The Twins chased Carrasco with their next two runs, as Grossman got on with an infield single and Ryan LaMarre drove him home with the first extra-base hit of his MLB career — a double — to make it 5-2. After groundouts from Bobby Wilson and Dozier, Rosario was intentionally walked for Sano — maybe the first and only time that phrase is ever captured in print — who doubled to deep left, scoring LaMarre and sending Carrasco to the showers.
The final damage for Carrasco’s night was 3.2 innings, six earned runs, seven hits, two strikeouts and three walks. His ERA swelled to 4.50 on the season — it’s up from 3.65 over his last two outings — as he allowed five-plus earned runs for the second start in a row and third time since May 1.
All in all, Berrios pitched well
While the overall line might not appear that impressive — six innings, four earned runs, seven strikeouts and a walk — Berrios did a good job to fill up those frames after Francisco Lindor took him to the limit to start the game.
“Jose did a nice job,” Molitor said. “A couple innings bit him. The 8-9 hitters started off their first rally, and they were able to get both those guys in with some execution. (Edwin) Encarnacion got one of his few mistake breaking balls. But we kept scoring for the most part, putting pressure on them.”
The pesky leadoff hitter for the Indians saw 11 pitches in a walk to open the game — including five straight foul balls — and that wound up representing over 10 percent of the 99 pitches he threw on the evening. Berrios wound up throwing just 11 more the rest of the inning as he stranded Lindor and got the Twins off the field with the game still tied.
That’s no small feat with how good that part of the Indians offense has been over the past month. Lindor and Ramirez were the top-two players in Fangraphs WAR in the month of May, and for the night they combined to go just 1-for-7 with a walk, a run scored and a run batted in.
Berrios was staked to a 4-0 lead heading into the third when he allowed half of it back on a Lindor RBI grounder to second and a Michael Brantley sac fly.
That was it for the Indians until the sixth, when Berrios again had a four-run lead before allowing a two-run homer to Encarnacion. Berrios recovered to get Yonder Alonso and Melky Cabrera to both ground to Dozier at second, and that was the end of his night.
Sixty-nine of Berrios’ 99 pitches were strikes, and he induced a healthy 12 swinging strikes on the evening.
Brooks Baseball had Berrios as high as 96.2 mph on his two-seam fastball and 94.5 on his four-seamer, and half of his swinging strikes came on the four (33.3 percent). He added three on the two-seamer (6.7 percent) and three on the curve (10.7 percent) in what amounted to a solid overall evening of work.
Once Berrios left, it was lights out for the Cleveland offense
It seems fair to call this bullpen underappreciated, as they still get a ton of grief when guys like Addison Reed allow a hard-luck run here or there that ends up costing the team the game.
But how good was this group in May? It’s OK if you aren’t aware, but they were pretty damn good:
- ERA – 2.86 (fourth in MLB)
- K/9 – 8.7 (17th in MLB)
- BB/9 – 2.3 (second in MLB)
The current group of talent out there — with the possible exception of Tyler Duffey — doesn’t really have a weak link, and that bunch came through in this one as well. As Berrios hit the showers, Trevor Hildenberger, Zach Duke and Fernando Rodney combined for three shutout innings, fanning a batter and allowing two hits to stem the tide.
If the offense can pick up the slack a bit, this is a pitching staff built to hold onto some leads.
After riding a bit of a cool patch, Eduardo Escobar heated up again
Escobar followed up his first homer of the game back in the opening frame with an absolute bomb to right off Indians starter-turned-reliever Josh Tomlin in the seventh.
That shot capped the scoring, and was an impressive piece of hitting in its own right:
That’s a good sign for Escobar, who hit .301/.348/.578 over the first month of the season but cooled to a much more normal line of .241/.305/.426 in May. The Twins need him to hold down shortstop for at least another month until Jorge Polanco is eligible to return, and to this point, he’s done a terrific job no matter where Molitor has put him — short or third.
“He kind of is a bit streaky and had a little bit of a lull there,” Molitor said. “But you know he’s going to take a good swing. Against anybody who likes to pitch down in the zone, he’s got a chance because that’s where his power comes from.
He got a couple pitches down — the second one was impressive,” Molitor said with a grin.
Ryan LaMarre finally got his first extra-base hit
LaMarre came into the game 13-for-46 on the season with all singles, and 15-for-83 over his entire MLB career (.181) without an extra-base hit. That all changed in the fourth, when his double to deep left gave the Twins a 5-2 lead as Grossman came across to score.
LaMarre, who’ll probably get a fair amount of playing time in center with Byron Buxton shelved, is hitting a respectable .280/.333/.300 while Zack Granite — his natural competition for the role — came into the day hitting a miserable .206/.292/.224 through 28 games.
LaMarre will have to hold off Jake Cave internally for the job — after a rough April, the former Yankees farmhand hit .317/.366/.500 in May — but so far he seems to have the trust and admiration of his manager.
It was a balanced effort from the Twins offense
After a rough road trip, it’s good to see that a lot of guys are carrying the water for a sagging Twins offense. Eight of the nine Twins batters reached base at least once, and Max Kepler — who has done a fine job all season long — was the only one who failed to get on in his four plate appearances.
Escobar and Dozier each had two hits, and everyone other than Kepler and Morrison added one of their own as the Twins had nine hits and five walks on the evening.
- The Twins moved to 12-13 at Target Field and 9-6 in the division with the win.
- Rodney’s save was his ninth in a row, and according to the game notes, he passed Tom Henke for 22nd on the all-time list. He needs two saves to tie Robb Nen for 21st.
- Former Twins reliever Neil Ramirez got into the game, throwing two scoreless innings with a pair of strikeouts and a walk.
- The season series is tied two games apiece, with 15 more meetings left between the two clubs.
- Miguel Sano (1-for-4) hit a double in the fourth inning to extend his hitting streak to a modest six games.
- Saturday’s first pitch comes at a special time (3:10 p.m.) as it’ll be Trevor Bauer taking on Lance Lynn on a national telecast (FS1).