The Minnesota Twins got what they needed: A series sweep against the division-rival Cleveland Indians. Minnesota won 3-1 on Friday, 8-4 on Saturday and 7-5 on Sunday. Coming into the series, the two teams were tied for second in the AL Central. Now, the Twins have put some distance between them and Cleveland, while keeping pace with the Chicago White Sox.
Timely pitching and the long-ball propelled the Twins to the series sweep. Despite various injuries that continue to plague roster, Minnesota prevailed before another tough series against Chicago.
Bombas Return, Twins Win
Minnesota hit 11 home runs across three games with Cleveland. While it was a welcome development for the Twins, their victories hinged on those home runs. All but one run of the 18 they scored came from one of the 11 home runs.
In the first game, Buxton sent the first pitch he saw against starting pitcher Shane Bieber over the left field wall for a two-run shot. Those two runs were all the Twins needed to squeak out a victory that night. For good measure, though, Jeffers launched a solo home run in the seventh to give Minnesota a 3-0 lead.
In the second game, Minnesota hit five home runs. Three came against starter Zach Plesac and two came against reliever Nick Wittgren. Interestingly enough, two pairs of those home runs were back-to-back. Gonzalez and Willians Astudillo hit two home runs in a row for the Twins’ first three runs. Later, in the eighth inning, Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano hit two back-to-back shots for another three runs. Those late homers served as insurance in the 8-4 win.
Strong Outings From Maeda, Hill
Kenta Maeda has continued to impress in his first season with the Twins. His outing on Friday was no exception: He hung with the best starting pitcher in the American League, Shane Bieber. The Maeda-Bieber duel resulted in a low scoring game, but this time Maeda prevailed over Cleveland’s ace.
Maeda allowed four hits in his seven innings, striking out seven on his 94 pitches before he left the game. Bieber, on the other hand, came into the game with a flawless 7-0 record and one of the lowest ERAs in baseball. He went seven innings, like Maeda, but gave up five hits and three runs on 109 pitches.
Rich Hill has returned from an injury earlier this season and has eased his way back to a more effective outing every five days. Though Hill had a shaky fourth inning, allowing two runs, he got through five innings unscathed. He gave up a solo home run to open the fourth, then gave up a double and a walk to allow Oscar Mercado to score a runner on third. Overall, he allowed four hits while striking out seven on 90 pitches.
Michael Pineda had the worst outing of the three pitchers in the series, though he only gave up three runs in 4 2/3 innings of work. Pineda gave up eight hits and struck out eight batters in his third appearance of the season.
Minnesota’s relievers gave up a combined five runs through 10 1/3 innings pitched.
Injuries Continue to Pile Up
Just as some return from injuries, more go back onto the IL. Before Sunday’s game, the Twins got Max Kepler back after a stint on the injured list. That news was especially important because Brent Rooker is now done for the season.
Rooker was hit with a pitch in Saturday’s game and left with what ended up being a fractured forearm. Along with Jake Cave, he was set to be a key depth outfielder with the season coming to a close.
Luis Arraez also went to the injured list with tendinitis in his left knee, creating a hole at second base — not just in terms of defensive depth, but his absence will be felt most at the plate. Gonzalez and fellow utility man Ehire Adrianza have struggled much of the year. Gonzalez has hit .210 so far this season and slugged .312. Adrianza hasn’t been any better, batting .174 and slugging .232.
Eddie Rosario also left Sunday’s game with a left elbow contusion after colliding with Buxton in the outfield.