SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO – The Twins wore the white pants Tuesday night, but it wasn’t clear if they actually were going to be received as the home team in the Puerto Rico Series.
Even as the Twins’ Eddie Rosario received a huge ovation from during pregame introductions, All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and a fellow Puerto Ricans lined up on the other side. Cleveland was the preferred team among the fans who showed up to watch Major League Baseball at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.
“It felt more neutral [early],” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “They were just looking for something to cheer about.”
That was confirmed in the fifth inning when Twins righthander Jake Odorizzi threw the wrong pitch to the wrong spot to the wrong man.
Lindor, born near Caguas, crushed a hanging 3-2 curveball over the right field wall for a two-run home run to open the scoring, and that prompted the full-throated roar of jubilant fans as they praised their native son. That also unlocked the rest of the Indians offense, as Cleveland pulled away to a 6-1 win in the first of two games in San Juan.
It was the first time either team played outside the continental U.S. and Canada, and a sellout crowd of 19,516 made sure their voices were heard on a night in which Carlos Beltran threw out the first pitch and first responders during Hurricane Maria last September were honored.
“It was cool to see an atmosphere like that,” Odorizzi said. “Hopefully we can come back and come out on top [Wednesday].”
Odorizzi was locked into a duel early with Cleveland ace Corey Kluber; each pitcher tossed four shutout innings. But Lindor’s home run in the fifth got fans going. They roared as soon as Lindor made contact, held their breath as Twins right fielder Robbie Grossman jumped at the wall, then roared louder when the ball cleared the fence.
Fans demanded a curtain call, and the smiling Lindor obliged.
“It didn’t surprise me,” Odorizzi said of the atmosphere. “I was prepared for it. Any time he made contact, it was loud.”
What a moment! ����— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) April 18, 2018
Here’s another view of the hometown hero’s HR with some serious Puerto Rican flavor: pic.twitter.com/YFhc83aGWH
Jose Ramirez greeted Odorizzi in the sixth with a home run to right, and Michael Brantley hit the next pitch out to left-center to make it 4-0. Odorizzi allowed at least three homers in a game for the sixth time in his career. Two came on his curveball, which has been a good pitch for him this season.
“He threw some good ones,” Molitor said. “He didn’t get it where he wanted to on the Lindor home run. He didn’t crush it, but he hit it in a good spot. It was a big moment, given the series and Lindor.”
Kluber, meanwhile, cruised into the seventh with a three-hit shutout. He left after Brian Dozier hit a two-out RBI double. Andrew Miller entered, walked Joe Mauer but struck out Miguel Sano. The Twins trailed 5-1 at the time, and Brandon Guyer’s home run off Gabriel Moya in the eighth completed the scoring.
Rosario, from Guayama, was cheered each time he stepped to the plate and led off the fourth with a single. The Indians showed why they were 17 games better than the Twins last season. And Lindor took the spotlight with his home run.
But Rosario was able to smile a bit at his own good fortune on a special day for him.
“It was an awesome feeling,” Rosario said. “I was a little nervous. … I’m too emotional right now. I’m still happy.”