CLEVELAND – Their championship dreams dashed and their postseason hopes long since ruined, the Twins are trying to find smaller, more modest goals they can achieve. Maybe put together a winning streak. See if you can finish .500. And how about winning the season series against the division champs?
“It’s not going to save your season to beat the Indians 10 games out of 19,” manager Paul Molitor said, “but I wouldn’t mind accomplishing that.”
He will have to keep looking. Mike Clevinger limited the Twins to two unearned runs in becoming Cleveland’s fourth 10-game winner, Jason Kipnis lifted a three-run homer that cleared the right-field walls by inches, and the Indians beat the Twins for the 10th and final time this season Thursday, 5-3 at Progressive Field.
The Indians and Twins’ next meeting is in March at Target Field, seven days after winter technically ends, and their goals figure to be exponentially bigger.
For now, though, the Twins are 62-71, face six games with the pennant-contending Astros and Yankees in the first 12 days of September, and leave Ohio impressed with the Indians’ underrated chances this fall. “They have a lot of reasons to be optimistic, I’d think,” Molitor said. “They have a really nice lineup, with a couple of MVP candidates [Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor]. Rotations get shorter in the postseason, too, which is probably good for them.”
Their rotation looked good against the Twins, and they didn’t even face two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. Clevinger struck out nine, surrendered three singles, a walk and a two-run homer by Ehire Adrianza, and put the cap on a series dominated by Cleveland’s starting pitching. Along with Carlos Carrasco and Adam Plutko, Cleveland’s starters limited the Twins to two earned runs on 13 hits over 19⅔ innings this week, for an 0.92 ERA. They struck out 25 batters and walked five.
“We didn’t do much. Clevinger was good, gave us a lot of trouble,” Molitor said, a familiar refrain. “Got a 2-0 fastball that [Adrianza] took advantage of, but other than that, we didn’t do much.”
Neither did the Indians against Jake Odorizzi, for a while. The Twins starter held Cleveland scoreless for three innings, and carried a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning after Adrianza’s homer. But after a leadoff popup and back-to-back four-pitch walks to Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion convinced Molitor to remove Odorizzi, and the Indians quickly regained the lead. Yonder Alonso greeted reliever Alan Busenitz with a tying run-scoring single, and one out later, Kipnis smacked a three-run homer that cleared the right-field wall, and Max Kepler’s glove, by inches.
“I’d have liked to stay out there today, obviously. In that situation, you’re one pitch away from getting out of the inning,” Odorizzi said. “It’s tough to come out when you have that opportunity in front of you, with low 90 pitches. I’ll have to keep pitching and hopefully sometime down the road, I’ll get a chance to get my way out of it.”
Miguel Sano homered on a ninth-inning fastball from Indians lefthander Brad Hand, and the Twins brought the tying run to the plate with one out when Mitch Garver walked. But Jake Cave and Tyler Austin both took sliders for called third strikes from the Chaska native.