CLEVELAND — Three extras from the Twins’ fifth consecutive victory over the Indians:
Nobody is quite certain why Fernando Romero hasn’t been as effective in June as he was in May. And that apparently includes Romero.
“Not really,” Romero answered when asked if he can detect a difference between his first five starts, when he compiled a 1.88 ERA and a 9.11 strikeout-per-nine-innings rate, and his last four, which have totaled an 8.10 ERA and a 5.95 strikeout rate. “Things happen in the game. If you throw the ball over the plate, they might hit it or not. That just happens.”
Twins manager Paul Molitor said he the difference might not be as drastic as it seems.
“Gosh, there’s still a lot to like. The way that he’s been able to get the ball on the ground pretty consisistenly, especially the way he can get in on righties,” Molitor said. “His changeup has been pretty good. Slider was so-so today. He’s going to need all three pitches. He’s not going to blow people away up here and I think he knows that. He’s got to pitch. But he’s learning.”
If there is anything different, Molitor said, it might be that slider. “I don’t think his slider has been as good here, in the short term. I don’t even think he threw very many early today,” he said. “That’s a pitch he can use maybe to up that [strikeout rate] a little bit.”
He considered sending Romero out for the fifth inning, but decided against it. “Romero was OK in terms of strikes and things like that. He was having trouble with the lefties, they were getting some good swings. Just didn’t seem like he could keep the ball in on them like he was trying to,” Molitor said. “My gut told me it was time to turn it over.”
Matt Magill’s last pitching assignment was on June 5, which is a long time to sit idle, even for a long reliever. But if the layoff had any affect on the veteran righthander, it didn’t show on Saturday.
Magill entered the game in the fifth inning with a 5-3 lead, and he didn’t give the Indians a chance to change the outcome. He faced 10 batters over the next three innings, and retired nine of them without incident, earning his second win of the season — and of his career.
“You’re not sure what you’re going to get after 10 days, but he threw it over,” Molitor said. “He got three long fly balls for the first three outs, but he settled in a little bit and did a nice job picking up three big innings for us.”
Matt Belisle relieved Magill in the eighth inning, and things didn’t go quite as smoothly. The newly acquired righthander, who started the season with the Indians, retired Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez easily, but then gave up three straight singles, to Edwin Encarnacion, Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes, before escaping without a run by inducing a fly ball from Lonnie Chisenhall.
“We got a chance to get a couple of guys in there that haven’t pitched a lot,” Molitor said. “They both did a good job, Magill and Belisle.”
The Indians announced after the game that Shane Bieber, whose lone MLB start came at Target Field on May 31, would be recalled from Class AAA Columbus and start on Sunday. Adam Plutko had been scheduled to start, but he was called upon to pitch two innings in Saturday’s game.
After Plutko’s work, Indians manager Terry Francona turned to outfielder Brandon Guyer to pitch the ninth inning, and he used his mid-70s fastball to retire all three hitters he faced — Taylor Motter (who grounded out while making his Twins debut),Ryan LaMarre and Max Kepler.
Oddly, that 1-2-3 innings means the last nine Twins hitters who have faced a position player on the mound have been retired — two by Carlos Ruiz, three by Daniel Descalso, one by Andrew Romine and now three by Guyer.