It’s almost like the Indians are toying with the Twins now, like they’re afraid their hosts will lose interest if they come out swinging.
Cleveland is a boxer carrying an overmatched opponent, careful not to administer the knockout blow until the fans have gotten their money’s worth.
The Indians improved to 9-0 at Target Field this season with a 9-3 victory in the opener of a doubleheader Thursday, dropping the Twins seven games back in the AL Central, and they did it in the same, cruel way they did in their other eight victories: By letting the Twins hang around, build up a little hope, and then —bam!
The haymaker this time was a three-run home run by Yan Gomes in the eighth inning, an almost predictable denouement to a one-run game. Cleveland has outscored the Twins 31-7 from the sixth inning on at Target Field this season, turning close game after close game into blowouts.
This time, Cleveland’s late offense turned a 3-2 game into another rout, the Indians’ sixth time in nine games they have put eight or more runs on the scoreboard.
Of course, all those runs are overkill when the Twins refuse to score any themselves. Minnesota put three runners on third base in this one, had eight different batters try to drive them home, and failed every time — six of them by striking out.
Oh yes, the strikeouts: Minnesota hitters whiffed 19 times, setting a franchise record for a nine-inning game.
It was such a sullen finish one a grey-cloud day, even the feel-good comeback story was dampened. Glen Perkins made his first Target Field appearance since Oct. 2, 2015, and first major-league appearance anywhere in 493 days.
He got a rousing ovation from what was left of the 29,579 fans as he entered in the ninth inning, but his command didn’t come with him. Perkins walked the first batter he faced, Edwin Encarnacion, and got Jay Bruce to fly out. But hit two of the next four batters he faced, the other two singled, and Perkins came out having allowed two runs.
Kyle Gibson wasn’t treated much better by the Indians, needing 60 pitches just to record his first six outs. The righthander surrendered two runs in the first inning by giving up three hits to the first five hitters he faced; Bruce had a two-run single. Another run scored on Jason Kipnis’ two-out hit in the second, and Gibson lasted only four innings, the seventh in his 21 starts that he has failed to pitch five innings.
The second game is scheduled to begin at 6:10 p.m.