CLEVELAND – When lefthander Adalberto Mejia wasn’t nibbling at the corners of the plate on Friday, he was missing by feet. The game was set up for the Indians to end Mejia’s night with one big blow.
But Mejia never let that hit happen.
“It seemed like he made his best pitches when he got to full counts,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We were kind of joking, ‘Let’s start it at 3-2 and let’s go from there.’
“But he did get big outs, and he did get five zeros.”
Mejia twice escaped innings with the bases loaded, and one big inning by the Twins offense was all they needed in a 5-0 win over the AL Central-leading Indians. The Twins are 0-7 at home against Cleveland this season but, somehow, are 3-1 at Progressive Field. Cleveland has been shut out at home twice — both by the Twins, who lead the majors with six shutouts.
Mejia (2-3) was winless in his previous five outings before Friday’s far-from-a-gem. He needed 104 pitches to get through five innings. He went to full counts seven times over the first three innings — including the first three batters of the third. Molitor had every right to pull him after the third and fourth innings but, apparently, did not want to play reliever roulette against the defending AL champions.
He left Mejia in and watched him wiggle his way out of trouble — as much as a 210-pound lefthander can wiggle.
“It bothered me,” Mejia said of the company on the bases. “It has to bother you. At times I thought, ‘If this hitter gets a hit, this run comes in.’ But I try not to think that way and try to not let a hitter get to first base.”
He stranded two runners on base in the first inning, then walked three during a 30-pitch second. He struck out Erik Gonzalez to end the inning with the bases loaded, then came off the mound yelling and pounding his fist into his glove.
Mejia threw 21 pitches in the third, pushing his count to 68. He committed an error on Jason Kipnis’ comebacker in the fourth, loading the bases with one out. He struck out Gonzalez and got Francisco Lindor to fly out to left to end the inning.
Finally, Mejia retired the side in order in the fifth. And Molitor went to the bullpen, getting two shutout innings from Tyler Duffey, one from Taylor Rodgers and one from Trevor Hildenberger, who was making his major league debut.
The Twins, who played without third baseman Miguel Sano as he recovered from a sinus infection, broke through against Indians righthander Trevor Bauer (6-6) in the second. Max Kepler doubled and scored on Eddie Rosario’s infield hit. Jorge Polanco slugged a two-run homer. Brian Dozier hit an RBI double off the center field wall to drive in Jason Castro. The Twins led 4-0.
Dozier chased Bauer with an RBI single to right in the seventh. Dozier entered the game 4-for-32 in his career against Bauer.
It was far from classic game management by Mejia. But he did throw five shutout innings and stranded all nine baserunners he allowed.
And he thought Molitor’s line about starting every hitter 3-2 was funny.
“If it ends like that,” Mejia said, “maybe I can get the ball inside all the time.”