CLEVELAND – Chris Gimenez knows what the Indians are thinking. He was in their clubhouse just last year as the backup catcher. And extra outfielder/infielder and emergency pitcher.
He’s gone from a Twins foe to a friend, and understands how they feel about facing Brian Dozier and Co.
“Me being a part of that last year, honestly, Cleveland would have rather played Boston every day than Minnesota last year,” he said. “It was one of those teams that, they were pesky against us.”
The Twins were that again Saturday, scoring early, scoring late and absorbing a season-high 13 strikeouts from ace Corey Kluber in pulling out a 4-2 victory at Progressive Field.
Gimenez was reminded of last season’s Twins.
“They played like we did [Saturday],” Gimenez said. “Scratch out a few early and do just enough offensively and defensively.”
After Cleveland tied the score in the seventh inning on Jorge Polanco’s throwing error, Dozier stepped to the plate in the eighth and blasted a Cody Allen fastball down the left field line and inside the foul pole for his 13th home run and a 3-2 lead.
Then Gimenez, who was in left field Saturday for ailing Eddie Rosario, added a home run in the ninth. Brandon Kintzler worked the final inning to earn his 20th save, but not before he gave up a two-out double to Francisco Lindor and needed Byron Buxton to make a diving grab of Jason Kipnis’ sinking liner to end it.
“It was a hard-fought win,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
The Twins were down Rosario (sick), Max Kepler (injured) and Miguel Sano (sick) — a chunk of their offense and chunks of their outfield defense. Kepler and Rosario were late scratches.
Despite all of this, the Twins ambushed Kluber with two runs in the first inning.
Dozier dived around a tag and reached on Kipnis’ throwing error to start the game, and Joe Mauer followed with a walk. Robbie Grossman doubled to right to drive in Dozier. Mauer scored when catcher Yan Gomes’ pickoff throw to third was wild, and the Twins had a 2-0 lead.
Kluber struck out two batters in the first inning and had 10 K’s by the fifth. It was the fifth time this season and 29th time in Kluber’s career that he reached double-digit strikeouts. He has struck out at least 10 in three consecutive starts, one shy of the club record held by Bob Feller. In seven innings, Kluber had a season-high 13 strikeouts.
The Twins felt that plate umpire Larry Vanover’s strike zone was wider than it needed to be, which helped Kluber. Both Dozier and Jason Castro had lengthy discussions with Vanover about calls.
“[Kluber] had about eight [strikeouts], and Larry had about five maybe,” Molitor said, “but it’s one of those things that is going to happen. He can make pitches and he can make pitches look good, and their catcher did a nice job. When you know that’s going on you have to be ready to swing.”
Gomes scored from third in the seventh when Polanco attempted to complete a double play and threw wildly to first for an error. The announced crowd of 33,111 roared as the Indians looked ready to take the lead.
But the Twins got out of the inning, then got big hits from Dozier and Gimenez.
The Twins are 0-7 against Cleveland at home but 4-1 against them at Progressive Field. Home turf means nothing in this series.
“They outplayed us there,” Dozier said. “We’re trying to outplay them here.”