Indians escape bases-loaded jam in 9th, hold off Twins 2-1
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Greg Allen and Brad Hand helped get the Cleveland Indians out of the cold and into the warmth of the clubhouse with their first victory of the season.
Allen hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth inning, and Hand escaped a bases-loaded jam in the bottom half of the inning as the Indians held off the Minnesota Twins 2-1 on Saturday.
The gametime temperature was 34 degrees, the third coldest in the history of Target Field, and neither team seemed comfortable at the plate.
The three-time AL Central champion Indians handed new Twins manager Rocco Baldelli his first loss. The teams combined for just six hits, four by the Indians.
“Runs, they can be hard to come by in early — well, it’s March. It’s not even April,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But it’s cold and you’ve kind of got to fight for everything you can get.”
Cleveland’s depleted infield almost proved costly. Byron Buxton led off the Twins ninth with a popup in a stiff wind that shortstop Max Moroff — subbing for injured All-Star Francisco Lindor — let fall for a double. After an intentional walk to Nelson Cruz with two outs, a walk to Eddie Rosario loaded the bases.
Hand retired C.J. Cron on a flyball to end it for a save, completing a combined two-hitter.
“I have lot of confidence that our guys are going to go out there and hit some balls hard and get the job done,” said Baldelli, whose team has scored three runs in its first two games. “Once we getting into a groove and get into some better weather and get out there and get in a routine, I think it’ll be OK.”
Jon Edwards (1-0) retired both batters he faced in the eighth for his first career victory.
It was 1-all when Carlos Santana singled with one out in the ninth and reliever Blake Parker (0-1) threw two wild pitches. Allen’s drive to deep center field scored Allen.
Twins starter Jake Odorizzi tied a career high with 11 strikeouts over six innings. He allowed just one hit and two walks. It was a promising start to the season after Odorizzi posted a career-worst 4.49 ERA last year, his first season with the Twins.
“It was a good way to set the tone,” Odorizzi said. “Get our guys in there and start hitting. You don’t want your guys to sit out there too long when it’s cold and get a little stiff.”
Indians starter Trevor Bauer began his season in style, giving up one run on one hit with a walk and nine strikeouts over seven innings. Bauer finished second in the AL with a 2.21 ERA last year.
Bauer noted the cold conditions proved advantageous in commanding his pitches.
“My changeup is designed to slip, so when there’s no grip on the ball, it makes it real nice,” Bauer said. “I didn’t throw many curveballs, but the slider and changeup were really good.”
Hanley Ramirez put the Indians on top 1-0 with a solo homer in the fourth inning. Ramirez hit a 3-0 pitch deep into the second deck.
The Twins got that run back in the bottom of the frame when Polanco hit a one-out triple and scored when Cruz grounded out.
Ramirez hit his first home run since last May 12, when he was with the Red Sox.
“Hitting’s all about timing. Sometimes it takes a little while for a hitter to get timing down,” said Ramirez, who signed a minor league deal with the Indians in late February and made the club during spring training. “I’ve been feeling good lately, and that’s the key.”
As for swinging on a 3-0 pitch, he said Francona gave him the green light, but he remained cautious with his approach.
“I only hit 3-0 when I feel good,” Ramirez said. “If I don’t feel like my timing is there, I won’t swing. I was looking for a pitch I could handle and that’s exactly what he threw.”
JOINING THE 10K-10K CLUB
The Twins became just the second team since 1893 to open the season with their first two starters each striking out at least 10 batters. Jose Berrios posted 10 strikeouts on Thursday, followed by Odorizzi’s 11.
The only other time that had happened was in 2001, when Randy Johnson struck out 10 and Curt Schilling fanned 12 in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ first two games.
“We can’t ask for anything more than what we’ve got in the last two days,” Baldelli said.
Indians: Manager Terry Francona said Lindor (sprained left ankle) will visit Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Monday. The orthopedic surgeon specializes in working with professional athletes. “They felt having the best look at it makes sense, and I commend them for that,” Francona said.
Indians: RHP Carlos Carrasco (17-10, 3.38 in 2018) makes his season debut on Sunday when Cleveland and Minnesota close out their three-game series. He’s coming off a year in which he set a career high with 231 strikeouts in 192 innings pitched.
Twins: RHP Michael Pineda will step onto a major league mound on Sunday for the first time since July 5, 2017, when he was pitching for the Yankees. He underwent Tommy John surgery later that month, signed with the Twins in the offseason, and spent all of 2018 on the disabled list. Pineda pitched a team-high 20 1/3 innings in spring training and struck out 20.