MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Mitch Garver hit his first home run of the season and the Minnesota Twins used their bullpen to string together a two-hitter in a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday afternoon, taking the four-game series from their primary division competitor.
Max Kepler doubled and scored in each of his first two at-bats, and Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz drove him in with singles in the first and third. The Twins allowed only four runs over these four games, winning three of them to raise their record to 7-2 — their best start since 2001.
“We’re kind of making it very well known to the baseball world that we can pitch,” said Tyler Clippard, who served as the opener. “Obviously our lineup speaks for itself. It’s so deep.”
Clippard, who had a 2.90 ERA in 53 appearances for Cleveland last season, set the tone for this bullpen game for the Twins with two perfect innings. Sergio Romo picked up his second save in as many attempts with a perfect ninth.
Clippard and Romo were bridged by Devin Smeltzer (1-0), Matt Wisler, Tyler Duffey and Trevor May, as Twins manager Rocco Baldelli pieced together his replacement for Homer Bailey, who went on the injured list. The right-hander had already been scratched on Saturday from this scheduled start, but the Twins decided before the game he needed more time. No problem, said the relievers.
“The bullpen is ready for anything, and that’s the nature of the job, the unknown,” Clippard said.
The Twins have allowed only four earned runs over their last 45 innings.
“Our pitching staff has just been incredible, and with the group that we have and the mixture of different talents and different guys, I don’t expect anything to change,” Baldelli said. “It’s a very, very exciting group to be able to move around and use in different ways.”
Garver went deep in the second as the Twins built a 3-0 lead on Indians starter Aaron Civale (1-1).
“As games go on, stuff kind of settles in a little bit. It’s just kind of how things go,” Civale said. “I was just going out there trying to compete as best I can.”
The defending American League Central champion Twins have outscored their opponents 28-8 over the first three innings this year.
The Indians, who had first base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. managing with Terry Francona back at the hotel because of what the team called a mild gastrointestinal condition, were held to two or fewer hits in back-to-back games for the first time in more than six years.
Minnesota went 101-61 in 2019, beating Cleveland by eight games. The Indians won the season series 10-9 last year.
Civale retired the last 10 batters he faced, striking out nine over six innings for the second straight start. He allowed five hits without a walk, but Francisco Lindor’s RBI single off Smeltzer in the fourth inning was all Civale had for support. Lindor tried for a double, but Eddie Rosario threw him out from left field to thwart any further rallying by the Indians.
Cleveland has just six homers and 26 runs in 10 games, and Alomar said he believes the hitters have been pressing too hard to stop the slump.
“Our offense is in a funk right now. We have to have more quality at-bats. There have been times where we’ve hit the ball on those nose right at people, but it’s not going to show up,” Alomar said.
Indians: Lindor took a turn as the DH for a bit of rest and so Mike Freeman could play SS, his second start this season.
Twins: 3B Josh Donaldson was out for the second straight game due to tightness in his calf. … Bailey was shelved with right biceps tendinitis, placed on the 10-day injured list retroactive to Wednesday. RHP Sean Poppen was recalled to fill Bailey’s spot on the 30-man roster.
Indians: RHP Zach Plesac starts on Monday night at Cincinnati, beginning a two-game series. RHP Sonny Gray (2-0, 0.71 ERA) pitches for the Reds. Plesac struck out 11 batters in eight shutout innings in his last turn, with just three hits allowed.
Twins: LHP Lewis Thorpe makes his first start of the season on Monday night, beginning a two-game series against Pittsburgh. RHP Joe Musgrove (0-2, 4.76 ERA) takes the mound for the Pirates.
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