During their run to the American League Central Division Championship in 2016, the Cleveland Indians played well against three of the teams in their division, but the Minnesota Twins were the one that gave them the most troubles.
But the Indians (6-7), the reigning American League champions, took a positive first step against the Twins (7-6) Monday night, as the pitching staff accounted for 10 strikeouts on the way to a 3-1 at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Starting pitcher Danny Salazar worked around seven hits and registered seven strikeouts against just two walks over six innings of work on the way to his first win of the season, and the bullpen combination of Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen allowed just two hits and two walks with three strikeouts over three innings.
The Twins took a 1-0 lead over the Indians in the bottom of the second inning when left fielder Eddie Rosario smacked an RBI single to center field and drove in shortstop Jorge Polanco, who began the frame with a five-pitch walk.
After Polanco walked to start the inning, third baseman Eduardo Escobar swatted an 0-1 pitch from Salazar to deep right field for a double that put two runners in scoring position with nobody out, but that was all they would get against the Indians’ right-handed fire-baller in the frame, as he struck out two hitters with a pop out from center fielder Max Kepler in-between.
The Twins’ slim lead did not last long, as the Indians posted a pair of runs in the top of the third inning.
Mired in a two-for-30 slump to start the season, catcher Yan Gomes led off with a single to center field, and moved into scoring position two batters later when shortstop Francisco Lindor smacked a 2-1 pitch from Twins starter Kyle Gibson to deep right field for a double.
With one out and two runners in scoring position, left fielder Michael Brantley hit an RBI groundout to first base. Then, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion delivered an RBI single into left that drove in Lindor for the go-ahead run.
The Indians added onto their lead when Brantley crushed a one-out solo home run over the wall in right-center field for his second round-tripper of the season.
Salazar worked out of jams for much of the early part of the game.
Although Salazar got the first two hitters of the game out, Twins designated hitter Miguel Sano and first baseman Joe Mauer hit back-to-back singles to shallow left field, and then, right fielder Robbie Grossman loaded the bases when he singled to right field.
However, Salazar got out of the inning when catcher Jason Castro grounded out to shortstop for the final out.
Then, in the second inning, the Twins got their first three batters aboard, but Salazar got the pair of strikeouts, including one of Sano to end the threat with Escobar on third base and Rosario at first after the RBI hit.
Miller worked around having two runners on in the bottom of the eighth inning by getting Mauer out looking and the final two outs on infield grounders.
Then, in the ninth inning, Allen did not allow a run despite having two runners in scoring position and the winning run on first when he got Mauer to fly out to center on the very first pitch of his at-bat.