Third baseman Jose Ramirez and rookie center fielder Bradley Zimmer proved to be quite the one-two punch for the Cleveland Indians in the first game of a doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field Saturday.
Ramirez matched a single-game career high with two home runs and Zimmer equaled a personal best with four runs batted in, and their productivity led to a 9-3 win over the Twins, their third straight overall and second consecutive in the series in Minneapolis.
The afternoon win brought the Indians into a first-place tie with Minnesota in the American League Central Division, and moved them to 5-0 at Target Field this season. The Indians (34-31) improved to 19-14 away from Progressive Field, while the Twins’ struggles at home continued, as they fell to 14-21 in Minneapolis.
The Indians got things going in the top of the first inning, and all three of their runs came after the first two hitters were erased on a pop out to third base and groundout to shortstop, respectively.
On a 3-2 pitch from Twins lefty Adam Wilk, Ramirez smashed a home run to right field, and then, the Indians loaded the bases when designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and right fielder Austin Jackson bookended a single from first baseman Carlos Santana with walks.
Then, down in the count, 1-2, Zimmer smacked a two-run single into right field, which brought around Encarnacion and Santana.
In the top of the third inning, the Indians added another run when Zimmer belted a two-out double to right field and brought across Encarnacion, who walked to start the inning.
Although the Twins got a run back in the bottom of the third inning on an RBI single from second baseman Brian Dozier, the Indians went back to work in the top of the fourth.
Shortstop Erik Gonzalez led off with a single to left field, and then, second baseman Jason Kipnis doubled to the wall in right field, which put a pair of runners in scoring position with nobody out. After a groundout, one of six on the day from left fielder Daniel Robertson, Ramirez doubled to the wall in right and brought home both Gonzalez and Kipnis, which gave the Indians a 6-1 advantage.
Ramirez led off the top of the sixth inning with a solo home run to right field, his 11th on the season, and later in the frame, Zimmer grounded into an RBI fielder’s choice and drove in Santana, who drew a walk and moved into scoring position with a single from Jackson.
The Indians added a ninth run when Kipnis doubled to right field that moved Gonzalez from first to third. An error in the outfield allowed him to score.
For the first time in his career, Ramirez homered from both sides of the plate in the same game. It was just the ninth time in franchise history that an Indians hitter accomplished the feat.
Despite not factoring into the decision, soft-tossing left-hander Ryan Merritt allowed just three runs, two of which were earned, after surrendering seven hits over his four innings of work. Merritt struck out two Twins hitters and did not allow a walk.
Out of the bullpen, Zach McAllister, Bryan Shaw and Dan Otero combined to go five scoreless innings with just one hit and one walk allowed.
McAllister earned the win, his first of the season.