2020 virtual ALDS: Twins vs. Indians

CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 13: Starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi #12 of the Minnesota Twins pitches during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on September 13, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 13: Starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi #12 of the Minnesota Twins pitches during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on September 13, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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Minnesota’s Max Kepler. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Minnesota’s Max Kepler. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Game 3: Eight home runs

Buoyed by their stunning Game 2 victory, the Twins applied their most potent weapon – the long ball – against the Indians’ pitching. The result was an illustration of why Minnesota won a major league high 109 games.

The Twins called on veteran Kenta Maeda (13-8, 4.20), acquired in an offseason trade, to make the start at Progressive Field. Maeda had made just one start against Cleveland during the regular season simulation, lasting seven innings Sept. 28 and picking up a no-decision in an eventual 7-3 Twins defeat.

The Indians summoned Shane Bieber (15-10, 3.31), winner of the wild card game against the Chicago White Sox five days earlier. It marked Bieber’s fifth start against the Twins in 2020; he was 1-2, having beaten them 10-3 on Sept. 9.

The losses were by scores of 13-5 on April 7 and 6-4 on Sept. 1.

On this day, however, neither starter had his usual stuff.  Cleveland got on the board first, scoring in the first inning when Lindor walked, stole second, took third on Mitch Garver’s throwing error, and came home on Jose Ramirez’s fly to deep center.

The  Twins unleashed their most reliable weapon in the second when Josh Donaldson launched a Bieber offering into the left field crowd. One inning later they lit up Bieber more thoroughly. Jake Cave opened the third with a ringing double to the wall in center, Byron Buxton singled him to third, and Luis Arraez sent them both across with a two-base hit to the left-center field gap.

Bieber fanned Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz, but Garver foiled his effort to escape further damage, rolling a single between short and third that allowed Arraez to come home with the inning’s third run.

Having wounded Bieber, Twins hitters finished him off in the fourth. Donaldson singled and Max Kepler blasted a home run over the wall in deepest right-center. That made the score 6-1 and prompted the summoning of Zach Plesac from the Cleveland bullpen.

Perhaps aided by a brief rain delay that hampered Maeda, the Indians moved to get back in the game in the fifth. With one out, Perez homered, Jake Bauers followed with a single to right and Cesar Hernandez also homered. That made the score 6-4 and signaled Twins manager Rocco Baldelli that it was time for a mound change.

Tyler Clippard replaced Maeda, and one out later Ramirez touched him for the inning’s third home run, this one into the seats in left. Singles by Carlos Santana and Sandy Leon extended the rally, but it died without further production when Clippard got Oscar Mercado on a harmless pop to Sano at first.

The outburst had brought the home team within a run at 6-5, but they would get no closer. When Plesac opened the sixth by walking Sano and Kepler, he was lifted in favor of Oliver Perez, a left-hander whose immediate assignment was to get Jake Cave. Instead, Cave got Perez, sending the Twins’ third home run careening into the right field seats and boosting Minnesota’s advantage to 9-5. In the seventh, Sano pounded a two-run home run, and Polanco added a fifth Minnesota blast to close out the scoring in the ninth.

The 12-5 final thoroughly reflected Minnesota’s offensive violence. Twins batters had produced those dozen runs on just 10 hits, but seven were for extra bases,  five of them leaving the yard.

Minnesota          013    203    201    — 12  10  1

Cleveland            100    040    000    —   5     9  0

W. Clippard. L: Bieber