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Indians 9, Twins 7: Pitching and defense let Twins down

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Perez and bullpen falter, Twins can’t hold lead

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Indians
This run scored on a passed ball but Martin Perez had other issues in this one.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive night, the Minnesota Twins held a lead at Progressive Field but could not hang on.

Now, the Twins’ lead over the Cleveland Indians in the A.L. Central stands at a still-comfortable 9 12 games. Of course, it’s more about the state of mind of each respective team at this point in the season, and the Indians will at least be able to say they held serve and won a series. Now, it’s up to the Twins to make sure they aren’t swept.

Cleveland jumped out to 1-0 lead, but an RBI double from C.J. Cron and a massive, 454-foot three-run home run from Byron Buxton put the Twins on top by a 4-1 tally after two innings.

Twins starter Martin Perez appeared to settle in after a rocky first inning, and Nelson Cruz launched an opposite-field homer in the top of the third to extend the lead to 5-1. It certainly felt like the Bomba Squad that we all know and love was back in control.

Alas, it was not to be. The Indians scored two in the bottom of the frame to pull within 5-3, and answered a Jorge Polanco solo shot with another pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth, knocking out Perez in the process.

The key play in the Indians’ rally was an error by Miguel Sano to start the half inning. He picked up a relatively routine grounder moving to his left but appeared to lose the grip in the baseball and threw a wild toss to first base. It short-hopped the short wall and was grabbed by a fan reaching over the wall. Inexplicably, the umpires ruled that batter Francisco Lindor would be awarded second base, despite the fact that he never even turned towards second and the fan reached into the field of play to interfere. The ball would not have gone into the stands otherwise.

The Twins nearly kept Cleveland in check that inning, cutting down a runner at the plate in a run down, but they scored two runs with two outs and chased Perez from the game.

Following the sixth inning, the game entered a 1-hour, 43-minute rain delay. On the other side, the Twins scored a run on a Jorge Polanco RBI single but lost Max Kepler on the basepaths and only extended the lead to 7-5.

It wasn’t enough, as Blake Parker’s regression to the mean continued. Tonight, that meant to the tune of three earned runs in the seventh inning. The bullpen continued to kick things away in the eighth inning as Tyler Duffey gave up a run of his own.

The Twins went down 1-2-3 in the ninth inning, leaving Polanco in the on-deck circle.

Notes

  • In case anyone was worried about the offense after a two-run output on Tuesday, well ... don’t be. They cranked three home runs and scored seven runs on Wednesday, all while still making a key base-running mistake and leaving runners on base. The offense is fine.
  • It certainly isn’t time to panic about Martin Perez — the Indians weren’t making hard contact against him, after all — but this is a couple of uneven outings in a row. The issue is more that when he starts to fall apart, he unravels quickly.
  • The Indians have not been a home run-hitting team this year, but they’re going yard with regularity over the past two games against the Twins. It’s almost as if they’re trying to prove something.
  • This was a sloppy game, with Sano’s error, a wild pitch, and a passed ball that allowed a run all sticking out as major issues for a team that has played an extremely clean first 59 games of the season.
  • Also, on a day in which Craig Kimbrel reportedly signed a three-year deal with the Chicago Cubs, the Twins bullpen never looked thinner.
  • Here’s the thing: if the Twins manage to win tomorrow, they still leave Cleveland with a slight bit of momentum and a 10.5-game lead in the Central. And that would be awesome.

Studs

  • Jorge Polanco: 2-for-4, 2 RBI, R
  • Byron Buxton: 1-for-4, 3 RBI, HR
  • Nelson Cruz: 1-for-4, RBI, HR

Duds

  • Martin Perez: 4 23 innings, 2 ER, 5 R, 6 H, 1 K
  • Blake Parker: 1 inning, 3 ER, 2 HR allowed
  • Miguel Sano: Key error in the field in the bottom of the sixth inning