CLEVELAND - As the Indians have done more than once already in 2020, the club Tuesday night turned to their ace to get back on track and put them right back in the race in the American League Central race.
Shane Bieber moved to 6-0 as he went six solid innings, allowing a pair of runs as the Indians overcame Minnesota with a final of 4-2.
The win puts the Tribe back to within 1.5 of the first-place Twins in the AL Central, setting up what should be if nothing else a rather interesting showdown as Mike Clevinger returns to the rotation on Wednesday against Twins ace Jose Berrios.
Tuesday though was all about Bieber, who had moments of struggle, but still managed to reach 10 K’s and hold Minnesota in check minus the two runs which came in the second after the Indians led it early 1-0.
The Indians offense did little against Twins starter lefty Rich Hill for five innings, but in the 6th they finally broke through with three runs, two on a huge one-out two-strike homer by Francisco Lindor.
Now the Indians have a shot to win the series on Wednesday and get the Twins lead down to just a half a game.
Here are tonight’s observations from the latest win for the Indians as they now sit at 18-12 on the season, 8-7 at Progressive Field.
Lovin the Biebs
There’s not much more you can say about the overall or Tuesday’s outing for Indians starter Shane Bieber that hasn’t already been said.
As things have gone for the Cy Young candidate, it was odd to see him labor in the Twins second, as Minnesota sent seven batters to the plate in putting up a pair of runs.
But, the recovery for Bieber was swift, and he seemed to settle down from there and ended up still throwing six solid innings with 102 pitches, 60 of which were strikes.
“It shows you that when you compete and you are an ace that you find ways to navigate through a lineup and to fight,” Indians acting manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said.
“Later on in the game he got better, and he wanted to go out for the seventh, but he had to fight too hard.”
He struck out 10, which is the 5th time in seven starts in 2020 that he’s struck out double digit batters in a game.
In two games against the Twins, Bieber has thrown 14 innings, allowing two runs with 23 total strikeouts.
Some more perspective on Bieber:
He’s gone six innings or more in every start in 2020, and has struck out 10 or more in five of his seven starts.
Again it actually looked like the Twins were jumping on his usually unhittable curve in the second inning, but whatever he did to adjust worked, as once he settled down he got back on track in a hurry.
No one will blame Bieber for having a bad inning, but it has been just so rare in 2020 it’s almost as if we’ve not seen it before.
The Indians ace is slated to be back on the mound Monday when the team takes on the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City.
Lindor’s Key AB
The Indans badly needed a boost in the 6th inning, and got it when Francisco Lindor hit a two-run blast against Twins relief pitcher Jorge Alcala, who came in following Rich Hill’s departure.
Lindor tossed his bat and began to look over at his teammates in the dugout to try and fire them up, which got the Indians players going a bit.
The homer came on an 87 MPH slider that Alcala simply left way too much over the plate.
Lindor didn't miss.
“I said let’s go in Spanish,” Lindor said when asked what he said to his teammates after the blast.
“It’s just being in the game, not trying to show anybody up, not trying to disrespect the game, I am who I am and just trying to play the game, not trying to disrespect nobody, if we don’t get the team going, there’s no fans to get us going so we’ve got to do it ourselves.”
So many times in 2020 the Indians and their fans have been waiting for arguably their team leader to get going, and maybe Tuesday night was a moment that will spark him and the team.
“He (Lindor) put a really good at-bat together, you kind of had that feeling that something good was going to happen and we were going to put a rally together,” Bieber said.
“That was a huge home run, you could kind of feel it in the dugout, then you saw Frankie’s reaction, we were just kind of hanging in there for as long as possible so we could kind of make our move and that was it.”
With the way the Indians starter in Bieber and bullpen were able to get back in the game and get their command back, it was lights out from there, but the Tribe doesn’t get there if Lindor doesn’t come through.
The Pen Does Its Thang
Oliver Perez, James Karinchak and Brad Hand were on point Tuesday night, as the Tribe threesome from the pen all were spotless in going three innings in the 4-2 victory.
It started a little shaky with Perez, who allowed two on with one out, but he got a monster double play 6-3 to end the Twins seventh inning with no damage.
Karinchak was his usual self, as he struck out one in his one frame, and Hand was more than okay, earning his 8th save in eight tries in 2020.
The Indians teammates of the three took notice as to how flawless they were in helping the team get a key win over their current biggest rivals.
“I’m very very happy, they work hard every single day, anytime you call them that are ready to go and ready to help us win,” Lindor said of the Tribe pen.
There was so much worry in spring training and even in summer camp that the pen was going to struggle just to get the ball to Hand in the 9th, but at this point the pen has been better than advertised.
Sure you can put a lot of that on the quick development of Karinchak, but overall the unit has been excellent and has helped the Indians to reach six games over .500 despite a dearth on offense most of the season.