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Lindor's big night saves another bullpen collapse

By JOE NOGA • Jun 1, 2018 at 2:09 AM

MINNEAPOLIS — As far as first impressions go, Cleveland Indians rookie pitcher Shane Bieber was brilliant Thursday during his major league debut at Target Field.

But it was Tribe shortstop Francisco Lindor who left the Minnesota Twins with a bitter pill to swallow after slugging his second home run of the game, a go-ahead solo blast to center field in the top of the eighth inning as Cleveland defeated Minnesota, 9-8.

Bieber dazzled with command and poise early on, and Cleveland's offense built an 8-0 lead against Minnesota starter Jake Odorizzi. Edwin Encarnacion, Yonder Alonso and Melky Cabrera drove in runs in the first, and home runs by Lindor and Jose Ramirez in the fourth put the Tribe comfortably in front. Or so it appeared.

Minnesota rallied behind three home runs, including a tying three-run blast by Miguel Sano off Zach McAllister in the seventh inning. It was the second time in as many nights that the Twins rallied from a big early deficit, only to give up the go-ahead run late.

Lindor powered the Cleveland offense from the start. He doubled in each of his first two at-bats before homering in two of his final three. He became the first player since Adrian Beltre in 2007 to collect two doubles and two homers in a single game twice in the same season.

"That's why he's hitting first," manager Terry Francona said. "We want him to get as many at-bats as he can. And when the lineup turns over, it's nice to have a bat as potent as his sitting there."

Ramirez's home run, his 18th, tied him for the major league alongside Mike Trout of Los Angeles, J.D. Martinez of Boston and Bryce Harper of Washington.

Lindor and Ramirez also became just the third Indians teammates to each hit 10 or more home runs in the same calendar month. Jim Thome (10) and Karim Garcia (10) did so in 2002 and Al Rosen (11) and Luke Easter (11) accomplished the feat in 1950.

Their efforts did not go unnoticed by the rookie starting pitcher.

"Those are two of the best guys in the league, so it's really exciting to be a part of," Bieber said. "The clutch hitting, the early hitting, everything. It's really exciting to be a part of and to have those guys in my lineup and not facing them."

Bieber, pitching on his 23rd birthday, was nearly untouchable through the first four innings, working quickly and throwing strikes to get ahead of hitters, as was his reputation in the minor leagues. He struck out two of the first three batters he faced and retired the minimum his first time through the Twins order.

Francona said Bieber pitched with poise from the outset.

"I thought he pitched like a veteran," Francona said. "He worked quick and he pounded the zone."

Things started to unravel in the bottom of the fifth after a leadoff double to Eduardo Escobar and a walk to Max Kepler. Back-to-back RBI singles by Robbie Grossman and Ryan LaMarre got Minnesota on the scoreboard, and back-to-back home runs by Logan Morrison and Escobar in the sixth helped chase Bieber from the game.

Bieber was saddled with a no-decision, pitching 5 2/3 innings and allowing four earned runs on eight hits with one walk and six strikeouts.

Regardless of the outcome, Francona said it was exciting to watch what Bieber is capable of on the mound.

"When it was all said and done, he really didn't throw as many strikes as he usually does," Francona said. "So I think there's better days ahead. Which is exciting."

Five Indians relievers combined to give up four earned runs, with McAllister allowing Sano's home run in the seventh. Cody Allen entered with two out in the eighth inning and earned a five-out save, his ninth.

"I thought he pitched like a veteran," Francona said. "He worked quick and he pounded the zone."

Things started to unravel in the bottom of the fifth after a leadoff double to Eduardo Escobar and a walk to Max Kepler. Back-to-back RBI singles by Robbie Grossman and Ryan LaMarre got Minnesota on the scoreboard, and back-to-back home runs by Logan Morrison and Escobar in the sixth helped chase Bieber from the game.

Bieber was saddled with a no-decision, pitching 5 2/3 innings and allowing four earned runs on eight hits with one walk and six strikeouts.

Regardless of the outcome, Francona said it was exciting to watch what Bieber is capable of on the mound.

"When it was all said and done, he really didn't throw as many strikes as he usually does," Francona said. "So I think there's better days ahead. Which is exciting."

Five Indians relievers combined to give up four earned runs, with McAllister allowing Sano's home run in the seventh. Cody Allen entered with two out in the eighth inning and earned a five-out save, his ninth.

Streak snapped

Michael Brantley's season-high 19-game hitting streak came to an end with an 0-for-3 night that included two strikeouts and a pair of walks. Brantley hit .366 with six homers and 19 RBI during the streak, which marked the longest run in the majors this year.

What it means

Cleveland has won two out of three meetings against Minnesota this season including a two-game series split in San Juan, Puerto Rico last month. The Indians have a 14-5 record against the American League Central Division, including a 3-3 mark against the division on the road.

The pitches

Bieber threw 88 pitches, 54 (61 percent) for strikes. Odorizzi threw 92 pitches, 56 (61 percent) for strikes.

See ya there

The Twins and Indians drew 19,148 fans to Target Field on Thursday. First pitch was at 8:11 p.m. with a temperature of 82 degrees.

Up next

The series continues Friday with an 8:10 p.m. start as Carlos Carrasco (6-3, 3.98) takes the mound for Cleveland and Jose Berrios (5-5, 3.67) goes for Minnesota in a rematch of their April 18 meeting in San Juan. SportsTime Ohio and WLKR/FM 95.3 will carry the game.

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