The bases-loaded walk is the chief enemy of major league pitchers.
For the Minnesota Twins bullpen, two free passes issued in the critical situation yielded a three-run seventh inning to propel the Cleveland Indians to a 6-2 victory and series sweep on Thursday afternoon at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minn.
Trevor Bauer pitched six innings of two-run ball to earn the win behind Carlos Santana’s three-hit day atop manager Terry Francona’s batting order.
Bauer battles past balk, registers quality start
Working through adversity was the plan of attack for the persevering Bauer.
The scoring barrier was broken in the fourth frame when Bauer lost balance in his delivery, resulting in a balk with the bases loaded. Jorge Polanco skied a sacrifice fly to left field to plate Max Kepler and bring the score to 2-0.
"He had the one tough inning," said Francona to reporters. "It was kind of a weird inning - the balk in between that didn't help things. But he only gave up two (runs) and then other than that, he was really good on a tough day."
Bauer shifted into cruise control for the remaining portion of his outing by setting down eight of the nine hitters he faced between the fifth and seventh innings. The 26-year-old has recorded 26 strikeouts on the 2017 campaign and averages a much-improved 2.6 walks per nine innings.
Santana sizzles to spearhead bats
As a follow-up to Bauer’s smooth recovery, the Tribe offense strung together baserunners in six of their first eight plate appearances in the seventh – Yandy Diaz single, Roberto Perez single, Santana RBI double, Francisco Lindor intentional walk, Michael Brantley RBI walk and Jose Ramirez RBI walk.
During the rally, Minnesota shuffled through three different pitchers, walked two batters with the bases loaded and eventually fell behind 4-2.
Santana jump-started the road nine’s scoring with an RBI double in the fifth before switching to the right-handed side of the batter’s box and evening the score at 2-2 with the aforementioned double in the seventh.
"He's obviously feeling really good about himself right now," Francona said. "That's a hard [game] to come back. Every run we got was meaningful because Trevor only gave up two."
"I try to concentrate and try to win the game, that's why I'm hitting great," said Santana. "Everything's positive and we have to keep it up."
A pair of RBI doubles off the bats of Lonnie Chisenhall and Yan Gomes added two more ninth-inning insurance runs to seal the deal.
Shaw, Miller Allen
Francona’s blueprint for late-inning closure to the contest was employed in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings courtesy of Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen.
Each hurler finished with a clean slate to give Cleveland its first series victory since the beginning of April vs. Texas.
"We stayed at it enough where we turn it over to the bullpen with a lead," Francona said. "That's a good thing. Tough game to win."
Central Division update
Detroit (8-7) lost its third contest in a row to move into a first place tie with the Indians (8-7). Daniel Norris gave up five runs (four earned) while the Tigers offense batted 5-for-32 (.156).
The Indians will fly to Chicago before playing the White Sox on Friday at 8:10 p.m. ET from Guaranteed Rate Field.
RHP Corey Kluber (1-1, 6.38) is on tap for his fourth start after earning his first win of the season last Saturday over Justin Verlander and the Tigers.
LHP Jose Quintana (0-3, 6.75) will oppose his top of the rotation counterpart in hopes that he can bounce back from allowing five runs in 5.2 innings to the Twins.