CLEVELAND — Five Minnesota pitchers combined to stop Cleveland’s offense and the Twins widened their lead in the AL Central by defeating the Indians 2-0 in the first game of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader.
The Twins were forced to go with a bullpen game in both ends of the doubleheader after Friday night’s game was postponed by rain in the third inning.
That strategy worked to perfection in the opener of the showdown series, and Minnesota leads Cleveland by 4 ½ games.
Zack Littell (5-0) relieved starter Devin Smeltzer in the fourth and struck out two in two innings.
Taylor Rogers got the final five outs for his 26th save, but had to work out of trouble in the eighth and ninth.
Rogers relieved Sergio Romo with a runner on in the eighth and gave up a two-out single to Yasiel Puig, but struck out Greg Allen.
The left-hander retired the first batter in the ninth, but was charged with an error when he didn’t pick up Jason Kipnis’ slow roller. Rogers struck out Roberto Pérez and Mike Freeman to end the game.
Jorge Polanco hit a two-run homer in the second off Mike Clevinger (11-3), who had won 10 consecutive decisions. Clevinger struck out 10 in eight innings, but lost for the first time since June 28.
The Twins’ shortstop also cut off Cleveland’s best scoring threat in the third when he speared Carlos Santana’s line drive with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Minnesota’s plan going into the series was to use their bullpen for Saturday’s night game. The Indians opted to with a bullpen game Saturday night after the rainout.
Smeltzer retired the first six hitters, but hit Jason Kipnis with a pitch to begin the third. Roberto Pérez singled before Smeltzer retired the next two hitters. Oscar Mercado walked and Smeltzer went to a 3-2 count on Santana. Polanco made a diving backhand catch of the liner to end the inning.
Polanco’s two-run homer Friday got washed away by the rain. Max Kepler, who had been sidelined by a sore left shoulder, had a one-out single in the third before Polanco hit his 22nd homer of the season.
Twins: RHP Sam Dyson (sore biceps) shut down his throwing session Friday. He hasn’t pitched since Sept. 3.
Indians: Pérez remained in the game after being hit by Tyler Duffey’s pitch in the seventh. The ball deflected off Pérez’s left shoulder and hit him in the face. He went to first base after being examined by a team trainer.
The series wraps up Sunday when RHP José Berríos (12-8, 3.63 ERA) faces RHP Shane Bieber (14-7, 3,17 ERA) in a matchup of All-Star pitchers.