MINNEAPOLIS — Newcomers Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes engaged with their new teammates in a high-volume conversation, the jokes seeming to flow easily between the two arrivals from the trade deadline.
With an infusion of liveliness in Puig and Reyes and now a tie for the American League Central lead, the Indians are feeling good.
Shane Bieber pitched into the eighth inning, José Ramírez had three hits and Cleveland pulled into a tie in the Central with a 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.
“We were all super excited coming into this series and I think you’ve seen that the first few games,” Bieber said. “It’s just an incredible group to be able to do this … being back tied at the top is a huge deal for us, and really for everybody. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of right now.”
The Indians trailed Minnesota by 11½ games on June 3 before putting together a 41-16 run, the best record in the majors since June 4. The Twins are 30-28 in those games and their division lead finally slipped away with their first four-game losing streak of the season.
“I think you find out more about your team when things aren’t going well,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “We were 28-29 and they kept at it enough to be able to get hot, not bury ourselves.”
Bieber (12-4) allowed a pair of home runs but struck out 11 batters in seven innings. The All-Star MVP owns a 1.69 ERA over his last four starts, pitching at least seven innings in each outing.
Devin Smeltzer (1-2) surrendered six runs in 4 1/3 innings for the Twins.
Jason Castro and Eddie Rosario homered for Minnesota, which broke its franchise record for home runs in a season with its majors-leading total of 226.
“It’s not an ideal start to the series,” Twins first baseman C.J. Cron said. “But at the same time, there’s a lot of baseball left, and we’re excited to get back out there tomorrow.”
Minnesota’s powerful offense hasn’t been able to overcome the team’s starting pitching recently. In losing the past four games, the starters have surrendered 28 runs before the offense scored and have given up 28 runs in 20 1/3 innings over that stretch.
“It’s an odd little run,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We’re going to turn this little kind of spurt around. Our pitchers are going to throw the ball better, and we’re going to be fine.”
Cleveland couldn’t capitalize against a shaky Smeltzer early, but made him pay in a five-run fifth inning. Smeltzer and reliever Tyler Duffey allowed five straight hits, including a two-run double by Ramírez.
Ramírez’s slow start was one reason the Indians faced the large deficit in the division. The two-time All-Star was hitting .201 as of June 20, but has hit .338 with 17 doubles, 11 home runs and 33 RBIs since. He has an extra-base hit in eight straight games.
“It seems like he’s batting like six times a game just because of the impact he has,” Bieber said. “I’m sure it seems like that, maybe even more, for the other team.”
Rosario’s homer, his 25th of the season in the sixth inning, broke the franchise mark of 225 set in 1963. The Twins are 41 homers away from breaking the all-time major league mark set last season by the New York Yankees.
Right-handed pitcher Randy Dobnak made his major league debut for Minnesota with four innings in relief, continuing his rise through the Twins’ system this season.
Dobnak started the season with Single-A Ft. Myers and made stops at three minor league levels before being called up to the majors. Undrafted out of Division II Alderson-Broaddus, Dobnak pitched in an independent league before signing with Minnesota in July 2017.
Indians: OF Bradley Zimmer (right shoulder rehab) will play designated hitter for Goodyear in an Arizona summer league game on Saturday. Francona said if all goes well, Zimmer would play in the outfield “later in the week.” … RHP Dan Otero (right shoulder inflammation) threw 20 pitches in appearance for Triple-A Columbus on Thursday.
Twins: DH Nelson Cruz was placed on the injured list with a ruptured tendon in his left wrist, but the team is expressing optimism that Cruz will return after 10 days. Cruz injured the wrist on a swing in Thursday’s game and reported feeling no pain when he arrived to the ballpark on Friday. … RHP Michael Pineda (right triceps strain) has been playing catch but there is no timeline for him to throw a bullpen session.
Indians: RHP Adam Plutko (4-2, 4.55 ERA) will start Saturday after beating the Los Angeles Angels in his last start with one run allowed in 5 1/3 innings.
Twins: RHP Jake Odorizzi (12-5, 3.61) will try to beat Cleveland for the second time this season. The All-Star gave up one run in 5 1/3 innings against the Indians on the road on July 13, and has allowed one run in each of his past two starts.