By Jordan Bastian and August Fagerstrom
MLB.com |@MLBastian |
CLEVELAND -- Torii Hunter defied his age and turned in a vintage four-hit performance on Friday night, powering the resurgent Twins to a 9-3 win over the Indians in the opener of a three-game series at Progressive Field.
The 39-year-old Hunter went 4-for-4, launched his fourth home run of the season, pounded out a pair of doubles and collected four RBIs to lead Minnesota, which has won eight of its past nine games to run its record to 17-13. That offensive showing, which left Hunter a triple short of the cycle, was more than sufficient in helping support a strong seven-inning effort from starter Mike Pelfrey (3-0).
"He got us going with the double and it just kind of continued," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "After he got a little bit of a brushback on a changeup -- which isn't usually intentional -- he got another one and deposited that. The big hit of the night though was when we separated ourselves when we cleared the bases with two outs. I know he was thinking triple, but it wasn't going to happen. But it was a heck of a night for him."
Cleveland's lone breakthrough against Pelfrey came in the third inning, when first baseman Carlos Santana came through with an RBI double and Lonnie Chisenhall added a run-scoring single for the Indians. Pelfrey allowed two runs on six hits, ending with two walks, no strikeouts and 14 groundouts.
"It was another one of those starts we talked about where he started off fairly well and hit a little bit of a hiccup there in the third inning," Molitor said. "I don't know, it just seems like every start he goes out there, he kind of runs into a little bit of a command problem. I think at one point the strike-to-ball ratio was almost 50/50. But he found it again and all of a sudden it looked like he was in pitch count danger, but he was able to somehow get through seven."
Hunter's performance highlighted a strong effort against Indians starter Trevor Bauer (2-1), who took the loss after yielding five runs on nine hits with five strikeouts and no walks in five-plus innings. Joe Mauer, Eddie Rosario and Kennys Vargas each added an RBI single for the Twins in the victory.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Not shaken, nor stirred: Hunter did a lot of damage against the Indians, but his biggest swing came one pitch after a high-and-tight offering from Bauer in the fifth inning. One pitch after being brushed back, Hunter deposited an 84-mph Bauer changeup into the bleachers in left field, his second homer against the Indians this season.
"I was trying to throw the pitch that I tried to throw [on the previous one]," Bauer said. "He hit everything else I threw, so I figured I'd try that one, and he hit that one, too. The guy had a great night, obviously. Smoked everything he saw." More >
Double trouble: After the Indians struck for two runs in the third inning, pulling the game into a 2-2 tie, Bauer allowed a leadoff double to Trevor Plouffe to begin the fourth. That eventually set up an RBI single by Vargas, giving Minnesota the lead for good. It was also a theme on the evening for Bauer, who allowed three leadoff doubles, which each led to a run for the Twins.
"I think tonight was the first night all year I really got hit hard," Bauer said. "[That's] baseball, you know? I thought I threw the ball better tonight than I did my last two. Props to them -- they hit everything. They hit strikes, they hit balls. They hit every different pitch."
Santana slips up: With runners on the corners and one out in the sixth inning, Jordan Schafer laid down a sacrifice bunt. Santana over-ran the roller and did not pluck it from the grass, resulting in an error that scored one run and allowed Schafer to reach safely. Later in the inning, Hunter delivered a three-run double, which gave the Twins an 8-2 lead and added three unearned runs on reliever Nick Hagadone's line.
"He was going to try to field it and come home," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He was ready for that because that's what Schafer does in that situation, and he left it on the ground. I mean, he popped off there pretty good. He was ready for that exact play -- it was just going to be a heck of one. That was a pretty good bunt."
Staying grounded: Molitor mentioned before the game that one of Pelfrey's issues had been the game speeding up on him when he had a bad inning. That wasn't an issue after a two-run third inning tied the score at 2. Pelfrey led the inning off with a walk and a double. He didn't allow a run the rest of the game, and he did it via the ground ball. Pelfrey didn't strike out a single batter, but induced 14 outs via the grounder to limit the damage. More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Hunter's outpouring against the Tribe marked only the second time in his 19-year career that he collected at least three extra-base hits, four hits and four RBIs in a game. He also accomplished the feat a decade ago on June 1, 2005, also against Cleveland. Hunter now has five career games with at least three extra-base hits and four hits.
On Mauer's RBI single in the first inning, the Twins first baseman was initially credited with a double. Francona challenged the play, during which Brantley made an on-target throw from left field to second baseman Jason Kipnis, as Mauer slid into the bag. After a review of two minutes and four seconds, the original call was overturned. Mauer was out and Brantley was credited with his third assist of the season.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins:Phil Hughes (1-4, 5.02 ERA) will look to right the ship and return to his dominant 2014 form after a disappointing start to the 2015 season Saturday at 3:10 p.m. CT. The homer bug -- which plagued Hughes throughout his career before disappearing last season -- has returned in a big way. It was a first-inning grand slam that did him in during his last start, and he's given up eight already in six starts, after allowing 16 all of last season.
Indians: Cleveland is planning on promoting veteran left-hander Bruce Chen from Triple-A Columbus in order to start on Saturday against the Twins. The 37-year-old Chen -- signed to a Minor League contract in the offseason -- posted a 1.74 ERA with 23 strikeouts and three walks in 31 innings (five starts) for Columbus prior to the call to the bigs.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.