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Tribe's dominant relief duo seals win vs. Twins

Ramirez, Encarnacion combine for five RBIs in victory
July 31, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS -- The man on the mound for the Twins in the seventh inning on Tuesday may have looked familiar to Tribe fans. Then again, Cleveland has cycled through so many relievers this season that Matt Belisle's time with the Indians might seem like a distant memory.Once upon a time,

MINNEAPOLIS -- The man on the mound for the Twins in the seventh inning on Tuesday may have looked familiar to Tribe fans. Then again, Cleveland has cycled through so many relievers this season that Matt Belisle's time with the Indians might seem like a distant memory.
Once upon a time, Belisle was a member of the Indians' Opening Day bullpen -- a cast of characters that started with seven and has since grown to a list 22 players long. In a 6-2 victory over the Twins at Target Field, the Tribe's lineup scored a pair of key insurance runs off the veteran right-hander, and then Cleveland's retooled relief corps finished the job.
"It's hard to root against him, because we like him so much," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Belisle. "Obviously, not tonight. But, he's one of the most standup guys I've ever met, and that doesn't change when a guy goes to a different uniform."
Back on July 19, the American League Central-leading Indians (58-48) helped jumpstart the trade season by acquiring All-Star closer Brad Hand and right-handed sidearmer Adam Cimber from the Padres in exchange for catching prospect Francisco Mejia. For those scoring at home, Hand and Cimber became Nos. 21 and 22, respectively, on Cleveland's 2018 relief list.

Following 6 1/3 innings from starter Trevor Bauer, who limited the damage of the four walks he issued, Hand took over and record four outs across the seventh and eighth innings. The southpaw then gave up a double to Max Kepler, but Cody Allen entered and induced a flyout off the bat of Miguel Sano to sidestep harm.
Allen then worked around a walk and a single in the ninth, holding the Twins in check to put the period on the win and register his 21st save. In other games featuring both Hand and Allen, the latter entered first with recently acquired lefty finishing the game. Tuesday's usage was the latest example of how Francona does not assign innings, instead focusing on matchups.
"It makes a lot of sense," Allen said. "I think, first and foremost, you have to have the personnel that's able to do it, and we've been very fortunate here for a number of years to have a lot of guys down there that can handle multiple situations."
The Indians bullpen entered Tuesday with a 5.05 ERA, which ranked 27th in the Majors, but it remains heavily skewed by the 8.01 ERA turned in during an atrocious May. Back then, Belisle was a roster casualty due to the combination of poor production and being out of Minor League options. The Indians had a revolving door of relievers that has only recently stopped spinning.
"It's part of the game. We're all professionals," Allen said. "We have to go through it, but yeah, [the high rate of turnover] does make it a little difficult."
The bullpen woes have held Cleveland back from firing on all cylinders this season, but the team made that aspect of the roster a top priority during the trade season. The Tribe should also have lefty Andrew Miller back from the disabled list in the near future. Years from now, when the sting wears off, a fun exercise will be trying to recall all 22 players used in relief.

Allen will be an easy name to remember, along with the likes of Miller, Hand and bullpen regulars like Dan Otero and Zach McAllister. The tricky ones will include a position player pitching (Brandon Guyer), a starter getting a rare relief assignment (Carlos Carrasco) and the assortment of arms that came and went like Marc Rzepczynski, Oliver Drake and George Kontos, among others.
To back Bauer's outing on Tuesday night, the Indians lineup struck for three runs against Twins starter Kyle Gibson over his six innings. Jose Ramirez capped off a two-run outburst in the third with an RBI double and then added a run-scoring single in the fifth.
Belisle took over for Minnesota with Cleveland clinging to a 3-2 lead and allowed a two-run single to Edwin Encarnacion, which helped the Tribe pull away.

Cleveland is hoping it has finally dug itself out of the bullpen mess.
"Those guys have been really good since they came over," said Bauer, referring to Hand and Cimber. "It looks like adding those guys has allowed other people to fill the roles that they're here to fill and they traditionally fill. When guys get taken out of their roles and asked to do stuff that they're not normally asked to do, stuff happens. I think it's added stability.
"It's still fresh. Hopefully, we can get Andrew back healthy in the coming weeks and get a look at what our 'pen should be the rest of the year. I think that's an exciting thought -- you add him to the mix with the guys that we have down there right now."
Rare roundtripper: Not only did Bauer head into Tuesday's start with an MLB-leading home run rate (0.37 per nine innings), but no opponent had cleared the fence against his new slider. That changed in the sixth inning, when Logan Morrison deposited one up in the zone on an 0-2 count over Target Field's right-center-field wall for a solo home run.
"Their approach was just odd," Bauer said. "I could tell in the first inning that something was different. It took me a couple innings to figure out that their whole approach was just to look for offspeed stuff on two strikes and just punch the ball and not strike out. So that changes the gameplan a little bit.
"A frustrating outing, personally, but things to build on. And then, obviously, the team won. That's the ultimate goal every time I go out."

Thanks for playing: With the acquisition of center fielder Leonys Martin from the Tigers on Tuesday, Indians outfielder Greg Allen is ticketed for Triple-A Columbus again. Allen was given the start in center and slotted into the lineup's nine hole on Tuesday and he responded with three singles and three runs scored.
"He played a nice game tonight," said Francona, who noted that he met with Allen after the game. "He's certainly a kid we think so highly of. We just wanted to make sure he understood that and nothing gets in the way of his development, because he's got a chance to be an everyday center fielder for us. You don't ever want him to forget that."

Per Statcast™, Bauer entered the night with an MLB-leading 51 called strikeouts this season. All three of the right-hander's strikeouts against the Twins were of the looking variety, adding to that total. Each came via Bauer's two-seam fastball.
Carrasco (12-5, 3.89 ERA) is slated to start for the Tribe on Wednesday, when the Twins host the Indians at 1:10 p.m ET at Target Field. Newly acquired center fielder Leonys Martin is expected to be in Minnesota for his first game with Cleveland, too. The Twins will counter with lefty Adalberto Mejia (1-0, 3.65). The game can be seen exclusively on Facebook.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.