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Bullpen falters in walk-off loss against Twins

Encarnacion's two-homer, four-RBI day spoiled by Minnesota home runs
MLB.com @MLBastian

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians tried going off the plate inside on Sunday. They tried throwing pitches below the zone. They went outside and painted the black. They tried fastballs and changeups and curveballs and cutters.

None of it mattered to Eddie Rosario. He seemingly hit everything.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians tried going off the plate inside on Sunday. They tried throwing pitches below the zone. They went outside and painted the black. They tried fastballs and changeups and curveballs and cutters.

None of it mattered to Eddie Rosario. He seemingly hit everything.

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"It's pretty challenging," Indians catcher Yan Gomes said after a tough 7-5 loss to the Twins at Target Field. "I can say we didn't quite figure it out. The guy is on a streak right now. Anytime he puts the bat on the ball, it's been driven somewhere."

In the finale of a four-game series in Minneapolis, Rosario belted a trio of home runs, including a two-run, walk-off shot against an elevated fastball from closer Cody Allen in the ninth inning. Yes, Cleveland's persistent bullpen problems were present once again in the defeat -- the third in a row to Minnesota -- but Rosario's offensive feast featured scratch-your-head swings.

Rosario's performance also was effective in erasing the impact of Edwin Encarnacion's two-homer, four-RBI showing for Cleveland.

During Saturday's loss, Rosario pulled a cutter well off the plate and in on the hands from Trevor Bauer out to left field for a homer. The frustrated pitcher remarked that it was, "in his own batter's box, so whatever." In the first inning Sunday, starter Mike Clevinger fired a fastball far outside. Rosario flicked his wrists, offered a half-swing and wound up with a homer to left.

As Rosario rounded the bases, Clevinger stared out at the left-field stands in disbelief.

"It actually looked like it was a ball," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That makes you nervous."

Nervous and a little confused, perhaps.

Tweet from @MLBastian: Here are the pitches Eddie Rosario connected on for hits in this series (1st pic is Games 1-3, 2nd pic is Sunday). Said Indians catcher Yan Gomes: "I can say we didn���t quite figure it out." pic.twitter.com/uIDzLFSyGm

"That's got to be up there as one of those homers where I quite haven't seen that happen," Gomes said. "And I think he's done two of them. One with the ball over his head. The ball [from Clevinger] was a foot or so off the corner and it just looked like he threw his bat out there. That seems to be what he's doing right now with every pitch."

In the sixth inning, Francona tried to squeeze a few extra pitches out of Clevinger, given the state of the Indians' relief corps. The move backfired when the Tribe starter surrendered a leadoff home run to Brian Dozier that pulled the game into a tie at 4. With Rosario looming again, Francona then handed the ball to lefty Tyler Olson.

Olson's second pitch was a curveball that tailed inside and out of the strike zone. Once again, Rosario pulled his hands in, made good contact and watched the ball fly out to right field for his second home run of the game.

"He's on a good roll right now," said Clevinger, who walked away with a no-decision after giving up four runs on seven hits in his six-plus frames. "He's swinging a hot bat. I think we attacked him appropriately. Just some good swings and had a lot of luck in his favor."

Video: CLE@MIN: Clevinger strikes out Morrison swinging

Rosario's second shot gave the Twins a 5-4 advantage that proved short-lived, given the game-tying solo blast Michael Brantley delivered in the eighth inning off Addison Reed. With the contest again in a deadlock, Francona handed the ball to his closer, but Allen was the latest in a line of Tribe pitchers unable to solve Rosario.

After issuing a leadoff walk to Dozier in the ninth, Rosario swatted Allen's fastball out to center, sinking the Tribe. That lifted Cleveland's bullpen ERA to a Major League-high 6.02 on the season. Indians relievers have also posted baseball's worst homer-to-flyball ratio (16.9) and highest Fielding Independent Pitching (5.01).

"We're just not getting people out right now," Allen said. "We're not getting people out consistently enough to give our offense a chance to win ballgames for us. … It's hard to win games when you're constantly losing leads or not giving them a chance to get back in the game. It's been a struggle."

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Edwin on Target: Twins starter Kyle Gibson was perfect through the first 12 batters he faced, but Encarnacion ended that run with a towering leadoff blast in the fifth inning that traveled a projected 434 feet, per Statcast™. One inning later, Encarnacion smoked a pitch from Ryan Pressly 110-mph off the bat for a three-run homer that reached Target Field's third deck beyond left field. The second home run pushed the Indians ahead temporarily, 4-3.

Video: CLE@MIN: Encarnacion crushes 2 homers vs. Twins

"I thought today was one of those days where he put us on his shoulders and we won," Francona said. "Well, we didn't and it kills you. But, if he starts to heat up like that, like it looks like, boy, that would be tremendous."

For his career, Encarnacion now boasts a .301/.409/.647 slash line with 38 RBIs and nearly as many walks (25) as strikeouts (26) in 37 games at Target Field. He also has 15 home runs, the most by an opposing batter in the stadium's history, which dates back to 2010.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the second, Ryan LaMarre drove an inside fastball from Clevinger deep into the left-center-field gap at Target Field with no outs and a runner on first base. Battling strong winds, center fielder Bradley Zimmer broke to his right and quickly closed in as the baseball appeared destined to drop in front of the wall. Zimmer left his feet and reached for the ball with a fully-extended dive, snaring it from the sky as he landed on the edge of the grass and slid into the warning track dirt.

Video: Must C Catch: Zimmer lays out for spectacular grab

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
In the seventh inning, Gomes lifted a pitch from lefty Taylor Rogers to deep left field, where the ball bounced off the top of the cement wall behind the padding. The baseball shot back into play, but Gomes was held at second with a double. Francona discussed things over with the umpires, who consulted a replay review, which confirmed that the hit was not a home run. One play later, a bunt gone wrong led to Gomes being thrown out at second by Twins catcher Bobby Wilson.

Video: CLE@MIN: Gomes doubles off wall, call stands in 7th

SOUND SMART
Rosario was not just a thorn in the Tribe's side on Sunday. He has a long track record of tormenting Cleveland's pitchers. In 54 career games against the Indians, Rosario has hit .342 (69-for-202) with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs. He has more hits and runs scored (33) against Cleveland than any other opponent.

UP NEXT
Following an off-day on Monday, the Indians will send ace Corey Kluber (8-2, 2.02 ERA) to the mound on Tuesday, when the Tribe hosts the Brewers in a 7:10 p.m. ET Interleague game at Progressive Field. Kluber is riding a streak of 112 batters faced with no walks and has a 0.68 ERA in his past four turns. Righty Junior Guerra (3-3, 2.65 ERA) is slated to start for Milwaukee.

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

Cleveland Indians, Edwin Encarnacion