MINNEAPOLIS -- Triston McKenzie continued his late-season momentum with six strong innings, catcher Austin Hedges provided the winning tally with an RBI double in the seventh and the Indians beat the Twins, 3-1, in the opening game of Tuesday’s split doubleheader in Minnesota to snap their three-game losing streak.
McKenzie (5-6) allowed one run on three hits in his second straight start against the Twins, striking out seven. He has allowed one run or fewer in each of his last five starts, going at least six innings each time.
Since the calendar turned to August, and following a pair of demotions to Triple-A, McKenzie has allowed nine earned runs in 46 innings (1.76 ERA) over seven starts.
“After I got sent down, that was pretty much the sole purpose of me going down there, to figure out my control and figure out how to attack the strike zone, how to get guys out in the zone as opposed to trying to be out of the zone all the time,” McKenzie said. “I feel like the past month and a half, past two months, has just been a culmination of all the work that was put in from the beginning of the season to now.”
McKenzie had walked 35 batters over 41 2/3 innings in his first 10 games this year, and had six starts with at least four walks. Since returning from Triple-A for good on July 9, he has 11 free passes in 67 innings, with only one start with more than one walk.
“I think early in the year, he was losing his fastball out of the hand, noncompetitive pitches,” Hedges said. “Now, every pitch is competitive and he gets ahead. ... If you’re trying to get to his fastball, I think, his curveball and his slider have come a long way. They’re tight pitches that we can throw in any count.”
Emmanuel Clase added his 23rd save in 27 chances, including 12 straight.
Bradley Zimmer snapped an 0-for-13 streak with his seventh homer of the year, a towering, 451-foot shot to the top of the second deck in right field. Zimmer had gone 4-for-33 (.121) with no extra-base hits over his previous 11 games.
Zimmer has shown impressive power. Four of his seven home runs this year have traveled at least 446 feet, and he has Cleveland’s two longest home runs of the season -- a 471-foot homer on Aug. 9, and a 465-foot shot on Aug. 26.
“I wish I could have the camera on myself at all times when he hits because when he gets balls, they go so, so far,” McKenzie said. “I was so ecstatic in the dugout.”