CLEVELAND -- Trevor May said that he was annoyed as he entered this series against the Indians.
Annoyed that the Twins’ American League Central lead had been cut in half by Cleveland’s successful run before the All-Star break. Annoyed that he was hearing an undertone of ‘Don’t blow it’ on social media.
“[The Indians] were annoyed with being told that they're behind and trying not to get too far behind, and we're annoyed with being told that we're going to blow it,” May said. “You don't want to hear that, ever. But you're going to go out and just have a little extra. That's the way that I think about it as a competitor. The game's more fun that way.”
Regardless of how Sunday’s game ended, the Twins had already accomplished the goal of halting Cleveland’s momentum by seizing the series victory against the surging Indians. But still, after the game, May remained annoyed -- because he’d given up the game-winning homer to Carlos Santana in the eighth inning that allowed the Tribe to escape a series sweep in a 4-3 win over the Twins at Progressive Field.
“We want to beat these guys every single time we play them,” May said. “Especially when they go out and get a performance like [Shane] Bieber had and you're able to scrape back into that game, that's one you want to steal. And I think that's what hurts the most.”
Even though the Twins didn’t get ace José Berríos’ best outing and saw their lineup shut down by Bieber for most of the afternoon, they still clawed their way back into the game with a pair of borderline hit-by-pitches and several clutch hits in a three-run rally in the seventh inning.
Despite Santana’s decisive homer, the Twins departed Cleveland having extended their lead in the AL Central over their closest competitors, and they forced the Indians to fight to avoid a sweep at home.
In short, the Twins hope they made a statement.
“I think we showed them why we are in first place in the division,” Berrios said. “We competed, and just moving forward, [we’ll] just keep having fun.”
Bieber had held the Twins’ offense to only a pair of singles and a double through the first six frames, but the bats came to life in the seventh in part due to wildness from the Cleveland right-hander and advantageous replay reviews on not one, but two balls that appeared to hit the knob of the bat but were ultimately ruled hit-by-pitches upon review.
Luis Arraez took a leadoff walk, and Mitch Garver took a ball off the knob of the bat that was ruled a hit-by-pitch on the field and upheld following a challenge from Indians manager Terry Francona. After singles from Marwin Gonzalez (RBI) and Miguel Sanó, Jake Cave was also hit on the knob of the bat. The play was originally ruled a foul ball before being overturned to a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch, following a challenge by Twins skipper Rocco Baldelli.
That led to Max Kepler’s bloop RBI single that briefly tied the game before Santana’s solo shot in the bottom of the frame allowed the Indians to regain the lead.
“It's just one of those weird days where we had to go out and grind a bunch of hitters on base and try to get them in,” May said. “They just got their solo shot, that was it. … If I go out and throw a 1-2-3 inning, the ball is back in our court, and they're throwing with a little more pressure.”
Even after Santana’s go-ahead homer, the Twins kept the pressure on with an Arraez leadoff double in the eighth, and only a pair of stellar defensive plays by the Indians -- a diving stop by third baseman Jose Ramirez and a sliding grab by center fielder Greg Allen -- prevented Minnesota from plating the tying run.
With 10 games yet to be contested between the Twins and Indians through the end of the regular season, that’s what May hopes that Cleveland will take away from this series: The sense of fight in this Twins team, and the idea that the tide may be fully turning for supremacy in the division.
“[Cleveland is] the team that's been the head of our division for the last couple of years,” May said. “I've been here for a while now. It was Detroit when I first got here, then it became Kansas City, and then it was the Indians. Now, it's our turn. We want to be that team that everyone doesn't like because we're winning the division all the time. It's our turn now.”
Berrios records 500th strikeout
Despite not having the best command of his pitches in the first inning, Berrios settled down and completed five innings on 92 pitches while holding the Indians to three runs. He finished his outing with strikeouts of Bobby Bradley and Jake Bauers in the fifth, bringing his career strikeout total to 500.
Berrios reached 500 strikeouts in 91 games, becoming the fastest player in franchise history -- in terms of games -- to attain the milestone. Bert Blyleven had previously been the fastest to 500, having done so in the first 92 games of his career.
"I didn't feel like my three pitches were 100 percent today, but I kept battling and tried to give my team an opportunity to win the game,” Berrios said.