CLEVELAND (AP) — Mike Clevinger pitched effectively in his first start since breaking COVID-19 protocols and his teammates’ trust, and Tyler Naquin doubled home the go-ahead run in Cleveland’s three-run eighth inning as the Indians beat the Minnesota Twins 6-3 on Wednesday night to tighten the AL Central.
Clevinger gave up a homer to Max Kepler on his third pitch, but settled in and held the Twins to two runs over six innings in his first start since Aug. 5.
His return meant more than his resume.
Three days after his last outing, Clevinger and teammate Zach Plesac left the team’s Chicago hotel, socialized outside the team’s “bubble,” missed curfew and caused a rift inside the clubhouse.
All seems to be mostly forgiven as Clevinger was welcomed back and the Indians won two of three in the series to close within one-half game of the first-place Twins.
José Ramírez hit a three-run homer in the third and Naquin doubled off Sergio Romo (0-1) in the eighth to break a 3-3 tie. Greg Allen followed with a sacrifice fly, much to the delight of Ramírez and Francisco Lindor, who aimed much of their dugout commentary at the bearded, animated Romo.
Phil Maton (2-0) picked up the win in relief and Brad Hand worked the ninth for his ninth save.
Ramírez put Clevinger and the Indians up 3-2 in the third with his sixth homer, a shot off starter José Berríos that clanged off the base of the foul pole in right.
Clevinger was barely back on the mound when he was down 1-0 after Kepler drove his 94 mph fastball over the wall and onto the tarp-covered seats in right field.
Clevinger and Plesac were demoted by the Indians in the aftermath of violating the team’s code of conduct implemented to keep players, coaches and staff safe from the coronavirus.
Before the game, Indians interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr., filling in while Terry Francona recovers from surgery, said Clevinger apologized to his teammates Tuesday night.
Alomar said his pregame message to Clevinger would be: “Just be yourself and pitch your game.”
Clevinger did his normal pregame bullpen warmup, and as he walked back to the Indians dugout, he stopped and shared a few fist bumps and pleasantries with teammates.
BIGGER THAN BALL
As they’ve done all season, Indians players wore T-shirts saying “End Racism” and other justice-related slogans during batting practice. About the same time they were warming up, the NBA postponed three playoff games as teams boycotted to protest the shooting by police of a Black man in Wisconsin.
“It’s great to see, especially Black men, using their platform to kind of take a stand and use their voice for a bigger purpose than just playing a sport,” Indians rookie Triston McKenzie said.
Twins: Kepler left after fouling a ball of his foot during his at-bat in the second. The team said he’s day-to-day with a bruise. He made a running catch on a drive by Franmil Ryes to the first. … RHP Tyler Clippard pitched for the first time since being hit in the forearm by a comebacker Sunday.
Twins: Randy Dobnak (5-1) will start the opener of a four-game series Friday in Detroit.
Indians: Following an off day, Cleveland opens a three-game series in St. Louis with McKenzie making his second start. The skinny, 6-foot-5 right-hander struck out 10 in six innings while making his major league debut last week.
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