Triston McKenzie, Indians take first game; Twins gain DH split

Wednesday, September 15, 2021
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Minnesota Twins’ pitcher Joe Ryan (74) looks at his wrist while walking off the field after getting hit by line drive from Cleveland Indians’ Myles Straw (7) during the sixth inning of the first baseball game of a doubleheader Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, in Minneapolis. Cleveland won 3-1. AP PHOTO

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Triston McKenzie was sent to Triple-A four times this season, as the lanky 24-year-old worked through some early struggles.

Now Cleveland has another budding star pitcher, turning in one stellar start after another.

McKenzie cruised through six innings of the first game of a doubleheader to beat Minnesota 3-1 on Tuesday, when a comebacker off the wrist of Twins rookie Joe Ryan shortened the pitching duel. Ryan Jeffers had four RBIs in the nightcap as the Twins gained a split with a 6-3 victory.

“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,” McKenzie said. “The past month a half, past two months, has just been a culmination of all the work.”

McKenzie (5-6) had seven strikeouts, including Byron Buxton three times, with just three hits, one run and one walk allowed. He recorded his fifth straight outing of six innings or more and one run or less and has retired 96 of the last 112 batters he’s faced.

“When he needs to throw a strike, he’s been able to put multiple pitches that he has in the strike zone,” acting Indians manager DeMarlo Hale said.

After starter Charlie Barnes gave up back-to-back RBI doubles to Amed Rosario and José Ramírez in a threerun third, the Twins used a four-run fourth inning against Indians starter Logan Allen (1-7) to rally in the second game.

Jeffers hit a two-run double, Willians Astudillo added an RBI double and Nick Gordon gave them the lead with an RBI single. Jeffers then added a two-run shot in the sixth for his 13th homer this season, and Kyle Barraclough (1-0) pitched a perfect fifth for his first victory with the Twins. Alex Colomé picked up his 14th save in 20 attempts with a scoreless seventh.

Jeffers has been thriving lately as the everyday catcher with Mitch Garver sidelined.

“I know I can be one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. I know I can be one of the best defensive catchers in baseball,” Jeffers said. “Just continuing to work and continuing to grow and get better every day really is possible by staying in the lineup. Who knows what the next couple years entail, but I want to be that guy catching 120 games, 130 games.”

The Indians have just 18 hits and 10 runs over their last five games, including the third no-hitter thrown against them this season. That was on Saturday by NL Central-leading Milwaukee.

There were a few signs of batting life in the first game. Bradley Zimmer tied it in the fifth off Ryan with a home run off the shutters fronting the parking ramp behind the second deck in right field.

Austin Hedges hit a goahead RBI double in a tworun seventh against Danny Coulombe (3-2), before Emmanuel Clase closed it out with a perfect seventh for his 23rd save in 27 chances.

“Hopefully it kind of can continue on throughout the remainder of this season, but I saw some good things tonight with some guys having some good at-bats and staying on the ball,” Hale said.

Ryan beat McKenzie in Cleveland last week, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning of a 3-0 victory by Minnesota.

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