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Twins 3, Cleveland 1: Bullpen Dominates as Twins Take Series | Twins Daily

With Homer Bailey placed on the Injured List due to a bicep injury, Rocco Baldelli was forced to go with a bullpen game Sunday against Cleveland. Six Twins pitchers combined to hold Cleveland to just one run, as Minnesota took the game and the series, 3-1.

Box Score

Home Runs: Garver (1)

Top 3 WPA: Clippard .105, Wisler .084, Smeltzer/May/Romo .083

Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs):

It was more of the same in the final game of the series against Cleveland. Just like we saw happening several times this week, the offense provided the early lead and the pitching held on to it brilliantly during the whole game. This is the first 7-2 start for the Twins since 2001.

Tyler Clippard said after the game, "Obviously, they're definitely going to be one of the teams that will be at the top of our division. So it was really nice to win three out of four from them."

The Twins announced on Saturday night that Homer Bailey, the starter who was supposed to pitch on Sunday, was pushed for the Monday series opener against the Pirates. With that, the club decided to use the “opener” strategy, choosing Tyler Clippard to start the game. Moments before the first pitch, the team announced that Bailey was being placed on 10-day injured list, with Sean Poppen being recalled to replace him.

Clippard made the most of this opportunity, providing Minnesota with two perfect innings. Inducing a lot of weak contact, he managed to retire all batters he faced with only 21 pitches. In his support, the Twins’ new trademark early offense provided him with one run in each of his innings.

After Max Kepler hit a leadoff triple (which upon challenge was turned into a ground-rule double), he was later brought home by a weak, opposite-field single by Polanco. The exit velocity of that single was 56.6 MPH. In the second inning, Mitch Garver broke his curse and hit his first home run of the year, a solo leadoff shot to center left.

Devin Smeltzer took over in the third inning and had a solid outing, bouncing back from his first rough first appearance in Chicago. He was one out away from completing three innings of one-run ball, giving up two hits and a walk. He also had some run support. After Kepler doubled to leadoff the third, Nelson Cruz hit a ground ball up the middle to bring him home, making it 3-0 Twins. Smeltzer allowed a leadoff double from César Hernández to score in the fourth, when Francisco Lindor hit a hard single. However, he was caught trying to stretch it into a double by a laser throw from Eddie Rosario. Rocco Baldelli took him off the game after back-to-back strikeouts in the fifth, on nine pitches.

Is the offense still cold?

Wins are coming and that’s obviously the most important thing. But is the Twins offense going through a bit of a slump? After the RBI-single from Cruz in the third, the following 13 Minnesota batters were retired consecutively, before Marwin Gonzalez his a leadoff single in the eighth. If you consider the lineup that started today’s game your best one (maybe replacing Gonzáles with Josh Donaldson), it is now combining for a team OPS of roughly .644. How worried should we be?

Matt Wisler, Tyler Duffey and Trevor May went on to pitch three scoreless innings, not allowing a single hit and striking out six, compensating for the offense slow afternoon. Wisler took over in relief of Smeltzer in the fifth and managed to face the top of Cleveland’s order in the sixth. He gave up a walk to Hernández, but retired the remaining Indian batters, including a strikeout against José Ramírez. Both him and Duffey have yet to allow a run in the season.

Sergio Romo was chosen to close the game in a save situation and after a lenghty at-bat against Ramírez, he managed to retire Lindor and Carlos Santana without much trouble.

MItch Garver said after the game, "We have a really good back end of the bullpen. Like today, we can go to Romo if we need a save situation and we're all very comfortable with him having the ball."

The bullpen new it had a big job to do on Sunday. Clippard said, "We really take pride in games like this as a bullpen, getting the job done and helping our team win by putting up zeroes. It's a good feeling, and it's nice to be a part of it."

Seth Stohs contributed the quotes to this story.

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