MINNEAPOLIS -- It only took a couple of pitches for the Twins on Friday night to realize things were vastly different than the previous evening, when right-hander Shane Bieber shut down their high-octane offense.
Max Kepler got ahead 2-0 in the count against Cleveland right-hander Mike Clevinger, something that didn't happen much the night before. Three pitches later, Kepler launched a 444-foot home run to right, and the Twins were on their way to a 4-1 victory in the second game of a four-game series at Target Field on Friday night.
The Twins scored four runs over the first two innings and watched right-hander Randy Dobnak survive battle after battle as he picked up his first victory of the season and third of his young career; two of those are against Cleveland. But one setback for the Twins on Friday was the loss of third baseman Josh Donaldson, who left the game early because of a tight right calf; the team said the former AL MVP is day-to-day.
The Twins forced Clevenger to throw a whopping 38 pitches in the first inning. Well, it might have been more that Clevinger couldn't find the strike zone, and the Twins made him pay.
After Kepler's home run, Donaldson singled and Nelson Cruz walked. Eddie Rosario then swing at 1-2 fastball that was nearly neck high and laced it to the right-center field wall. Both runners scored to give the Twins a 3-0 lead.
Alex Avila, getting the start behind the plate instead of Mitch Garver, got a fastball clocked at 94 miles per hour on the inside corner to start the second inning and turned on it, driving it into the seats in right for a home run and a 4-0 lead, a lead the Twins would take into the late innings, thanks in large part to Dobnak.
The rookie right-hander kept runs off the board on Friday, but it wasn't pretty. But he fought for every out, with some at-bats taking a while.
Dobnak battled Domingo Santana through a 10-pitch plate appearance in the third before walking the outfielder. Dobnak got into it with Oscar Mercado in the third inning that lasted nine innings before he struck him out. Santana returned in the fifth for an 11-pitch plate appearances that ended with a walk.
In two plate appearances against Dobnak, Santana saw 21 pitches. That is not normal.
Part of the issue depends on how you look at the 30 foul balls Cleveland hit off Dobnak on Friday. Either Dobnak was avoiding hard contact or he wasn't doing enough to put hitters away. That fueled an interesting pitching line: Five scoreless innings on only three hits and just two walks with four strikeouts. But the right-hander needed 94 pitches to do it, so he was done after five innings.
Franmil Reyes came through for Cleveland in the sixth with a scratch RBI double -- a slow grounder up the middle that eluded both shortstop Jorge Polanco and second baseman Luis Arraez -- off Tyler Clippard to make it 4-1. Tyler Duffey followed with a 1-2-3 seventh, Sergio Romo pitched around a walk in the eighth and Taylor Rogers pitched the ninth inning for his second save.
Donaldson wasn't around to watch Dobnak rumble with Cleveland hitters. Donaldson singled and scored on Rosario's double in the first. He made two clean fielding plays in the top of the second. But when it was his turn to hit in the bottom of the inning, Ehire Adrianza stepped in as a pinch hitter.
Donaldson didn't appear to labor as he ran the bases and made plays in the field. But the Twins eventually announced that their $93 million investment has a tight right calf. Donaldson spent the shutdown working on his agility and explosiveness, as he finally had time to work on those areas after spending the past couple of seasons getting over injuries.
Rocco Baldelli figures to take it easy with Donaldson. So he might not play for a few games.
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