Shane Bieber is likely to run away with this year’s American League Cy Young Award. Kenta Maeda has been the Twins’ best starter since setting foot in Minneapolis.
It was a destined to be a good pitching matchup, and it didn’t disappoint. On a chilly, misty September night at Target Field, Maeda outdueled the Cleveland ace as the Twins beat the Indians 3-1 in the series opener.
Maeda set the tone in the first game of a 10-game stretch that will see the Twins face the Indians, who they entered the day tied with for second place in the American League Central, the division-leading White Sox and the National League Central-leading Cubs.
He completed seven innings for just the second time this season, and it was his second scoreless outing of the year — the other also coming against Cleveland on Aug. 1. He held the Cleveland offense to just four scattered hits while striking out seven.
It was the type of performance that a team needs if it’s going to have a shot at beating Bieber, who entered the day 7-0 with a 1.25 earned-run average and 94 strikeouts in 57 2/3 innings.
Bieber became the fastest player in major league history to reach the 100-strikeout mark, which he did in 62 1/3 innings to break Max Scherzer’s 2018 record of 63 innings. Bieber struck out eight Twins in seven innings, but he also made a costly mistake to Byron Buxton that was the difference for the Twins.
After Jake Cave doubled in the second, Buxton smacked the first pitch he saw, and it rocketed at 111.5 miles per hour off the bat to left field. The home run, his seventh of the season, provided the only offense of the game until the seventh inning when catcher Ryan Jeffers lifted his second career home run out to left field for a solo shot off Bieber.
The benches cleared in the eighth inning after Twin relief pitcher Sergio Romo and Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor started shouting at each other after Romo got Lindor to fly out to end the frame. Neither was ejected.
Taylor Rogers gave up a solo home run in the ninth inning to Jose Ramirez but recorded the save.