MINNEAPOLIS — Nelson Cruz hit his first homer with Minnesota, Michael Pineda was stellar in his first pitching appearance since 2017 and the Twins beat the Cleveland Indians 9-3 on Sunday.
Pineda had Tommy John surgery after his previous start in July 5, 2017 while with the New York Yankees, and this was his first time back on a big league mound. Pineda pitched four scoreless innings, striking out five with one hit and one walk.
Cruz, Byron Buxton and Willians Astudillo each drove in two runs for the Twins.
Carlos Santana had four hits for the Indians, including a three-run double. Cleveland hitters struck out 39 times in the three-game series.
Twins starters allowed one earned run in 17 1/3 innings in the season-opening series. Jose Berrios pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings Thursday, and Jake Odorizzi allowed one run in six innings Saturday. Berrios struck out 10 and Odorizzi 11, making Minnesota the second team since 1893 to open the season with their first two starts each striking out at least 10.
Signed by Minnesota in December 2017, Pineda earned $2 million last season while rehabbing his elbow in hopes he could be a stabilizing force in 2019, when his salary jumped to $8 million.
Intimidating at 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds, Pineda struck out five of the first nine Cleveland hitters, including three in the third on 11 pitches. He was pulled after throwing 40 pitches, 28 strikes.
Minnesota’s fifth starter, Martin Perez (1-0), pitched 3 2/3 innings and was one pitch away from getting out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth before Santana lined a shot into the left-field corner.
Hitting 6 for 56 (.071) entering the game, the Twins finished with 15 hits, including 10 in 4 1/3 innings against starter Carlos Carrasco (0-1), who allowed six runs and struck out four.
A two-run double by Buxton gave Minnesota a 3-0 lead in the fourth.
One inning later, Cruz smashed a two-run drive off the second deck. Cruz has hit 37 homers in each of the past five seasons. He signed a $14.3 million, one-year deal with Minnesota in the offseason.
Jonathan Schoop added an RBI double, Astudillo hit a sacrifice fly, and a throwing error by Santana gave the Twins an 8-0 cushion.
Indians: RHP Mike Clevinger (13-8, 3.02 in 2018) will get the ball for Cleveland’s home opener Monday against the White Sox. Chicago is to send Ivan Nova (9-9, 4.19 in 2018) to the hill.