Encarnacion powers Indians past Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- A win at home to salvage a split of a six-game homestand might have been just what the inconsistent Cleveland Indians needed heading into a big weekend series against the division-leading Minnesota Twins.
Edwin Encarnacion had three hits, including two home runs, and drove in each of Cleveland’s five runs as the Indians left Minnesota with a 5-2 win on Sunday, a four-game series sweep and control of the American League Central.
“We weren’t playing very good team baseball before that last series (at home) and I think it was kind of a wake-up call,” Cleveland outfielder Bradley Zimmer said. “You look around and you realize, in my opinion, we have the best team in the league, and I think if we play up to our potential and everyone does what they’ve been doing and contributes offensively, defensively, guys in the bullpen, I think we’ll be just fine.”
Jose Ramirez had three hits on Sunday for his sixth straight multi-hit game for the Indians, who beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 12-5 before facing their division rivals.
Cleveland began the weekend series trailing Minnesota by two games in the Central but left with a two-game lead after equaling their season high with a five-game winning streak. The Indians are 8-2 this season against the Twins, including a 7-0 mark at Minnesota’s Target Field.
Trevor Bauer (6-5) was lifted after a leadoff walk in the eighth. He gave up two runs on four hits and struck out eight batters. Cody Allen walked one, but kept the Twins off the board in the eighth and Andrew Miller recorded his first save of the season.
“We just want to get back to playing how we know we’re capable of playing,” Bauer said. “We haven’t done that consistently this year, and we’re working through a lot of things as a team trying to figure out what it’s going to take to get us back to that. Standings are what they are. The only way they change is to go out there and win games, and in order to do that we’ve got to play how we know we can play.”
Kyle Gibson (4-5) worked around trouble in six innings for Minnesota. He surrendered three runs on eight hits and three walks. The Twins trail the division leaders by more than one game for the first time since the beginning of May.
“I think we just played a pretty good team that played well in the last game against L.A. and kind of got going a little bit, and came in here ready to play,” Gibson said. “I don’t think the feeling really changes being down one or two games. I don’t think that’s a big deal to us. We’ve still got a lot of season to go and we’re confident in who we are, confidence in the offense we have. If us pitchers can just keep rolling a little bit, throw the ball a little bit better, I think we’ll be in a good spot.”
Bauer kept Minnesota off-balance, using his fastball and snapping curve to give up just two hits and a walk through six innings. All three baserunners came in the second inning, but Max Kepler was thrown at home by Zimmer as the game remained scoreless.
Bauer retired the next 15 batters he faced. He hit Kennys Vargas with a pitch with two outs in the seventh and Vargas scored on Eddie Rosario’s single to center.
The Twins had pitched around Encarnacion for much of the series, but he hammered the first pitch he saw in the fourth to the second deck in left field.
Encarnacion followed with another second-deck shot in the sixth after Ramirez walked. Encarnacion added an RBI single in the seventh and a sacrifice fly to score Ramirez in the ninth.
”Collectively, it’s a frustrating series,“ Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. ”You let four games go to, at least for now, your chief competitor. Somehow, we got to get past it and learn from it. They played better. There’s no question, they did everything better.
“I don’t know if you want to use it as a measuring stick or whatever you want to do, but hopefully these guys learn what it takes to go out there and hopefully we’re better for it.”
NOTES: Cleveland recalled RHP Shawn Armstrong from Triple-A Columbus and optioned 3B Giovanny Urshela to Triple-A before Sunday’s game. Urshela made his season debut in Saturday’s doubleheader and went 0-for-4. Armstrong has pitched in nine games for the Indians this season with a 6.00 ERA. ... Minnesota announced that LHP Hector Santiago traveled to Triple-A Rochester to make a rehab start on Wednesday. Santiago has been out since June 7 with a left shoulder strain. He is 4-6 with a 5.26 ERA this season. ... Cleveland OF Michael Brantley (paternity leave) is expected to join the team Monday in Baltimore for a four-game series. The Indians earned their first four-game sweep since Aug. 11-14, 2016 at the Los Angeles Angels. ... The Twins have a day off before hosting the Chicago White Sox for a three-game series. Ervin Santana (8-4, 2.56 ERA) opens the series for Minnesota. ... Cleveland is at Baltimore on Monday with RHP Corey Kluber (5-2, 4.15 ERA) on the mound in the opener of a four-game set.