CLEVELAND (AP) — On his 39th birthday, Derek Lowe gift-wrapped a win for the Indians.
Lowe shook off taking a hard grounder off his right calf in the second inning and celebrated turning another year older by shutting down Minnesota’s lineup with ease for the second time this season and Jason Kipnis hit his first career grand slam, leading Cleveland to a 7-1 win over the Twins on Friday night.
Lowe (7-3) carried a two-hit shutout into the seventh inning before the Twins scratched out a run on three hits. The right-hander, who pitched a shutout at Minnesota on May 15, gave the Indians a much-needed quality start after a rough week for their starting rotation.
“I can’t say enough about Derek,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “We really needed someone to step up and he was the right guy to do it. He’s been our most consistent guy so far. He was huge for us.”
Kipnis connected for his slam in the fourth off Carl Pavano (2-5) as the Indians, who have been rocked by injuries lately, won for just the second time in seven games,
Lonnie Chisenhall hit a two-run homer in the second for Cleveland, which has won 11 of 12 over Minnesota.
The Twins had their winning streak stopped at three and fell to an AL-worst 18-33.
Lowe opened the season as the Indians’ No. 3 starter, but with Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez struggling, he has become the staff’s ace.
He certainly didn’t look like one in his previous outing, when he was banged around for eight runs and 10 hits in 2 1-3 innings by the Chicago White Sox. However, against the Twins, Lowe has been overpowering. In two outings against Minnesota, he has allowed just one run in 15 2-3 innings.
It’s been a nice bounce-back season for Lowe, who went just 9-17 for Atlanta last season. When the Indians traded for him in October, they never could have imagined he would be their best starter.
“It’s more rewarding the older you get,” said Lowe, never afraid to poke fun at himself. “I think when you’re young people kind of expect it. And I’m not old, by the way. I’m olding.”
Catcher Ryan Doumit had three of Minnesota’s six hits off Lowe, who has been especially tough at Progressive Field, going 4-1 with a 1.37 ERA in six starts.
Lowe was back by solid defense as the Indians turned two double plays and left fielder Johnny Damon made a diving catch to rob Denard Span in the sixth.
The Indians have been hit hard by injuries and the club recently dropped into second place after leading the AL Central most of this season.
Sensing the team needed a spark, former Indians second baseman Carlos Baerga burst into the clubhouse before the game hollering, “Let’s go. We need a win.” Baerga greeted Lowe with a big hug and interrupted a card game as he worked the room slapping and shaking hands with players.
The pep talk appeared to work as the Indians responded with one of their better all-around performances in weeks.
As another Indians’ famous face from the 1990s — slugger Albert Belle — was being interviewed on the team’s TV broadcast, Kipnis delivered his blast to make it 7-0.
Chisenhall hit a one-out single, No. 9 hitter Lou Marson walked and Shin-Soo Choo singled to load the bases off Pavano, who was then visited on the mound by pitching coach Rick Anderson. Pavano didn’t get the message because he mistakenly grooved his next pitch to Kipnis, who launched it over the wall for his team-leading ninth homer.
Kipnis leads the Indians in homers, RBIs, steals, hits and runs.
“I kind of pride myself on being able to cover all aspects of the game,” Kipnis said. “Not just stats. Whether it’s a home run or laying a bunt down or getting a guy over. I’ve been fortunate to have it going good this season, but I’m sure some other guys will be picking it up soon and hopefully they’ll catch me.”
Earlier, Kipnis survived two rough plays at second base, both involving Doumit. In the first, Kipnis was struck on the helmet with Doumit’s throw on a steal, was checked by a trainer and stayed in the game. In the second, Cleveland’s second baseman was taken out while turning a double play on an aggressive slide by Doumit.
“So much for the rest day,” joked Kipnis as the Indians were off Thursday. “It woke me up, though.”
Pavano was charged with six earned runs and nine hits in 3 2-3 innings. The right-hander dropped to 0-3 in his last five starts with an 8.25 ERA. He has been bothered by a sore shoulder for weeks and said it’s possible he may need to go on the disabled list.
“It’s come a time where some decisions need to be made,” Pavano said. “This has gone on long enough. I wish I could say it’s a rough patch. I feel like I’m really treading water right now. It (going on the DL) is the last thing I want to do, but there comes a time when you’re hurting the team and hurting yourself.
“You have to make a decision that hopefully puts you in a situation where you have more success. There’s no doubt about it.”
NOTES: Twins C Joe Mauer went 0 for 4 and his hitless in his last 10 at-bats. … Indians C Carlos Santana has improved from a concussion and is expected to be back in the lineup in a few days. Santana was placed on MLB’s new 7-day concussion list after being struck in the mask by a foul tip last week in Chicago. Santana took batting practice before the game and will catch a bullpen session Saturday. … The Twins did not turn a double play, but came in leading the majors with 73. They’re on pace to break the record held by the 1956 New York Yankees, who had 213.