Brake time: Twins rally, slow charging Indians 5-3 in opener
Slowing Cleveland’s charge in the standings, Jorge Polanco’s two-run double in the seventh inning rallied the AL Central leaders to a 5-3 victory Friday night that ended the Indians’ six-game winning streak in the opener of a showdown series.
The Twins, who led the division by 11 1/2 games last month, took advantage of an error in the seventh inning by reliever Nick Goody before Polanco delivered his clutch, two-out hit off Oliver Perez (2-2).
“Any time you give good teams anything, it can come back to bite you,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
“It was a great way to start out the second half against a good team that’s playing very well,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “We continually forced ourselves into good situations until we finally broke through.”
Carlos Santana connected for his 20th homer for Cleveland. The Indians trimmed six games off Minnesota’s lead by going a major league-best 21-8 since June 4.
Goody came in to protect a 3-1 lead and got one out in the eighth before he couldn’t cleanly field a slow roller by Miguel Sanó.
The right-hander compounded his problems by walking Ehire Adrianza before getting a second out. However, Max Kepler made it 3-2 with an infield RBI single — on a call that was overturned by video replay — before Polanco followed with a drive over rookie center fielder Oscar Mercado’s head, scoring Adrianza and Kepler.
“I knew I hit it well, and as soon as I hit it, I knew it was going to the wall,” Polanco said. “I was just looking for a good pitch to hit.”
Francona felt Mercado could have made a better play.
“It looked to me like right off the bat he got his feet a little bit tangled up and then he turned the wrong way,” Francona said. “And after that it was too late.”
Garver made it 5-3 in the eighth with his 14th homer.
This young Minnesota team seemed to be showing signs of feeling pressure with the three-time defending Central champions nipping at their heels. But the Twins shook off two errors and came back to stun the Indians, who have been riding high and hoped to keep the momentum after hosting a memorable All-Star Game and epic Home Run Derby.
Indians starter Mike Clevinger allowed just one run — the homer to Nelson in the first — over five-plus innings and was in line to get the win before Cleveland’s bullpen had a rare meltdown.
The Indians fell to 37-4 when leading after six innings.
Roberto Perez’s two-run single gave the Indians a 3-1 lead in the fourth.
A first-time All-Star at 33, Santana led off with his homer. Santana, who was beaten in the first round of the All-Star Home Run Derby by eventual winner Pete Alonso, has reached base safely in 30 straight games — the majors’ longest current streak.
In the first, Cruz guessed right and drove a 96 mph fastball from Clevinger over the wall in center and into shrubbery next to Minnesota’s bullpen.
It was the Twins’ 167th homer, one more than all last season.
Polanco, RHP José Berríos and RHP Jake Odorizzi represented the Twins at the All-Star Game, but Baldelli didn’t come to Cleveland. He spent his four-day break attending a Phish concert and relaxing. “I even took a nap or two, which was good,” he said.
The Twins improve to 29-18 on the road, tied with Boston for the majors’ best record.
Twins: OF Eddie Rosario (left ankle sprain), who has been on the 10-day injured list since June 28, worked out with the team. Rosario said he would be activated “soon,” but manager Rocco Baldelli said it might not happen until Minnesota returns home Tuesday to play the Mets.
Indians: OF Tyler Naquin was kept out of the lineup to get treatment on his back. Manager Terry Francona said Naquin tweaked it while getting out of a car following the team’s workout Thursday night.
Twins: RHP Jake Odorizzi (10-4, 3.15 ERA) will come off the IL to start after being sidelined with a finger blister. The All-Star tied his career-high with 11 strikeouts against Cleveland on March 30.
Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer (8-6, 3.61 ERA) led the majors with 132 innings pitched and ranked fourth in the AL with 149 strikeouts in the season’s first half. He’s just 2-4 with a 4.96 ERA at home.