Mike Napoli’s solo blast to the third deck in left to lead off the fifth inning powered the Cleveland Indians past the Minnesota Twins, 5-4, on Friday night.
Napoli’s third homer in five games gave the Indians the lift that they needed after Danny Salazar could not maintain a lead after the Indians jumped on top after an early hole.
Minnesota got out in front in the first with two down. Joe Mauer drove a 1-2 pitch to left for his eleventh homer of the year to give the Twins an early lead. In the second, they tacked on another after a two-out error at second by Jason Kipnis. Brian Dozier continued his torrid second half with a double to left that scored speedster Byron Buxton all the way from first to make it 2-0.
The Indians struck through for a big inning in the third against Twins starter Tyler Duffey. Kipnis was hit by a pitch and reached second on a fielder’s choice as Duffey’s throw for the force on Kipnis was in the dirt. Napoli lined out to center before Jose Ramirez loaded the bases on an infield single. After missing on two at bats with the bases loaded the previous inning, Lonnie Chisenhall delivered a clutch double to the gap in left-center, scoring Kipnis and Francisco Lindor to tie the game. A groundout to second by Abraham Almonte gave the Indians the lead and Tyler Naquin tacked on with a solid single through the hole into right field to score Chisenhall with the fourth run of the inning.
The lead was not safe, as Salazar gave it up in the bottom of the fourth. With two outs, John Ryan Murphy singled to right and Buxton homered to left-center to tie the game at four. It was Buxton’s sixth homer of the season and his fifth since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester to start the month.
Napoli sent the first pitch of the next half inning more than 450 feet into the third deck in left to put the Indians back on top.
Joseph Colon (1-1, 1.69 ERA) retired three in a row in relief in the fifth before walking Max Kepler to start the sixth. Zach McAllister walked one, but got a strikeout and two outs on the ground to escape the sixth unharmed, maintaining the one-run lead.
The bullpen continued to do its job in the seventh as Dan Otero gave up a one-out single but erased Jorge Polanco on a tailor-made double play ball to Lindor at short to end the inning. Bryan Shaw pitched a perfect eighth, striking out Miguel Sano to start the inning, and Cody Allen worked the ninth, striking out the last two batters swinging at balls in the dirt. Both were retired at first base by catcher Roberto Perez and the Indians claimed the win.
Allen’s save was his 27th of the season.
The Indians (82-58) guaranteed themselves a winning season while lowering their magic number to 17 with the victory. They have now won four straight against the Twins and improved to 9-8 against their AL Central foe. Their lead in the division remained at six games as the Tigers won on a late Victor Martinez homer to defeat the Baltimore Orioles in Detroit.
Minnesota (52-89) fell to 28-45 on their home field this season. They own the worst record in baseball and are 30.5 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central.
SALAZAR EXITS EARLY
Salazar took a no-decision after exiting after four innings with what team officials called “right forearm tightness”. The right-hander, taken out for precautionary reasons, lasted four innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Two of those hits left the yard and accounted for three of the Twins’ four runs.
Salazar lasted just 76 pitches, which included several lengthy innings, and has not won since the middle of July.
DUFFEY HIS OWN UNDOING
Duffey (8-11, 6.13) was hurt by the unearned run as his own error in trying to force out Kipnis in the third led to three unearned runs.
He worked five innings on the night, allowing five runs (two earned) on seven hits with a walk and six strikeouts.
Colon earned the win after working a scoreless fifth inning, walking one. It was the first win of Colon’s Major League career.
LINDOR RACKS UP THIRD STRAIGHT MULTI-HIT GAME
Lindor kept his batting average at .322 on the season with a two-hit game in five at bats with a run scored against the Twins on Friday night. He now has seven hits in his last three contests and sits in the fourth spot in the AL batting average race.
Napoli’s home run extended his season total to a career-best to 32 bombs. In addition, his 93rd RBI of the season passed his previous career-high of 92, set in 2013 with the Boston Red Sox.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Santiago was strong his last time out against Cleveland, limited the Indians to three hits, but four walks, in six scoreless innings in a no-decision on August 29. Clevinger will make his second start of the year against the Twins and will be tasked with starting another game after working of late in a bullpen role. He lasted one and two-thirds innings in his last “start” on Monday, in a game designated by the club as a bullpen game while filling the spot of struggling starter Josh Tomlin. He took the tough luck loss after allowing one run on two hits with two walks and three strikeouts while retiring five.
Game time from Target Field in Minneapolis is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
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