The Cleveland bats, led by a pair of homers and four hits in total from Jason Kipnis, backed a quality start from Trevor Bauer as the Indians again avoided a four-game losing streak with an 8-3 win over the Minnesota Twins in the series finale from Progressive Field on Sunday afternoon.
Dealing with a tough left-hander on the mound in Hector Santiago, the Indians ignored their up-and-down season against southpaws in chasing the veteran starter from the mound early with a nice and needed display of offense with a shuffled lineup.
The Indians gave Bauer early support with a first inning run. Hitting leadoff for the first time this season and facing a pitcher who he owned a .346 average against with a homer and four RBI, the left-handed hitting second baseman Kipnis sent his first homer of the season into the seats in right to put the Indians on the board.
Cleveland tacked on in the next half inning against Santiago. A single by Jose Ramirez started the inning and he moved to second on a balk by the Twins lefty. Daniel Robertson, making his Indians debut after being brought up from Triple-A prior to the game, singled off of the glove of a diving Jorge Polanco at short. Ramirez slowed into third but after the deflection turned the jets back on and motored into home to give the Indians a 2-0 lead. Lonnie Chisenhall doubled that advantage two pitches later as he sent a Santiago offering into the seats in front of the bullpen for a two-run home run.
Bauer had given up a pair of singles through the first three innings before the Indians ripped the game wide open with a big bottom of the third. Carlos Santana, hitting in the fifth spot instead of his usual leadoff spot, homered leading off the third. After outs by Ramirez and Robertson, Chisenhall drew a five-pitch walk off of Santiago to end the starter’s day. Adam Wilk came on from the ‘pen for manager Paul Molitor and promptly gave up three straight hits, including a single by Roberto Perez before Kipnis hit his second homer of the day. The three-run shot extended the Indians lead to 8-0.
Bauer stayed out of trouble until the middle innings. With two outs in the sixth, Joe Mauer singled and advanced to third on a double by Miguel Sano, who had looked foolish in his first two at bats against Bauer. Kennys Vargas doubled to center despite a heroic effort by Chisenhall, whose leaping effort into the wall came up short. Two scored on the play to put the Twins on the scoreboard, down 8-2.
Bauer returned for the seventh but would face just one batter as Polanco started the inning with a solo homer into the seats in right. Bryan Shaw entered and gave up a double, a wild pitch, and a walk in the inning, but escaped with the score the same at 8-3.
Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen would all get in work as the trio held the score over the final three innings to complete the win.
The Indians (19-17) matched the Twins in the win column once again and pulled back within a game of the top spot in the American League Central. They also avoided their first four-game losing streak since losing six from July 23 to 28 two seasons ago. After putting up just one run and six hits in the first two games of the series, the offense erupted for eight runs on 13 hits, including five extra base hits.
The Twins (19-15) saw their four-game winning streak come to an end in the Mother’s Day finale.
BAUER BENEFITS FROM LOTS OF SUPPORT
It was a much more promising start from Bauer (3-4, 6.92 ERA) on Sunday as he was given a big early lead and made it stand up, only surrendering runs in the late innings of his outing.
With his second quality start of the season (both against Minnesota), Bauer worked six-plus innings on the mound and fired 106 pitches, 70 for strikes. He allowed three runs on seven hits, did not walk a batter, and struck out seven on the afternoon.
Santiago (4-2, 3.80) was dealt just his second loss of the season after starting strong for the Twins with five quality starts in his first six outings.
On Sunday, the narrative was reversed as an Indians club which has struggled with left-handers at times this season jumped on Santiago early and often, sending him to the showers with two outs in the third inning after allowing six runs on seven hits with two walks and a strikeout. He was victimized by three home run balls, including the shots by Kipnis, Chisenhall, and Santana.
KIPNIS CRUSHES IN TOP SPOT
Hitting in his former leadoff spot for the first time on the year, Kipnis had himself a big game and may force manager Terry Francona to consider the move more frequently. He had a pair of homers, added two singles, and drove in four runs on the afternoon from the leadoff spot. He had struggled to get going this season after starting the year on the disabled list, but Sunday’s game was a big breakout game for the second sacker.
He became just the tenth player in Indians history to hit a leadoff homer and add a second homer later in the game (h/t Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio on the stat).
GUYER TO DL
Prior to the game, the Indians placed outfielder Brandon Guyer on the 10-day disabled list with a left wrist sprain. The injury had been lingering and was apparently aggravated prior to Friday’s game and worsened throughout the ball game.
In addition to the Guyer move, the Indians designated utility man Michael Martinez for assignment and added two more in his place, calling up Erik Gonzalez and purchasing the contract of Robertson from Triple-A Columbus.
Gonzalez had hit .269 for Columbus to start the season, while Robertson was recently activated from the disabled list after spending the first five weeks of the season on the shelf dealing with hamstring issues.
Both players saw time on Sunday, with Robertson making the start in right field and getting a single and an RBI in his first at bat. Gonzalez entered in the seventh inning defensively for Francisco Lindor and singled in his lone trip to the plate in the home half of the frame.
BRING ON THE RAYS
The Tampa Bay Rays will make their lone trip to Cleveland this season as they head to town for a three-game series beginning Monday night at 6:10 PM ET.
Carlos Carrasco (4-2, 1.86) and Chris Archer (3-1, 3.04) will be the pitching matchup from Progressive Field.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images