MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Mike Clevinger and the Cleveland Indians gave the Minnesota Twins another reminder that winning their first division title in nine years won’t be easy.
Clevinger won his 10th straight decision, and Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor homered as the Indians beat the Twins 5-2 on Sunday.
Cleveland, 1 1/2 games behind Oakland for the second wild card in the American League, moved back to 5 1/2 games behind Minnesota in the AL Central. The Indians and Twins close the season series with a three-game set in Cleveland that begins on Friday.
But first, the Indians head to the West Coast to play a series against the Angels that starts Monday, while the Twins host the NL Wild Card-leading Nationals for three at Target Field. Both teams know they have work to do before the rematch.
“That’s not going to be a big series if we don’t win in between there,” said Clevinger, who will try to beat the Twins for the third time this year when he faces them next. “If we’re still in a good spot, that should be a pivotal series that next go-round.”
Clevinger (11-2) put Cleveland in a good spot on Sunday, allowing two runs and four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
He hasn’t lost since June 28. In his last 13 starts, Clevinger is 10-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 81 innings.
“He’s really tough. He misses about as many bats as anybody in baseball,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “His stuff is excellent. He executes pretty well. It’s never an easy day when you’re facing him.”
The Twins brought the tying run to the plate with two outs in the ninth against closer Brad Hand. But thanks to an injury-riddled lineup, Ryan LaMarre – acquired earlier in the day in a trade with the Braves – was left to face Hand in his first major league plate appearance of the year.
LaMarre took a called third strike on a full-count pitch and Hand earned his 34th save.
The Indians took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on Franmil Reyes’ two-run single off Twins starter Randy Dobnak (0-1).
BUXTON TO SEE SPECIALIST
Baldelli said CF Byron Buxton flew to California on Sunday to have a specialist check out his injured left shoulder.
Buxton was sidelined for a month after injuring his shoulder while crashing into a wall on Aug. 1. He was activated on Sept. 1 and has made five appearances as a defensive replacement and pinch runner, but he hasn’t been able to swing a bat yet, and his status for the rest of the season remains uncertain.
“I don’t really think anybody can say for sure, or with any confidence,” Baldelli said of Buxton’s return date. “And that’s why we’re trying to seek out as many opinions as we can.”
Twins: RF Max Kepler left the game in the second inning with upper-chest discomfort. He is considered day-to-day. ... 3B Miguel Sanó was unavailable due to back tightness. ... Baldelli said DH Nelson Cruz (wrist) was “petitioning to play,” but with a day off Monday, the Twins decided to give him an extra day of rest. He aggravated a left wrist injury while swinging a bat on Friday. ... Baldelli expressed optimism that Jake Cave (groin) would return to action “well before the season ends.”