CLEVELAND (AP) – Minnesota slowed Cleveland’s charge in the AL Central as Jorge Polanco’s two-run double in the seventh inning rallied the Twins for a 5-3 victory on Friday night, ending the Indians’ six-game winning streak in the opener of a showdown series.
The Twins, who led the division by 11 ½ games last month, took advantage of an error in the seventh by reliever Nick Goody before Polanco delivered his clutch, two-out hit off Oliver Perez (2-2).
Nelson Cruz and Mitch Garver homered for surprising Minnesota, which saw its huge lead dwindle to 5 ½ but slowed the Indians for at least one night.
Zack Littell (2-0) pitched a scoreless sixth, Ryne Harper worked the seventh and left-hander Taylor Rogers got six outs for his 13th save.
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 Orlando Mercado’s head, scoring Adrianza and Kepler.
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 the All-Star Game.
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.
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.
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.