With the win, the Twins improved to 77-73 and are two games back of the Astros for the second American League Wild Card spot. Cleveland (74-75) fell 2 1/2 games back of Minnesota. The two clubs meet six more times down the stretch.
Santana was sharp yet again, as he lasted at least seven innings for a fifth straight start and has a 1.50 ERA over that span. He allowed one run on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts to win his fourth straight decision. He left after allowing consecutive singles to open the eighth, but Glen Perkins came in and got out of the jam.
"He was really good," Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Santana. "He got my attention in the first inning because his command wasn't great and he was kinda finessing his fastball, but I know he knows how to pitch that way, too. But he reached back as the game went on and had better command and a better ratio of strikes to balls and his breaking ball got better."
Santana outlasted Salazar, who went six frames, surrendering three runs on five hits and three walks with four strikeouts. Salazar was hurt by a three-run third inning that also saw Indians left fielder Michael Brantley leave with a right shoulder injury.
"He jammed his shoulder and it was hard for him to get extended when he was hitting, so we got him in, got him iced," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's already talking about playing tomorrow, so we'll see. We'll see how he shows up."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Twins strike with three-run third:Eduardo Escobar sparked a three-run rally in the third after drawing a two-out walk on a close pitch from Salazar that appeared to be a strike. Aaron Hicks followed with an RBI triple off Brantley's glove on a diving attempt in left-center to get the Twins on the board. Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer followed with RBI doubles.
"Being aggressive to the fastball was a big key of ours," Hicks said. "We were laying off his good changeup and slider and being aggressive to his fastball and trying to hit it hard."
Lindor ends rally: Rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor stopped the bleeding for the Indians in the third, ranging to his right and making a great play to throw Trevor Plouffe out at first. The Twins had two runners on at that point and had had five consecutive runners reach base before Lindor made the diving stop to limit the damage. More >
Perkins gets out of big jam: After Santana left with two runners on and nobody out, the Twins called on Perkins to get them out of the eighth. Perkins is still working his way back toward the closer role after missing 18 games with a lower back strain, but came up big for Minnesota. After a sacrifice bunt from Jason Kipnis, Lindor flied out to right and Michael Martinez, who replaced Brantley, grounded out to Dozier at second base to end the inning.
"We were in a little bit of peril there with a couple guys on with a two-run lead," Molitor said. "Ideally, you don't want to bring him in with runners on, but he's done it a few times with four-out saves. I wasn't sure if Kipnis would bunt or not, so we were conservative on our defense there, but he got that out, which I think helped. And then the matchups after that were right-handed hitters, but relatively young, so he was able to get the fly ball and the ball to Dozier."
Manship recovers:Jeff Manship pitched himself into a jam. And then, he pitched himself right out of it. Manship came on in the seventh and immediately gave up two hits and a walk to load the bases. With power-hitting rookie Miguel Sano hitting, it looked like a recipe for disaster. But Manship fed Sano a steady dose of curveballs and struck him out on four pitches. He then retired both Plouffe and left fielder Eddie Rosario to end the inning and keep the Indians within striking distance.
"It was huge. It was definitely a big boost for the team, too," Manship said. "We pushed at the end right there, so it was a very crucial part of the game and I'm glad I came out on top."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With his RBI double in the third, Mauer has now reached safely in 41 straight games, which is just one off the Twins record of 42 consecutive set by Bob Allison in 1961. It's also tied for the third-longest streak in the Majors this year, as Matt Holliday had the longest, reaching safely in 45 straight games from April 5 to June 1.
"We know all these games are important. We're just trying to get as many wins as we can and play good baseball. That's what we have to continue to do to make our chances that much better for the postseason." -- Hicks
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: On Wednesday at 8:10 p.m. ET, Corey Kluber will make his second start since coming off the disabled list. In his first, manager Terry Francona limited him to just 61 pitches. Kluber has shut down the Twins this season, going 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in three starts. He tossed back-to-back complete games against Minnesota in August.
Twins: Right-hander Phil Hughes starts for the Twins in the second game of the series on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Left-hander Tommy Milone was slated to start, but he was scratched with shoulder fatigue. Hughes missed more than a month with a herniated disc in his back before returning on Sept. 15, but he lasted just three innings in a loss to the Tigers.