MINNEAPOLIS -- Strong starting pitching paved the way to the top of the American League Central for the Indians in the first half. That continued for Cleveland on Friday night, when the team opened the second half with a 5-2 win over the Twins at Target Field.
Right-hander Carlos Carrasco improved to 6-3 with a 2.49 ERA on the season for the Tribe after logging 6 2/3 innings in the opener of this three-game set. The big right-hander scattered four hits, including a solo home run by Brian Dozier, and ended with three strikeouts, two runs allowed and one walk in the win.
"To his credit, he got in a rhythm," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Carrasco. "You look up and it's the seventh inning, and he's held them to two runs and not a lot of hits. That was good."
The Indians now boast the best winning percentage (.596) in the AL, just ahead of the West-leading Rangers (.593).
Dozier's one-out shot in the fourth inning towered down the left-field line and stayed just fair for his team-leading 15th homer of the season. The blast by the Twins' second baseman went 412 feet and had an exit velocity of 106 mph, per Statcast™.
"When you face a guy like Carrasco, you have to capitalize on his mistakes," Dozier said. "He made some mistakes. We just didn't put good swings on them. He throws that changeup 50-70 percent of the time. That's his best pitch, and he threw it a lot tonight, and we kept chasing it."
Minnesota right-hander Ervin Santana took the loss after allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. Cleveland's Jose Ramirez led the way with a pair of RBI singles off Santana, who struck out five and walked two.
"It's tough when you have four days off and you come today and you don't have the same feeling for every pitch," Santana said. "It's a battle, but it's OK. We have more games to go."
Santana exited after Ramirez's second RBI single, a sharp line drive, hit his left wrist on its way into center field. Although there is some swelling in the area, Santana and Twins manager Paul Molitor expect him to be OK.
Indians slugger Mike Napoli provided some insurance in the eighth inning, launching a pitch from Ryan Pressly out to center at 106 mph. The 423-foot shot was Napoli's 19th of the season, and gave setup man Bryan Shaw and closer Cody Allen a little breathing room to finish off the victory.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Ramirez rakes with RISP: Heading into Friday's game, Ramirez ranked fourth in the Majors among qualified hitters with a .377 average with runners in scoring position. The high-contact hitter upped that showing to .394 (28-for-71) with two RBI hits. He brought Francisco Lindor home with a single in the fourth and sixth innings.
"He comes up with great at-bats, especially with guys on and in scoring position," Napoli said. "He's been huge for us. He's a guy that's coming through in the clutch." More >
Buxton shows off arm: Twins center fielder Byron Buxton was a bit banged up to close the first half after a series of crashes into outfield walls, but fresh off recovering over the All-Star break, he turned in a dazzling defensive gem. Napoli sent a pitch from Santana off the left-center field wall in the second for the Indians' first hit, but Buxton unloaded a 90-mph throw to nab Cleveland's first baseman, who was attempting to stretch the hit into a double.
"He saved me on that one," Santana said. "He's very good out there." More >
Dozier does it all: Dozier put on a show with his bat and his glove, driving in both Twins runs and coming up with a diving stop in the eighth to end a threat. Not only did Dozier come through with his fourth-inning homer, but he also contributed a sacrifice fly in the first that brought home Joe Mauer.
"It's the only [fastball] I saw," Dozier said. "He made some mistakes and left that one middle-in. He made some more, but we just didn't execute on the times when he did make those mistakes."
Gomes' tough luck persists: A few of the Twins' highlight-reel plays came at the expense of Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes, who headed into the night with an MLB-low .193 batting average on balls in play (min. 250 plate appearances). Mauer snared a liner from Gomes in the fourth with a diving catch and Dozier robbed the catcher of a hit with his diving stop in the eighth. In the sixth, Gomes pulled a pitch 106 mph right to third baseman Miguel Sano, who gloved the sharp grounder and caught Ramirez in a rundown between third and home.
"Two were really nice. Short, direct, right to the ball," Francona said of Gomes' swings. "He got nothing to show for it. Hopefully, he can take the fact that, if he swings like that, he's going to be just fine. You have to guard against trying to do more, because he came up empty, but he had much better swings tonight."
"Napoli had a good night. He took advantage of a couple of mistakes on sliders, and we just didn't have enough offense. Four hits usually isn't going to get you too many wins." -- Molitor
"We've had guys step up in this lineup. We have a great pitching staff. Everyone wants to talk about the pitching staff, but we've been holding our own as an offense. We've been meshing well together." -- Napoli
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Indians have run to the top of the AL Central largely due to their success within the division. The Twins have given the Tribe some trouble this year, though. While Cleveland has gone 24-7 against the Tigers, Royals and White Sox, the club is just 3-4 vs. Minnesota.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer (7-3, 3.30 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound in a 7:10 p.m. ET tilt against the Twins on Saturday at Target Field. Bauer allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings in his last outing on July 7, but the righty went 4-0 with a 1.81 ERA in his previous seven appearances. He will be working after eight days of rest.
Twins: Right-hander Tyler Duffey (5-6, 5.20 ERA) went 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his final three starts of the first half, and he will get the start in the second game of this three-game weekend set. He struck out a season-high nine and allowed only two hits in six shutout innings on July 7 at Texas.