MINNEAPOLIS -- Despite a quick turnaround from Saturday night's game that ended just after 12:30 a.m. local time, Cleveland's big bats woke up for the series finale. The Indians received a strong effort by starter Josh Tomlin and blasted three homers over 400 feet to pick up a 6-1 victory on Sunday afternoon at Target Field.
The Indians improved to 28-12 against American League Central opponents and earned their first series win over the Twins of the season.
"They've given us some fits," Tomlin said of the Twins. "It's nice to come in here and take two from them and start the road trip off the right way. Hopefully, we can continue that going into Kansas City and Baltimore."
Mike Napoli launched a leadoff home run off Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson in the second inning, giving the Tribe an early advantage. Three straight two-out singles in the fifth, including a run-scoring hit from Carlos Santana, added to Cleveland's lead against Gibson, who fell to 2-6 on the season.
"I thought [Gibson] was pretty good today, for the most part," said Twins manager Paul Molitor. "He attacked a little bit better early, and we just didn't have enough offense. We were struggling offensively throughout most of the series. We didn't come out swinging the way we did down in Texas, so it's a little disappointing not to find a way to come back and win the series when we had a chance today."
The Indians pulled away in the sixth after catcher Chris Gimenez, who replaced an injured Yan Gomes in the fifth inning, made the Twins pay for two defensive misplays with a two-run single. Tyler Naquin added an insurance run with a solo homer to center in the eighth. The blast off the black backdrop behind the center-field berm was the rookie's 10th of the year.
Tribe second baseman Jason Kipnis, who reached base four times in the win, added his 15th homer of the year in the ninth.
Minnesota could only muster a solo homer by Max Kepler against Tomlin, who scattered six hits in 7 2/3 innings to remain undefeated in nine road starts. He improved his overall record to 10-2, joining Danny Salazar as the second Cleveland starter to reach 10 wins.
"I thought he really clutched up," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Tomlin. "He knew that it was a late night last night and our bullpen had been taxed. It's like he's got that feel, because I didn't think his stuff was terribly sharp early on, but he worked into it. And by the middle innings, his stuff was sharp."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Gimenez comes through: After Gomes, Cleveland's starting catcher, exited with a right shoulder injury in the fifth inning, Gimenez entered Sunday's game and came up big for the Tribe. With two outs and runners on second and third, Gimenez pulled a pitch into left field for a two-run single, pushing the Indians to a 4-0 advantage.
"That was just one of the few times I've ever gone up to a plate looking for an offspeed pitch," Gimenez said. "I was just looking for a drivable slider. Thankfully, I got it and was able to put a good swing on it."
A comedy of non-errors: What looked like an uneventful sixth inning for Gibson quickly turned into two critical insurance runs for the Tribe after a pair of misplays by two of the Twins' backups. Shortstop Eduardo Escobar bobbled what looked to be an inning-ending double play and the Twins could only get a forceout. On the next play, center fielder Danny Santana got a bad read on a deep fly ball and let it drop for a ground-rule double.
"I think the big inning was when they added on [in the sixth], when they got to four," Molitor said. "The ball had a lot of height, and I don't think [Santana] thought it was hit as well as it was. But we saw balls carrying today. It was one of those days where you can't afford to drift. The ball might beat you."
Gimenez then made the Twins pay for their mistakes with his two-out, two-run single.
"Mistakes are part of the game," Gibson said. "Baseball is a game built on failure and how you deal with it. Very rarely are you judged on how you deal with success -- on anything in life. It's more about how you deal with adversity. I had a chance there to still make a pitch and to get a guy I've faced before, and I just didn't make a pitch."
Nap time: Napoli put the Tribe on the board in the second inning when he yanked a pitch from Gibson into the second deck in left field for a first-pitch homer. The shot was Napoli's 20th home run of the season, tying him for the team lead with Santana. It also came with an exit velocity of 109 mph and soared 449 feet, per Statcast™. Napoli has eight homers with an exit velocity of at least 108 mph this year. The rest of the Indians' lineup has three combined.
Suzuki shows off his arm: Cleveland got aggressive on the basepaths in the later innings, but Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki was up for the challenge. Francisco Lindor tried to swipe second in the seventh inning, but a pitchout and a good throw by Suzuki killed Cleveland's potential rally.
One inning later, Jose Ramirez hit a leadoff double and tried to swipe third, but Suzuki deposited a strong throw right into the glove of third baseman Eduardo Nunez, who made the tag for the out.
"We couldn't find a way to win for a long time. We've been doing a little bit of a better job lately, and I think we're competing okay. It goes with the starting pitching. Guys are giving us a chance, we're hanging around. We're hanging in these games, but you'd like to find a way to win a fair share." -- Molitor
"His heart, I don't know how you measure it, but I'm glad he's on our team." -- Francona, on Tomlin
GOMES LEAVES WITH INJURY
Gomes exited Sunday's game in the fifth inning after tumbling hard beyond first base on a groundout. He was carted off the field after sustaining an injury to his right shoulder. Gomes' teammates watched with concern from the dugout -- after celebrating a long-awaited hit by the struggling catcher just two innings earlier. Gomes is headed back to Cleveland to meet with Dr. Mark Schickendantz on Monday to learn more about the extent of the injury.
"Right now, it's a shoulder injury. We're going to get him back to Cleveland," Francona said. "He'll get scanned [Monday] and we'll have more information. But, until we get him looked at, it's just a shoulder injury. We're obviously going to [place him on the disabled list], but we'll have more information."
In the third, Gomes chopped a pitch up the middle, where Gibson accidentally kicked it into left field for an unlikely double, ending an 0-for-27 drought. As Gomes dusted himself off at second base, Salazar, wearing a blue cape in the third-base dugout, shook two small maracas with his left hand and a tambourine with his right in celebration. Prior to Saturday's game, Gomes' teammates held a mock sacrificial ceremony for Gomes, praying to the baseball gods to help the catcher.
"I thought the sacrifice was supposed to be a good thing," Gomes said. "It got me a hit, though. We got a win. That's plenty." More >
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Right-hander Corey Kluber (9-8, 3.61 ERA) is scheduled to start for Cleveland in the opener of a three-game set with the Royals at 8:15 p.m. ET on Monday at Kauffman Stadium. The Indians have won six of 10 meetings with Kansas City this year, but the Royals swept the Tribe in its last trip to The K on June 13-15.
Twins: The Twins next head to Detroit for a three-game series, where veteran right-hander Ricky Nolasco (4-7, 5.22 ERA) will start Monday's opener at 6:10 p.m. CT. Nolasco has turned in two straight quality starts and allowed four runs (three earned) in six innings without issuing a walk in an 8-6 Twins win over the Rangers.