CLEVELAND -- Coupled with a quartet of homers, Mike Clevinger did just enough to snap the Indians' starting pitching slump as Cleveland captured the series finale with a 9-2 victory over the Twins on Thursday at Progressive Field. With the win, the Indians snapped a three-game skid and remained the only team in baseball without a losing streak of more than three games this season.
"I don't think we needed to calm down. I think it helps," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We had gotten beaten around the ballpark for three days, so it definitely felt good. But every inning, they were putting pressure on Clev, so it wasn't like you could sit back and take a deep breath, because there was traffic the first five innings."
Minnesota left-hander Hector Santiago took the loss in his debut with his new team, allowing four runs on five hits. Two of those hits were home runs from Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana. Kipnis hit a solo shot to right-center in the first, which marked his career-high 18th homer of the season.
"I made two bad pitches all-around," Santiago said. "They were two cutters that stayed in the middle. That's it."
Santana hit what turned out to be the decisive three-run blast to left in the third. Francisco Lindor crushed a two-run homer in the seventh to break the game open, and Jose Ramirez launched a solo shot in the eighth to round out the Cleveland infield slugfest.
Clevinger rejoined the rotation on Thursday due to an injury to Danny Salazar, and the rookie hurler tossed 4 1/3 innings of two-run ball. He was the only Tribe starter to complete four innings in the four-game set with the Twins after Salazar, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer allowed a total of 21 earned runs over 8 1/3 innings through the first three games.
Brian Dozier hit a long home run as the Twins second baseman stayed hot. Per Statcast™, his solo shot to left-center went 420 feet and left the bat at 104 mph. Before that, Dozier extended his hitting streak to 13 consecutive games with a single in the third.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Miller time:Andrew Miller was the second name called from the Tribe bullpen. The left-hander entered in the sixth frame and froze Byron Buxton to notch the final out in the inning. It was the first time since April 18, 2014, that Miller entered the game as early as the sixth inning. Miller returned to the mound in the seventh and sat down the top of the Twins' lineup in order, including a pair of punchouts.
"I'd prefer not to use him that early, and that won't happen a lot," Francona said. "This is a little bit of a unique situation. Cody [Allen], [Bryan] Shaw and Miller were probably going to finish the game. To wait didn't seem to make any sense." More >
Dozier stays hot: Dozier connected on a solo homer in the fifth, giving him five blasts over his past five games, including a homer in three of the four games against the Indians. Since June 25, Dozier leads the Majors with 13 home runs, and Twins right fielder Max Kepler is right behind him with 12.
"I feel very, very comfortable in the box," Dozier said. "I'm just slowing pitches down. I'm staying behind the ball. I'm using the middle of the field. I've learned a lot over these past few months to use my whole game, as far as hitting. I keep learning. It's been fun."
Davis' double play: Indians center fielder Rajai Davis made perhaps the defensive play of the game in the top of the third. Kepler lofted an offering from Clevinger with the bases loaded and one out, and Davis charged in to make the running grab. Davis then fired to first before Joe Mauer could retreat, completing the inning-ending double play. It ended a Minnesota threat in the third and maintained the Indians' lead. The Tribe would go on to score three runs in the bottom half.
"It was a line drive to me and I wasn't sure if it was going to stay up," Davis said. "Just keep coming, and fortunately enough, it had a lot of carry to it. I saw Mauer ... break. He was halfway to second. I saw our first baseman also breaking. I think everybody thought it was going to be a hit, as well as myself. But I was able to catch it and kind of lead our first baseman back to the bag."
Mauer makes baserunning gaffes: In addition to getting doubled up with the bases loaded in the third inning, Mauer was also thrown out in the first, when Kepler hit a sinking liner off the glove of left fielder Brandon Guyer. Mauer froze and was forced out at second, with Kepler reaching on a fielder's choice. In the fifth, with Mauer at first after a single, Kepler ripped a single to right and tried to advance to second base, only to see Mauer had already stopped there. Mauer ended up getting caught between second and third, with Kepler reaching second.
"It hurt us," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Joe was involved in a few plays. First one, didn't have a lot of fault with the depth of the ball. He saw the ball go into the glove. The line drive to center, he got caught out there too far. Your priority is to score the run there. And then Max's ball, Joe had to get out of the way, and decided he couldn't get to third and Max put his head down. What the guy in front of you sees isn't always what you see."
"We've got them in our rearview, but we've got to focus on what we need to do to win, and that's going out there and pitching well, playing good defense, scoring more runs than the other guys." -- Davis, on whether Cleveland is looking at Detroit creeping up in the American League Central
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This marked just the second time in Indians history that all four starting infielders have homered. The only other instance was on June 18, 1941.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
With one on and one out in the eighth, Twins shortstop Eduardo Escobar rolled a chopper to first baseman Santana, who threw to shortstop Lindor to get the lead runner out at second. Lindor then relayed it back to first, where Shaw was there to field it and toe-tap first before Escobar got there. Escobar was initially ruled safe, but after an Indians challenge, it was overturned and ruled an inning-ending double play.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: Right-hander Ervin Santana (4-9, 3.66 ERA) is set to start for the Twins when they travel to Tropicana Field to face the Rays on Friday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Santana has been one of the hottest pitchers in baseball over the past month, posting a 1.90 ERA in six July starts.
Indians: Right-hander Josh Tomlin (11-3, 3.43 ERA) will take the mound as the Indians open a three-game weekend set against the Yankees in New York on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Tomlin pitched a gem in his last start, in which he allowed two runs on six hits in a win over Oakland. He is 3-2 with a 4.82 ERA in seven career appearances (six starts) against the Yanks. The series also marks the return of Miller to the Bronx for the first time since being dealt to Cleveland.
Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland and covered the Indians on Thursday.