CLEVELAND -- With the divisional race heating up, the Indians were able to take care of business against the team they had struggled with for much of the season. Corey Kluber struck out 11 over eight innings in the Indians' 8-4 win over the Twins on Wednesday at Progressive Field to maintain their 4 1/2-game lead over Detroit in the American League Central.
Both the Tigers and Royals inched closer in the divisional race after Cleveland went 2-5 on a recent road trip. But a three-game sweep over the Twins -- a team it is 8-8 against -- was enough to hold off its divisional foes. For Minnesota, the loss extends the losing skid to 13 games. It is the team's longest since a franchise worst 14-game slump in 1982.
"We're fighting," Indians first baseman Carlos Santana said. "Every game is very important. We have Detroit and Kansas City behind [us], so every game is very important. Right now, game to game, it's very important for the team to try to win."
Kluber allowed three runs on six hits and two walks, notching his second double-digit strikeout game of the season. Max Kepler in the third and Brian Dozier in the eighth both homered off Kluber.
"When [Kluber] is on the mound, I think something special is about to happen," Indians catcher Roberto Perez said. "That's how confident we are in him. Me, as a catcher back there, I'm really confident about him going seven, eight or nine innings every time he goes out there. It was nice."
Minnesota lefty Pat Dean took the loss, allowing six runs on seven hits over 4 1/3 innings in his second start since rejoining the rotation. Dean also surrendered a pair of home runs -- solo shots to Santana in the fourth and Perez in Cleveland's five-run fifth.
"It's been a long week," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We need to try to find a win just to lighten the load. It's getting heavy. Guys are getting on edge a little bit. It's building."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Slamtana: With one out in the fourth, Santana lifted a first-pitch fastball from Dean over the wall in left-center to break a 1-1 tie. According to Statcast™, the ball traveled an estimated 417 feet with an exit velocity of 109 mph. The solo shot was his 28th of the season, which set a career high. Santana had previously hit 27 home runs in 2011 and 2014. It also set a franchise record for most homers by a switch-hitter in a single season.
"I'm happy. I keep saying, I'm very happy," Santana said. "I was working hard in the offseason, and now I feel how important it was."
Kepler Krush: After Kepler hit three homers against the Indians on Aug. 1, he homered again in Cleveland the next day, but had been on a dry spell since then. Kepler changed that with a solo shot off Kluber in the second, snapping a streak of 101 plate appearances without a homer. It was the 16th of the year for the rookie, leaving the bat at 101 mph and traveling a projected 405 feet, per Statcast™.
"He's been battling and they've been pitching him tough with him trying to learn how to sustain here through a long first season," Molitor said. "He's grinding. You hope maybe one good swing will get him back on track a little bit." More >
Offensive outburst: All nine batters got an at-bat in the fifth for the Indians, while two players got two tries, to break the game open with a five spot. Perez began the inning with a solo shot to center for just his second home run of the season. Per Statcast™, the ball traveled an estimated 410 feet. Five of the next six batters that followed reached in some fashion. Santana singled in a run and Jose Ramirez drove in two with a double to spearhead the five-run outburst.
"That inning was huge," Kluber said. "It was a close game up until then and then that big inning kind of blew it open. Any time you can win three out of three against any team, that's a good series."
Dozier dinger: Dozier homered for a second straight game with a two-run blast off Kluber in the eighth. It was Dozier's Major League-leading 13th homer in August, which fell one homer shy of Harmon Killebrew's team record of 14 homers in a month set in June 1964. It was also his team-leading 32nd homer.
"He threw a lot more fastballs tonight," Dozier said of Kluber. "He kept coming at me. But at the same time, he was pitching with a big lead for a while."
"I think I'll be relieved when we get a win and not when one guy hits a home run. I just want to win right now. It's tough. This is the first time I've personally experienced it. We just have to keep grinding. It's not easy, mentally or physically." -- Kepler, on his homer coming in a 13th straight loss
"He pitched good. That's a nice feeling knowing that [he's pitching] every five days. And it's not like we don't have other guys, but he's so consistent at a high level that it's really nice." -- Indians manager Terry Francona, on Kluber
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Kepler's homer in the third was No. 1,034 in August, which set the Major League record for homers hit in August, per ESPN Stats & Info. It's also the second-most of any month behind the 1,069 hit in May of 2000. More >
BIG LEAGUE DEBUT
Right-hander Perci Garner made his Major League debut when he relieved Kluber in the ninth. The 27-year-old hurler was called up from Triple-A Columbus prior to the series finale with the Twins. Garner surrendered a pair of singles to open the inning, and then recorded his first big league strikeout by punching out Kepler. Garner would issue a two-out walk before being relieved by Bryan Shaw, who notched his first save of the season.
"I thought he showed really good poise," Francona said. "He gave up leadoff hit and like a blooper and a walk, but he was around the plate with some really good stuff. I wish we had a couple more runs so we could have left him in there, but it's nice to get him in a game. I think every time he pitches it will be good for him." More >
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: The Twins head back to Minnesota for a 10-game homestand on Thursday against the White Sox at 7:10 p.m. CT. Right-hander Ervin Santana (6-10, 3.54 ERA) will start and has been on a roll since mid-June, posting a 2.30 ERA over his last 12 outings.
Indians: The Tribe will have an off-day before hosting the Marlins for a three-game Interleague clash over the weekend. Carlos Carrasco (9-7, 3.23 ERA) starts the series opener at 7:10 p.m. ET. Carrasco is looking to have a much better month in September, after going 2-3 with a 5.20 ERA in six August starts.