MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians have overcome a lot this season in their rise to the top of the American League Central. Cleveland was tested again on Friday night, when starter Danny Salazar exited with injury, but the Tribe held on for a 5-4 victory over the Twins.
Salazar was pulled as a precaution after four innings and 76 pitches due to tightness in his right forearm, but a four-run second inning, an impressive home run by Mike Napoli and solid bullpen work helped Cleveland pick up the win. That allowed the first-place Indians to maintain their six-game lead over Detroit in the division standings.
"Everybody picked each other up," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That was a hard game to win."
Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway noted that Salazar did not complain of the forearm discomfort until after the fourth inning. The Indians plan on re-evaluating him Saturday to determine the extent of the injury.
"The fourth inning, just watching, it was a little weird," Callaway said. "It looked like he was throwing a bar of soap, the way he was releasing the ball. So, I wasn't shocked when he came in."
Joe Mauer and Byron Buxton each delivered a home run off Salazar, accounting for three of the four runs allowed by the Indians righty. Brian Dozier also came through with an RBI double, taking advantage of a two-out fielding error by Tribe second baseman Jason Kipnis in the second.
That was not enough to halt Cleveland's 33rd come-from-behind win of the year. Twins righty Tyler Duffey was charged with five runs (two earned) on seven hits in five innings in the loss. A throwing error by Duffey in the second helped the Indians to their first four runs, and Napoli pushed the Tribe ahead for good, 5-4, in the fifth with his 32nd home run of the year.
"I got out of one jam but couldn't get out of another," Duffey said. "I let Napoli sit on something. I should've thrown more of a chase breaking ball than one for a strike. He was obviously sitting on it. That's about it. If I turn that double play, it's a different ballgame."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Party at Napoli's: Napoli led off the fifth inning with a towering shot to the third deck beyond left field. The jaw-dropping blast was measured at 463 feet and came with an exit velocity of 112 mph, per Statcast™. Both marks are season highs for an Indians batter. It was also the second-longest homer at Target Field this year (Jose Abreu belted one 465 feet on Sunday) and fourth-longest at the Twins' ballpark over the past two years.
"It's all right if it goes in the first row, too. It's all the same," Napoli said. "I don't know, I think it's something cool. You enjoy it with your teammates. They enjoy it and you have a good time with it. But it doesn't matter. Third deck. First row. It's the same." More >
Buck shot: Buxton continued his recent hot streak with yet another homer, crushing a two-run blast off Salazar to tie the game in the fourth. It was Buxton's fifth homer over his last eight games after he had three homers through his first 109 career games. Buxton's homer came on a first-pitch fastball and left the bat at 109 mph, traveling 443 feet to left-center, per Statcast™.
"He's swinging it," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He's got that feel. It seems like when he gets pitches he can handle, the home runs have been kind of surprising, coming in bunches since he came back. But I just think he's continuing to find ways to be a better hitter." More >
Chisenhall capitalizes: Cleveland came up empty with the bases loaded in the second inning, but broke through with the bags packed again in the third. A throwing error by Duffey contributed to the Tribe loading them up, and Chisenhall made the Twins pay with a two-run double to the wall in left. That helped ignite a four-run inning (with only one earned run) for the Indians.
"You've got to take advantage when you get a chance," Francona said. "We did a good job. And then Nap hitting that breaking ball like he can. That kind of gives you a boost."
Davis' clutch catch: With one out in the eighth, Max Kepler sliced a slider from Indians setup man Bryan Shaw down the left-field line. Indians outfielder Rajai Davis sprinted to his right, tracked down the fly ball and made a spectacular diving grab to erase a would-be extra-base hit. Per Statcast™, Davis hit a top speed of 20.7 mph and covered 89 feet in order to make the catch.
"I was convinced that ball can't fall. Not fair," Davis said. "It was just one of those plays you've got to go all-out. It's a crucial part of the game. If that ball drops in, who know what happens? I was fortunate enough to get a good jump on it and make the catch."
Mauer power: The Twins scored in a hurry, as Mauer launched a solo shot to left off Salazar in the first inning. It was Mauer's first homer since Aug. 16 and his 11th of the year. The 11 homers are the most from Mauer since 2013. Mauer's blast came on a 1-2 fastball, exiting the bat at 103 mph and going 384 feet, per Statcast™. Mauer also flashed the leather, as he made a diving stop at first with the bases loaded to end the sixth.
"That was probably the play of the game. I mean, if that ball gets by him, it's a double at minimum. That was a great play. He went a long way." -- Francona, on Davis' catch
"I don't think I've ever hit the ball that far in batting practice. He's doing it in games. That's awesome. We can all admire that." -- Davis, on Napoli's homer
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• The victory was the 82nd of the season for the Indians, clinching a fourth straight winning season for the franchise under Francona. That is the most consecutive winning campaigns for Cleveland since it had an above-.500 record for eight years in a row from 1994-2001.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Cleveland will send rookie right-hander Mike Clevinger (2-2, 5.30 ERA) to the mound on Saturday for a pseudo-bullpen day against the Twins in a 7:10 p.m. ET clash at Target Field. Clevinger, who has been working as a reliever, started on Monday and lasted 43 pitches in a game that saw the Tribe use eight pitchers.
Twins: After getting his start pushed back a day to get an extra day of rest for his bruised left thumb, lefty Hector Santiago is set to start on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. CT. After posting a 10.80 ERA in his first four starts with the Twins, Santiago has turned in back-to-back quality starts, including 6 1/3 scoreless innings against Cleveland on Aug. 29.