MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians have turned things up a notch over the past two weeks, and that looks like bad news for the rest of the American League Central. On Sunday, Carlos Santana and Corey Kluber helped power Cleveland to a 7-1 win over the Twins, helping the Tribe continue to pull away from the pack.
With their win at Target Field, the Indians not only took two of three in the series, but increased their lead over the Tigers to seven games in the division. Santana's three-run home run in the second inning, combined with a stellar seven-inning performance from Kluber, paved the way to the win column for the 10th time in 13 games for Cleveland.
"We're still trying to take it a day at a time and hopefully not get ahead of ourselves," Kluber said. "I think that, if we do start getting ahead of ourselves, then that kind of opens the door for dangerous things to happen. We're just trying to keep going a game at a time. That's what's gotten us to this point so far."
Kluber struck out 10 batters and scattered four hits en route to his 16th win of the season. He was charged with one unearned run, which came via an RBI single by Twins outfielder Byron Buxton in the fourth inning.
"Man, it's a good feeling knowing that your ace is going to pick us up," Indians catcher Roberto Perez said. "I've said it before, every time he steps on the mound, he gives you 100 percent. He's always ready to go from the first pitch. That's what he was doing today."
Rookie starter Jose Berrios took the loss after allowing five runs (three earned) in 2 2/3 innings during an error-filled afternoon for the Twins. Santana's home run (No. 31 on the year for the Tribe's designated hitter) came against Berrios, while Tyler Naquin, Perez and Michael Martinez each chipped in a run-scoring hit off the Minnesota bullpen.
"Obviously, the plan has been to be as good as I was in the Minors, but it hasn't worked out that way," said Berrios, who saw his ERA rise to 9.27. "When you're not doing too good, it weighs on you. But I try not to think about it. I'm just trying to get hitters out."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Carlos Slamtana: Small ball went out the window after Martinez popped out to the pitcher on a bunt attempt, which came with one out and two runners in scoring position in the second. Four pitches later, Santana sent a Berrios offering bouncing in the concourse behind the right-field stands. The three-run blast was projected to land 447 feet from home plate and came with an exit velocity of 105.2 mph, per Statcast™.
"I felt great, especially in that moment," Santana said. "I know the team, they need me. That's why I'm here. With two outs, runners in scoring position, I tried to get a hit and get some runs for the game. That's what I was concentrating on there."
Errors haunt Minnesota: The Twins added to their AL-leading error total with four more miscues, including a pair of errors on pickoff throws from Berrios (one was charged to first baseman James Beresford and brought home a run in the third). Buxton also made an error in center in the fifth, when he overran a blooper in shallow center, allowing Abraham Almonte to reach second. The last error was the most egregious, as Mike Napoli hit a high popup in front of the mound with two outs in the sixth, but it was dropped by third baseman Eduardo Escobar.
"Our number of total errors this year is extremely high," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's not good baseball. We have to make more plays than that."
Naquin's dozen: Given Berrios' struggles, Minnesota turned to lefty Pat Dean with two outs and a runner on second in the third. That set the stage for Naquin, who predominantly faces right-handed pitching. The rookie outfielder engaged in a 12-pitch battle with Dean, who watched Naquin foul off seven pitches in the process. Naquin finally came out on top, delivering an RBI single to center that pushed the Indians to a 5-0 lead.
"He had one really good at-bat," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He saw  pitches and got the base hit up the middle. That's good for him."
Buxton gets Twins on the board: Buxton has been swinging the bat much better since getting called up on Sept. 1, as he's hitting .405 with 13 RBIs over his last 10 games after going 2-for-4 on Sunday. He came through with an RBI single against Kluber in the fourth after a two-out throwing error by third baseman Jose Ramirez. Buxton also nearly made a sprawling catch in left-center in the seventh, but it was just out of reach for an RBI triple for Perez.
"I'm not concerned about him long term at this point. The hype is there and the talent is there. It's just not that easy. So we'll talk about how we want to proceed with the rest of this year. I think it's open for debate how much we want to run him out there after these starts. But I still believe it's there." -- Molitor, on Berrios, who could be moved to the bullpen to ease the pressure on the 22-year-old
"All the hard work and everything, they've kind of earned the right to enjoy playing these games. That's part of it. And, I think they are. You can tell by the way they're approaching the game." -- Francona
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With his strikeout of Escobar in the second inning, Kluber reached the 200-strikeout plateau for the third consecutive season. The Indians ace joined Sam McDowell (six times), Bob Feller (five) and Gaylord Perry (three) as the only pitchers in Cleveland history to have at least three 200-strikeout seasons.
Kluber also struck out 10-plus batters for the 24th time in his career, tying him for fourth on the franchise's list with Luis Tiant. Only McDowell (74), Feller (51) and Herb Score (26) have more such games in Indians history.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (11-7, 3.15 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound at 8:10 p.m. ET on Monday in the opener of a four-game road series against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Over his past seven turns, Carrasco has a 3.23 ERA with 61 strikeouts against five walks in 47 1/3 innings.
Twins: The Twins head to Detroit for a four-game series that begins on Monday at 6:10 p.m. CT at Comerica Park. Right-hander Ervin Santana (7-10, 3.58 ERA) starts for the Twins, and he has been pitching well, posting a 2.52 ERA over his last 14 starts.