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Cleveland Indians tie Twins for first place in AL Central

By Paul Hoynes • Jun 17, 2017 at 11:54 PM

MINNEAPOLIS — Players across the American League were casting their votes for the All-Star team on Saturday. They may want to give Jose Ramirez some consideration.

Ramirez, with or without Russian hacking MLB's voting process, is rolling. He homered twice Saturday in the first game of a day-night doubleheader as the Indians moved into a first-place tie in the AL Central with a 9-3 win over the Twins at Target Field.

The man with two-tone colored hair is working on a streak of three straight games with three hits. He started his day Saturday with a two-out homer in the first and followed with a two-run double in the fourth and a leadoff homer in the sixth.

Ramirez is hitting .643 (9-for-14) with four runs, six doubles, two homers and eight RBI in his three-game sprint. His average has jumped from .283 to .304.

It was Ramirez's second two-homer game of the season and gave him 11 overall. He is the ninth Indian to homer from both sides of the plate in one game. Francisco Lindor was the last to do it on April 5 against the Rangers.

The last time the Indians owned a piece of first place was June 1. They have not resided there by themselves since May 10.

"When you start playing a lot of games in a row, it's not surprising when you see some guys get hot because there is so much rhythm," said manager Terry Francona, when asked about Ramirez. "They're getting so many at-bats every day that some of the better hitters get hot.

"Boy, would that be good for us."

Rookie left-hander Ryan Merritt, recalled from Class AAA Columbus, started and held the Twins to three runs over four innings before Francona went to the bullpen. Merritt struck out two, didn't walk a batter and allowed seven hits.

Zach McAllister (1-0), who followed Merritt with two scoreless innings, earned the win.

"It's awesome," said Merritt, who was optioned to Class AAA Columbus after the game. "This team is just smashing the ball right now. It makes it really fun to go out and pitch in these games."

Merritt fared better than Adam Wilk (0-2, 9.00), the Twins' rookie lefty. After Ramirez homered off him in the first, rookie Bradley Zimmer kept the inning going with a two-run, full-count single for a 3-0 lead. Zimmer had two hits, stole a base and joined Ramirez with four RBI in the game.

Zimmer, hitting seventh, doubled home a run in the third and delivered another in the sixth on a force play.

After the game Wilk was designated for assignment.

In the first two games of this four-game set, the Indians have scored 17 runs on 24 hits. They will not face the best part of the Twins' rotation -- Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, but for a team looking for a spark, the Indians seem to have found one.

Erik Gonzalez singled and Jason Kipnis doubled in the fourth. Ramirez doubled off the wall to bring them home for a 6-1 lead. Ramirez's homer and Zimmer's RBI grounder made it 8-3 in the sixth.

The Indians, who finished with 14 hits, had three each from Kipnis, Ramirez and Gonzalez.

"I'm just doing what I've always done," said Ramirez, through interpreter Anna Bolton. "I'm staying focused and thank God I'm getting good pitches to hit."

What it means

The Indians are 6-2 against the Twins, 17-15 in the AL Central and 19-14 on the road.

The pitches

Merritt threw 61 pitches, 41 (67 percent) for strikes. Wilk threw 92 pitches, (60 percent) for strikes.

The old switcheroo

The nine Indians who have homered from both sides of the plate in one game are Ramirez, Lindor, Carlos Santana, Nick Swisher, Victor Martinez, Roberto Alomar, Eddie Murray, Carlos Baerga and Tony Bernazard.

Martinez and Santana have done it twice.

Thanks for coming

The Indians and Twins drew 24,010 to Target Field on Saturday afternoon for Game 1 of the doubleheader. First pitch was at 2:11 p.m. with a temperature of 81 degrees.

Next

Mike Clevinger (2-3, 4.09) rejoins the rotation when he faces Minnesota lefty Adalberto Mejia (1-2, 5.75) Saturday at 8:10 p.m. in the second game of this day-night doubleheader. Clevinger, who made his last start at Columbus, is 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA against the Twins this season. In three career starts against Minnesota, Clevinger is 0-1 with a 4.63 ERA.

This will be Mejia's first start against the Indians. They are the only AL Central team he has not faced. In four starts inside the division this year, he's 1-1 with a 4.96 ERA. The opposition is hitting .194 (7-for-36) with runners in scoring positon.

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