They received a solid start from Adam Plutko, good work from the bullpen and a big inning from the offense when they needed it the most.
Roberto Perez started a four-run rally with tie-breaking two-out single in the 11th inning as the Indians beat the Twins, 6-2, to stay relevant in the AL Central race and stay close in the wild-card race.
Perez, after pinch-hitter Greg Allen was intentionally walked, singled to right to score Yasiel Puig from third for a 3-2 lead. Puig opened the inning with a single off lefty Lewis Thorpe. He took second on a ground ball by Jason Kipnis and went to third on a wild pitch.
The inning momentarily stalled when Franmil Reyes struck out for the fourth time in five at-bats, but Brusdar Graterol intentionally walked Allen in a three-player move that saw manager Terry Francona burn Jake Bauers and Jordan Luplow.
Mike Freeman, following Perez’s single, was hit by a pitch. Francisco Lindor singled off the glove of third baseman Miguel Sano to score Allen. Oscar Mercado completed the scoring with a two-run single to center for his third hit of the game.
“The kid (Graterol) is throwing 100 mph and you look up and see the hole on the right side of the infield,” said Francona. "Roberto just got the head of the bat to the ball and then we really did a good job from there. Frankie (Lindor) went the other way and Oscar hit the ball up the middle.
“That’s a tough game to win. You’re on the road. You’re one pitch away from going home not happy and we end up finding a way to win. That was really good.”
Tyler Clippard (1-0) earned the win as the bullpen, on shaky ground of late, pitched five scoreless innings. Clippard, who relieved Adam Cimber with two out in the ninth, went 1 1/3 innings with three strikeouts.
“Clippard has been unsung all year,” said Francona. “He just comes in and gets people out. Sometimes he makes things up, but he just gets people out. Our whole bullpen did a really good job.”
The win moved the Indians (82-60) to within 5.5 games of the American League Central-leading Twins (87-54). In the race for the AL Wild Card Game, Tampa Bay (84-59) continues to hold the home position, 1.5 games ahead of the Tribe. Cleveland trails Oakland (82-59) by a half-game for the road position.
Lindor gave the Indians a 1-0 lead in the third with a 433-foot homer onto the plaza behind the wall in right center. It was his 28th homer of the season and fourth against the Twins this year. It was the only run Michael Pineda, 6-7 and 280 pounds, allowed as he struck out 10 and walked two in six dominating innings.
Plutko held the Twins scoreless through the first three innings, but C.J. Cron’s double in the fourth made it a 1-1 game. Nelson Cruz started the inning by hitting Plutko in the right hip with a comebacker that went for an infield single. Eddie Rosario followed with a grounder between first and second that Lindor, playing to pull, fielded instead of Jason Kipnis. Lindor, with his momentum going toward first, turned and threw to second for the force, but there was no chance for a double play.
If he had let Kipnis handle the ball, the chances for a double play would have improved.
Plutko followed with a strikeout of Miguel Sano, but Luis Arreaz singled to send Rosario to third. Cron followed with his line drive double to the wall in right center.
The Twins made it 2-1 with three straight singles to start the fifth. Jake Cave opened with a single and was replaced by pinch-runner LaMonte Wade. Max Kepler blooped a single down the left field line to send Wade to third. Jorge Polanco singled to right for the lead.
“I really wanted to come out and compete tonight,” Plutko said. “Based on some of the talks we had with Tito and today with everybody we wanted to show everybody what we got. The last couple of games, maybe we were a little down, but we really wanted to come out strong tonight.”
Francona met with the team after Thursday’s 7-1 loss to the White Sox. Before Friday night’s game, the Indians had a player’s only meeting.
The Indians tied the score in the eighth. It began with a triple by Mercado against Sergio Romo blooped into the right field corner. Romo retired Carlos Santana on a pop up to second, but Puig brought him home with a sacrifice fly to center.
“Pineda threw the ball well tonight, but Plutko was amazing,” Mercado said. “He gave us a chance to win. Once we got it to 2-2, and we saw the way our bullpen was throwing, we knew we had a chance.”
Plutko retired the side in order in the sixth for his seventh quality start of the season. Plutko allowed two runs on seven hits. He struck out five and walked one in his second start of the season against the Twins.
Pineda, facing the Indians for the second time this season, is 5-0 in his last seven starts. The 10 strikeouts were a season high.
The Indians didn’t create many scoring chances until late. One day after managing one hit in a 7-1 loss to the White Sox, they looked like they were still in a funk. They had five hits through nine innings and at times you wondered what they were thinking about.
Bauers drew a one-out walk in the ninth, but was picked off for the second out by Zack Littell. Roberto Perez struck out to end the inning.
The last time the Indians played at Target Field, they took three out of four to move into a first-place tie on Aug. 11. They moved into sole possession of first on Aug. 12 with an extra-inning win over Boston, but since then they’ve fallen hard and fast.
The Tribe is 10-13 since Aug. 12, while the Twins have gone 16-7 to reclaim first place in the AL Central.
Rookie right-hander Aaron Civale (3-3, 1.94) will start Saturday night for the Tribe. Civale held the Twins to one run in six innings on Aug. 11.
Jake Odorizzi, 3-1 in his last seven starts, is 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA against the Tribe in three starts. SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 will carry the game that starts at 7:10 p.m.