Catcher Mitch Garver homered twice as the Twins came from behind to beat the Indians, 5-3, at Target Field. The Tribe’s bullpen, after delivering five scoreless innings Friday night, allowed four runs in three innings Saturday.
The Indians (82-61) trail the first-place Twins by 6.5 games in the American League Central. They are 8-7 against them in the season series.
In the race for the Wild Card Game, the Indians trail Tampa Bay (85-59) by 2.5 games for the home position, and are behind Oakland (83-59) by 1.5 games for the road position.
The Indians, with 19 games left in the season, needed to sweep the Twins in this three-game set to have a chance to overtake them and win the Central. Since that’s not going to happen, they need to win Sunday to take the series.
“I don’t think we needed to sweep, but that’s what everyone wanted," Jason Kipnis said. “Mathematically it’s still possible. But we need to win the series. That makes Sunday an important game.”
Minnesota leads the big leagues with a franchise record 274 homers. Garver added to that total with a bases-empty homer in the first and a big three-run homer in the seventh off Nick Goody. Garver’s 28th homer of the season capped a game-winning four-run rally.
Manager Terry Francona used three relievers in the seventh, but they could not stop the Twins.
Adam Cimber (5-3) started with a 2-1 lead, but Willians Astudillo opened with an infield single that shortstop Francisco Lindor knocked down behind second base. Jonathan Schoop scored Astudillo with a double high off the wall in center field. Schoop continued to third when Yasiel Puig overthrew the cutoff man.
Oliver Perez relieved, but he walked Max Kepler to bring Goody into the game. Garver sent Goody’s 1-1 pitch over the wall in right for a 5-2 lead.
The Indians made it 5-3 with two out in the eighth off Sergio Romo. Puig doubled and scored on a single by Kipnis. But they could get no closer.
The Twins took a 1-0 on Garver’s homer in the first off rookie right-hander Aaron Civale. It was his 27th of the season and set a franchise record for Twins catcher. Minnesota pressured Civale through five innings, but that was the only run he allowed. He walked the bases loaded with two out in the third, but retired Eddie Rosario on a fly to left to end the inning.
In the fourth, he made an error on Miguel Sano’s comebacker to start the inning. Luis Arraez followed with a double, but Lindor threw Sano out at the plate on a grounder by C.J. Cron. Astudillo went down on a fly ball to center and Schoop hit into a force play.
Civale allowed one run on three hits. He struck out four and walked three.
Twins starter Jake Odorizzi started the game with four straight strikeouts. The Indians finally caught him in the sixth inning to take 2-1 lead. Oscar Mercado and Carlos Santana drew one-out walks. Puig doubled home Mercado. Tyler Duffey relieved and struck out Jason Kipnis, but Santana scored on a wild pitch for a 2-1 lead.
Odorizzi allowed two runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out 10 and walked two.
Puig was at his unpredictable best Saturday night. In the fourth, he bounced back to Odorizzi and didn’t take a step toward first base. He just turned around and jogged to the dugout. Odorizzi, as he approached first base to make the out, looked stunned when he didn’t see a runner coming down the line.
“No one likes to see that,” said Francona, when asked about Puig not running. “That will not happen again.”
Taylor Rogers pitched the ninth for his 25th save. Minnesota’s Nelson Cruz, held out of the game with a sore left wrist, was ejected for arguing by plate umpire Laz Diaz.
The Indians and Twins end this three-game series Sunday afternoon at 2:10 p.m. Right-hander Mike Clevinger (10-2, 2.71) will start for the Indians. The Twins have yet to name a starter.
Clevinger, who has won nine straight decisions, is 6-2 in eight starts on the road this season. He’s 1-0 against the Twins in two starts this year. The Twins are expected to use an opener and then turn to left-hander Devin Smeltzer or right-hander Randy Dobnak.