MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — After watching their All-Star closer lose a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Cleveland Indians bounced right back to win their four-game series in Minnesota and forge another tie for the AL Central lead.
The three-time defending division champions have made a remarkable summer rebound, setting up a tense race with the Twins for the final stretch.
Carlos Santana hit a grand slam in the 10th, after Tyler Naquin and Francisco Lindor teamed up to throw out what would have been the winning run for the Twins in the ninth, and Cleveland beat Minnesota 7-3 on Sunday.
“It’s nice whenever your teammates can pick you up, and they come up with big hits,” Naquin said. “That’s what the team is all about.”
After Eddie Rosario’s second double of the afternoon started the four-hit ninth inning against Brad Hand (5-3), the Twins used a single by Luis Arraez and a double by Marwin Gonzalez to tie the game. But as pinch-runner Ehire Adrianza tried to score from first base, Naquin grabbed the ball off the bounce from the left-field wall and zipped a throw to the shortstop Lindor, whose relay home was in perfect position for catcher Kevin Plawecki to tag Adrianza with ease for the second out.
“It was actually perfect. I don’t know if you could do it any better,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
It was Naquin’s 10th outfield assist, moving into a tie for third in the majors, but the Twins expressed no regret about the aggressive approach by third base coach Tony Diaz to send Adrianza after Arraez scored. Diaz said he thought Adrianza had a nice read off the bat, almost reaching second when the ball went over Naquin.
“Pushing the envelope a little bit,” Diaz said. “Two perfect throws required.”
Jonathan Schoop grounded out on the next play, and Twins closer Taylor Rogers (2-3) took over in the 10th inning. He allowed a single, a walk and another single on a bunt by Greg Allen to load the bases with none out for Santana, who quickly erased the late-inning drama with one big swing. The All-Star first baseman has reached base at least once in 53 of his last 57 games since June 4, the exact date when the Indians began the surge. They’re 42-17 during that span, the best record in the majors.
“It’s great,” said Santana, who has four career grand slams. “We’re fighting.”
Aaron Civale pitched six smooth innings in his third major league start, after Allen homered and Yasiel Puig hit an RBI double in the first inning to get the Indians going against All-Star José Berriós. Santana added an RBI single in the third for a 3-1 lead, before Berriós retired 11 straight batters.
Now the Twins, who had sole possession of first place from April 27 until Friday before bypassing the Indians again Saturday with a 4-1 victory, are in a tie for the second time in three days. Their lead was as big as 11½ games on June 3 and still 7½ games on July 13. The Twins and Indians play six more times, all in September.
“When we see them again,” Berriós said, “we’re going to battle again.”
Civale permitted one run and four hits. Civale, the third-round pick in 2016 who came from the same draft class as fellow rotation members Shane Bieber (fourth round) and Zach Plesac (12th round), has allowed only nine hits, four walks and two runs with 18 strikeouts in 18 innings in the majors.
Allen batted second and played center to give Oscar Mercado a break, just the second time this season he has taken one of the top five places in the lineup. In two games in the second spot, Allen is 6 for 11 with two homers, four runs, and three RBIs.
The Twins have Monday off, one of just five left over the final seven weeks of the season.
“If it was a sprint, Cleveland would have had a bad year when they didn’t start so hot,” Rogers said. “It’s a marathon, and this group will keep doing what it has been doing. And we will see what happens at the end.”
Indians: Plesac (6-3, 3.13 ERA) will start Monday at home against Boston to begin a three-game series, having thrown six shutout innings in his last appearance. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (13-5, 4.17 ERA) pitches for the Red Sox.
Twins: LHP Martín Pérez (8-5, 4.80 ERA) will take the mound to start a two-game interleague series Tuesday in Milwaukee, following an 11-hit, seven-run, six-inning performance in his last turn that put his spot in the rotation in question. RHP Chase Anderson (5-2, 3.70 ERA) pitches for the Brewers.
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