MINNEAPOLIS — There’s still a lot of baseball left to play this season, but it’s hard to overlook what the Cleveland Indians did over the weekend.
Edwin Encarnacion homered twice, Trevor Bauer pitched seven strong innings and Jose Ramirez had his sixth straight multihit game Sunday as the Indians completed a four-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins with a 5-2 victory.
Cleveland came into the series trailing the Twins by two games in the AL Central. The sweep vaulted the Indians two games ahead and gave the defending AL champions sole possession of first place for the first time since May 10.
“I don’t want to say we bullied them, but we kind of imposed our will on them, and that’s something we’ve been talking about as a team,” Bauer said. “Playing the game the right way with energy and focus and intensity — that was really good to see.”
Bauer (6-5) allowed two runs and four hits with two walks and eight strikeouts. He retired 15 consecutive Twins during one stretch.
“I thought today was far and away his best outing,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “He just filled up the strike zone with a bunch of quality pitches. We were thrilled with the way he was throwing the ball.”
Andrew Miller worked a hitless ninth for his first save of the season.
Kyle Gibson (4-5) retired nine straight before Encarnacion hit a 443-foot drive to the second deck in left field to put Cleveland on top 1-0 in the third.
Two innings later, the designated hitter did it again, launching a sky-high fly to left that carried into the second deck. The two-run shot was his third homer of the series and 15th of the season and it gave the Indians a 3-0 lead.
“He’s a very special hitter, and now we’re seeing it,” Francona said. “Through the first six weeks it was a fight for him. Right now he’s getting locked in and he’s dangerous.”
Ramirez continued to wear out Twins pitching, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, a walk and two runs scored. He hit a one-out double in the ninth, stole third and scored on Encarnacion’s sacrifice fly to give the Indians an insurance run.
For the series, Ramirez was 11-for-18 with four doubles, two homers, six runs and four RBIs. He played a big part in the Indians outscoring the Twins 28-7 over the four games.
“Collectively, it was a frustrating series,” Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. “Somehow you’ve got to get past it, learn from it. They played better. There’s no question, they did everything better.”
Just don’t expect the Indians to let their guard down now that they’ve regained first place.
“We had a big series here and we did a really good job,” Francona said. “Now we’ll get on the flight, we’ll turn the page quickly and we’ll set our sights on Baltimore. That’s our next big series. That’s how we always look at it.”
Zimmer zeroes in
The Twins had a chance to do some damage in the second but Indians center fielder Bradley Zimmer put a stop to it. With two on and one out, Eddie Rosario lined a single to center. Zimmer came up throwing, and catcher Roberto Hernandez applied the tag to a sliding Max Kepler just in time to keep the game scoreless.
“That was a run saved,” Zimmer said. “Little things like that are huge. The next couple innings we rally, Eddie hits a couple homers and we’re back on top.”
Well runs dry
The Twins had been giving Gibson plenty of support, averaging 10.6 runs per game in his five starts since he returned from a demotion to Triple-A.
Bauer and the Indians have had their way with the Twins. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.26 ERA year against Minnesota this year. Against the rest of the league, he’s 2-5 with a 6.34 ERA. Meanwhile, the Indians are 7-0 at Target Field and 8-2 overall against the Twins, a team they’ll face again in Cleveland on Friday through Sunday.
The Indians sent 3B Giovanny Urshela to Triple-A Columbus before the game. Urshela was called up for Saturday’s doubleheader and went 0-for-4 in the second game. To replace him on the roster, RHP Shawn Armstrong was recalled from Columbus. Armstrong has appeared in nine games for the Indians this season, posting a 5.97 ERA over 12 innings.
Twins LHP Hector Santiago (strained left shoulder) left the team to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Rochester. Santiago threw a bullpen Saturday and is scheduled to start for the Red Wings on Wednesday. Minnesota put him on the 10-day disabled list June 7.
Indians: RHP Corey Kluber (5-2) starts tonight in Baltimore against RHP Dylan Bundy (7-5) and the Orioles.
Twins: After a day off, Minnesota welcomes the Chicago White Sox to Target Field for a three-game series. RHP Ervin Santana (8-4, 2.56 ERA) faces Chicago LHP Derek Holland (5-6, 3.79) on Tuesday night.