MINNEAPOLIS — Even after the Indians outscored Minnesota by 13 in the first two games of their weekend series, manager Terry Francona thought his team still needed to “really get after it.”
Especially now that the Indians are in first place.
Jose Ramirez homered twice, doubled and drove in four runs as the Indians pulled even with Minnesota atop the AL Central by beating the Twins 9-3 Saturday in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.
The Indians took sole possession of first with a 6-2 win Saturday night in a rain-delayed game. Lonnie Chisenhall hit two homers.
Asked in the break between games if it felt nice to get a share of first place, Francona looked down at his wristwatch.
“Well, for about two hours,” he said with a chuckle. “I mean, I’m glad we won the game. Now we need to really get after it in the next game. I think we’ve got to get greedy, that’s the way the game is.”
Or at least that’s how the Indians have been behaving with the Twins. Cleveland improved to 7-2 against the Twins, who entered the weekend series having held at least a share of first place since May 10.
Ramirez touched off a three-run first inning in the opener with a two-out homer off Adam Wilk (0-2). He chased the spot starter with a two-run double in the fourth and added another solo shot off Alex Wimmers in the sixth. It was the second multihomer game of Ramirez’s career, both this season.
Zach McAllister (1-0) pitched two hitless innings, striking out three. He worked in relief of starter Ryan Merritt, who made his season debut. McAllister, Bryan Shaw and Dan Otero combined for five scoreless innings in relief.
Officially added to the Indians’ roster in the morning, Merritt gave up two earned runs and seven hits in four innings. His only earned runs came in the fourth when Ehire Adrianza’s two-run double scored Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton.
“The first two games have been lopsided,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We kind of anticipated having some fun this series and competing, and it hasn’t really worked out.”
Wilk surrendered six runs off eight hits in 3 1/3 innings, while walking three. The journeyman lefty remains winless in five career major league starts, and has allowed six homers in 14 innings this season, including an outing for the New York Mets in May.
Wilk retired his first two batters with only five pitches, but it went downhill quickly after that.
Ramirez worked a full count before his first-inning homer, and Wilk allowed two walks and two singles to the next four batters. Bradley Zimmer had a two-run single in the inning and added an RBI double in the third.
“It was awesome,” Merritt said about having a lead before he even took the mound. “The team’s just smashing the ball right now, it’s even more fun to pitch in those games.”
Ramirez collected three hits in three straight games before getting two in the second game. He has 13 hits over the last five games, after a three-game hitless streak dropped him into a 4-for-24 slump.
“There’s going to be good moments, there’s going to be bad moments,” he said. “Throughout all of it you have to concentrate and figure out what you’re doing well in those good moments to get out of those bad moments.”
Indians: RHP Danny Salazar (shoulder) remains on track to throw a bullpen session Monday. He’s been on the DL since June 4. “If he comes through that, I think we’ll all feel better about stuff,” Francona said.
... 2B Jason Kipnis had two doubles and a single and scored a run despite his neck still being a bit sore. He didn’t play in the second game, but Francona said that he for sure wanted him in today’s lineup.
The Twins designated Wilk for assignment after the game and selected RHP Alan Busenitz’s contract from Triple-A Rochester. “It’s a tough circumstance to come up and face that lineup,” Molitor said of Wilk.
Earlier in the day, both teams made moves to clear roster spots for Merritt and Wilk. The Indians optioned LHP Kyle Crockett and made pitcher Mike Clevinger their 26th man. The Twins, meanwhile, sent Ryan Pressly to the minors and made Wimmers their 26th man.