December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Indians 6, Twins 2: Indians complete sweep to dim Twins’ playoff hopes

 

MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins’ reign atop the AL Central is all but over. After being swept twice by Cleveland in the last 10 games, they’re making way for the new kids in town.

Victor Martinez had two hits and two RBIs to back a quality start from Fausto Carmona, and the surging Indians beat Minnesota 6-2 on Wednesday for their seventh straight win over the defending division champs.

“They’ve grown together, and now they’re ready to go,” Minnesota’s Torii Hunter said. “I wish them luck. They go on to the playoffs. Hopefully, they do well and bring it back home to the Central.”

Carmona (15-8) allowed two runs and eight hits in 7 1-3 innings to help the AL Central leaders to their 11th win in 12 games. Six of those victories have come against the Twins, who had won five in a row when they walked into Jacobs Field on Aug. 27 looking to cut into Cleveland’s 6½-game lead in the division.

But the Twins were swept out of the Jake, split a series with Kansas City, and were swept again this week by Cleveland. Minnesota now trails the Indians by 12½ games.

Cleveland began the day with a seven-game advantage over second-place Detroit. The Twins were eight games out of the wild-card spot.

“We’re going to have to have a lot of help,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “When you’re playing head-to-head against people and you don’t beat them, and they sweep you, that knocks your socks off a little bit. We’ve gotten ourselves in a very, very deep hole.”

Rafael Perez got five outs for his first major league save.

“We’ve got a good vibe right now,” said Cleveland’s Casey Blake, who had three hits. “It just seems like we’re playing pretty well in all areas of the game. And it’s nice to have some good energy going on.”

Twins starter Scott Baker (8-7) gave up three runs and 11 hits with six strikeouts in five innings, a resounding step back from his stellar outing on Friday against the Royals.

Baker carried a perfect game into the ninth in that one, and was two outs from a no-hitter when Mike Sweeney broke it up.

On Wednesday, Grady Sizemore needed just two pitches to get the first hit off Baker, lining a single to center field to lead off the game. Baker then hit Asdrubal Cabrera in the back with a pitch and gave up an RBI double to Travis Hafner.

Martinez followed with another double to score two more runs, and it was 3-0 Indians before the smattering of Twins fans even got settled into their seats. It took Baker 27 pitches to get his first out of the game.

The right-hander from Louisiana walked a tightrope all afternoon, wobbling a few times but never being knocked off.

The Indians had a leadoff single in all five innings Baker worked. But he got some timely strikeouts, including one of Martinez with the bases loaded in the fourth, and stranded nine baserunners to limit the damage.

Carmona breezed through the first four innings against a Twins lineup he has dominated all season. He entered the game with a 1.14 ERA in three previous starts against the Twins.

“We’re playing real well,” Carmona said through a translator. “We need to continue playing the same way we have been playing for the last two weeks. But we have to make sure we don’t take anything for granted and play hard.”

The wiry Dominican needed just 54 pitches to get through the first four innings, but gave up two runs and four hits in the fifth to let the Twins back in the game.

Luis Rodriguez had a sacrifice fly and Hunter added an RBI single to make the score 3-2, but Carmona got cleanup hitter Justin Morneau to ground out with runners on the corners to end the inning.

The Indians tacked on three more runs in the ninth, two coming on pinch-hitter Kenny Lofton’s single off Pat Neshek.

“We can’t afford not to peak right now,” Blake said. “But I don’t even know if we’re peaking. There’s no reason why we can’t play like this all the time. But we couldn’t afford to play just average baseball right now.”