The Indians kept pace ahead of the Tigers in the Central Division at Target Field tonight with a 5-4 win over the Minnesota Twins. The win puts the Indians at 82-58 and secures the franchise’s fourth consecutive winning season while they remain six games ahead of Detroit in the race to the division title.
This one was a bit sloppy on both sides in the early going. Danny Salazar continued to miss his spots, sometimes badly, as he bounced fastballs in the dirt and used a lot of bullets slugging through four innings of yeoman’s work. It’s a worrying trend as the Indians steer ever closer to the playoffs – the Indians are going to need more out of Salazar if they’re going to have four starters operating close to all cylinders on a four man rotation in October.
The Twins struck first off of Salazar as Joe Mauer pounced on a two-strike meatball over the middle of the plate for a home run in the bottom of the first inning. The Twins struck again in the second as they capitalized on a Jason Kipnis fielding error which led to a two out double down the line by the red hot Brian Dozier but the Indians immediately responded in the third.
After loading the bases with one out, the Indians made three consecutive at bats count as Lonnie Chisenhall put a nice swing on a Tyler Duffey fastball and doubled in two, Abraham Almonte took advantage of a deep infield to score the third run on a groundout, and finally Tyler Naquin singled through the hole on the right side to score Chisenhall and stake the Tribe to a 4-2 lead.
A couple of home runs concluded the scoring early in this one. Byron Buxton effectively shut the door on Salazar when he swatted a two run shot in the bottom of the fourth to even the score at four. It’s been announced by the team that Salazar is experiencing tightness in his forearm again, and this will be a very important trend in the coming days as team doctors continue to evaluate the issue.
Mike Napoli then concluded the scoring for the day with an absolute monster of a home run on the first pitch of the fifth inning. If you were at Thursday’s Astros game at the Prog and wondered what would have happened if Napoli had straightened out that 465 foul bomb that he hit into the Gateway Plaza, well, you got your answer tonight. A 456-foot moonshot high into the upper reaches of Target Field as Napoli set new career highs with 32 home runs and 93 runs batted in.
As sloppy as the first four and a half innings were, the rest of the game was a display of stolid relief pitching and the occasional defensive gem as the two bullpens combined to throw nine innings with three hits allowed and six strikeouts. Joe Colon (1-1, 1.69) picked up his first Major League victory by pitching a scoreless fifth inning and Zach McAllister, Dan Otero and Bryan Shaw had uneventful innings to bridge the gap to Cody Allen’s 27th save.
The Tribe is now a Major League-best 56-34 (.622) since June 1st and look to take advantage of the Twins again tomorrow night at 7:10pm as they push on towards a potential playoff berth.