The Twins scored first, fell behind early, then rallied for four runs late to beat the Cleveland Indians 5-3 in Game 1 of a key, three-game series on Friday. Perhaps most important: the Twins widened their lead over the Tribe to 6.5 games.
Nelson Cruz got things started with a solo home run in the top of the first inning, his 17th. Starter Kyle Gibson didn’t pitch that poorly — five strikeouts over three-plus innings — but he ran into trouble in the fourth inning, courtesy of an error. Three runs scored in the inning, but only one was charged to him. Still, Gibson had thrown 80 pitches by then and was done.
The Twins threatened to score in the fifth inning, then finally broke through in the seventh with two men on and two outs. Max Kepler was ultimately called safe at first base, which allowed a run to score, then Jorge Polanco doubled in two more runs to take a 4-3 lead. Catcher Mitch Garver hit a home run in the eighth, his 14th, and that was the game.
After Gibson exited, four relievers pitched scoreless baseball the rest of the way. Zack Littell was credited with the win and ace reliever Taylor Rogers got the six-out save, his 13th.
The Twins and Tribe meet again Saturday at Progressive Field. Jake Odorizzi gets the ball for the Twins.
-The Twins are now 57-33.
-The Twins scored five runs on eight hits. In addition to the two home runs and Polanco double, Miguel Sano also hit a two-bagger.
-Twins pitching struck out 12 Tribe batters on Friday.
-Twins manager Rocco Baldelli on the team’s win:
“It was a great way to start out the second half,” manager Rocco Baldelli told MLB.com. “We did a lot of things right. We faced a good team and faced a very good starting pitcher who is throwing the ball well. Mike Clevinger has great stuff. I think we battled them well. We did what we had to do to stay in the game and stay in a good competitive place and then take the lead and hold it.”