Indians beat Twins 6-2, pull even for Central Division lead
Shane Bieber pitched into the eighth inning, Jose Ramirez had three hits and the Cleveland Indians pulled into a tie in the American League Central with a 6-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.
Cleveland trailed Minnesota by 11 1/2 games on June 3 before putting together a 41-16 run, the best record in the majors since June 4. The Twins are 30-27 in those games and their division lead finally slipped away with their first four-game losing streak of the season.
The All-Star MVP Bieber (12-4) allowed a pair of home runs but struck out 12 batters in seven innings. The right-hander owns a 1.69 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 36 innings over his last four starts, pitching at least seven innings in each outing.
Devin Smeltzer (1-2) surrendered six runs in 4 1/3 innings for the Twins.
Jason Castro and Eddie Rosario homered for Minnesota, which broke its franchise record for home runs in a season with its majors-leading total of 226.
The powerful offense hasn't been able to overcome the Twins' starting pitching recently. In losing the past four games, Minnesota starters have surrendered 28 runs before the offense scored. The starters have given up 28 runs in 20 1/3 innings over that stretch.
Cleveland couldn't capitalize against a shaky Smeltzer early, but made him pay in a five-run fifth inning. Smeltzer and reliever Tyler Duffey allowed five straight hits, including a two-run double by Ramirez.
Ramirez's slow start was one reason the Indians faced the large deficit in the division. The two-time All-Star was hitting .201 as of June 20, but has hit .338 with 17 doubles, 11 home runs and 33 RBIs since. He has an extra-base hit in eight straight games.
Rosario's homer, his 25th of the season in the sixth inning, broke the franchise mark of 225 set in 1963. The Twins are 41 homers away from breaking the all-time major league mark set last season by the New York Yankees.
Indians: OF Bradley Zimmer (right shoulder rehab) will play designated hitter for Goodyear in an Arizona summer league game on Saturday. Manager Terry Francona said if all goes well, Zimmer would play in the outfield "later in the week." ... RHP Dan Otero (right shoulder inflammation) threw 20 pitches in appearance for Triple-A Columbus on Thursday.
Twins: DH Nelson Cruz was placed on the injured list with a ruptured tendon in his left wrist, but the team is expressing optimism that Cruz will return after 10 days. Cruz injured the wrist on a swing in Thursday's game and reported feeling no pain when he arrived to the ballpark on Friday. ... RHP Michael Pineda (right triceps strain) has been playing catch but there is no timeline for him to throw a bullpen session.
Indians: RHP Adam Plutko (4-2, 4.55 ERA) will start Saturday after beating the Los Angeles Angels in his last start with one run allowed in 5 1/3 innings.
Twins: RHP Jake Odorizzi (12-5, 3.61) will try to beat Cleveland for the second time this season. The All-Star gave up one run in 5 1/3 innings against the Indians on the road on July 13, and has allowed one run in each of his past two starts.