Cleveland – The Minnesota Twins are halfway to another division title. Now if they could just get fully healthy.
Miguel Sano hit a two-run homer, Kenta Maeda struck out seven over five innings and Nelson Cruz connected for a solo shot to lead the injury-riddled Twins to a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Indians on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series between the AL Central’s top teams.
Sano homered in the sixth inning off Aaron Civale (3-3) as the Twins hit the halfway point of this 60-game season in the same place they ended 2019. Minnesota stopped Cleveland’s three-year reign atop the division last year.
The Twins, who have several regulars and two starting pitchers on the injured list, lead the Indians by 2½ games.
“This is a very sneaky, very good effort,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “We never say we need anything. This was a very important game in a lot of different ways. We’re obviously playing a divisional opponent, we’re in a situation where our bullpen has dealt with different things over the past few days.
“There were multiple guys not pitching today. It’s a very easy day to lose concentration.”
Twins starter Kenta Maeda (4-0) gave up a leadoff homer in the first to Cesar Hernandez and then dodged trouble for the next four before turning it over to Minnesota’s bullpen.
The Japanese right-hander, who nearly threw a no-hitter against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday, scattered five hits while walking one in his sixth start of the coronavirus-shortened season.
Maeda, who has 40 strikeouts with a 2.21 ERA in his first year with Minnesota, set a Twins record by striking out eight consecutive batters in his previous start.
“I was able to pitch solidly,” Maeda said. “I threw a few more balls (in eight-plus innings during his last start) and was still a little tired, so I wasn’t in the same condition as last time, but I was able to hold them down and keep runs to a minimum. Winning was the biggest thing.”
Trevor May gave up Carlos Santana’s two-out RBI single in the seventh to make it 3-2, but the right-hander struck out slugger Franmil Reyes with runners at the corners to end the threat.
After Sergio Romo worked the eighth and chirped at Cleveland’s dugout afterward, Taylor Rogers pitched the ninth for his seventh save.
Cleveland’s offensive woes continue. The Indians have scored two runs or fewer in 14 games. They went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 runners.
“We gotta start stringing hits together,” said Sandy Alomar Jr., who filled in again for manager Terry Francona. “We’re not doing that. That’s the ballgame right there.”
Francona, who underwent surgery on a gastrointestinal condition last week, missed 15 games and will not be back in this series.
Before the game, Alomar amplified the importance of the three-game set.
“Every series in the pandemic is big,” he said.
And Minnesota’s big bats came through.
Cruz, who seems to save his best swings inside the Central, tied it 1-1 in the fourth with his 11th homer.
Since joining the Twins in 2019, Cruz has hit 35 homers and driven in 93 runs in 79 division games. It was his 412th career homer, tying him with Alfonso Soriano for 54th place.
In the sixth, Eddie Rosario doubled with one out off Civale before Sano drove a 1-0 pitch over the wall in right. Sano has an extra-base hit in eight consecutive games.
“He is scalding balls,” Baldelli said of Sano. “He really does make the ballpark look very tiny when he hits it on the barrel whether he hits it in the air and its leaving the yard or even those line drives that he hits that find a little bit of space.”
Civale said the Twins are a handful and more.
“This whole lineup is a chess match, top to bottom,” Civale said. “They have a complete lineup. I made mistakes and they made me pay.”
Cubs 9, Tigers 3
In Detroit, Javier Baez hit two home runs and the Chicago Cubs became the second franchise in major league history to post 11,000 wins, beating the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.
Only the Giants have won more, with 11,179 victories after starting in New York in 1883 and later moving to San Francisco.
The Cubs, who earned their first victory in 1876, improved to 11,000-10,414. The Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers are close behind with 10,996 wins.
David Bote homered and drove in four runs for the NL Central-leading Cubs. Báez had three RBIs.
Blue Jays 6, Rays 4
In St. Petersburg, Florida, Randal Grichuk hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning and Toronto beat Tampa Bay.
Reliever Aaron Loup (3-2) replaced Edgar García with one on and one out. After Cavan Biggio reached on catcher’s interference, Grichuk gave Toronto a 5-3 lead with his seventh home run.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. also homered for the Blue Jays, and Thomas Hatch (2-1) worked two scoreless innings for the win. Jordan Romano worked the ninth for his second save.
Yoshitomo Tsutsugo homered for Tampa Bay, breaking a four-game hitless streak. He also drew three walks and scored a run.
Marlins 11, Nationals 8
In Washington Jesus Aguilar drove in three runs and Miami defeated Washington, taking three of the five games in the series.
Aguilar’s two-run double was part of a huge third inning for Miami off Nationals starter Austin Voth (0-3). The Marlins scored five runs with two-outs and six total, turning a one-run lead into a 7-0 advantage.
Pablo López (3-1) allowed six hits and three runs — none earned — in five solid innings.
Adam Eaton hit a three-run homer in the eighth for Washington – his second of the season – and matched a career-high with four RBIs. Juan Soto went 4 for 5 for Washington, which has alternated wins and losses over its last 11 games.
Rangers 3, Athletics 2
In Arlington, Texas, Lance Lynn struck out eight in another workhorse start, Isiah-Kiner Falefa hit a go-ahead homer and Texas ended its eight-game losing streak with a win over American League-leading Oakland.
Kiner-Falefa hit a solo shot in the second inning off Jesus Luzardo (2-1), snapping a 2-2 tie to put the Rangers ahead to stay.
The Rangers had led for only one of the 74 innings they played during their losing streak that was the longest active in the majors.
Brewers 4, Reds 2
In Milwaukee, Justin Smoak homered and drove in three runs as Milwaukee cooled off Trevor Bauer and snapped a four-game skid with a victory over Cincinnati.
Omar Narvaez added a solo shot to help the Brewers win their opener of a 10-game homestand.
Bauer (3-1) began the game with an 0.68 ERA that led the majors, but fell behind 4-0 in the first four innings as the Brewers reversed their season-long trend of slow starts.
He ended up striking out seven and allowing seven hits, four runs and two walks in 6⅓ innings.
Cardinals 9, Royals 3
In St. Louis, Paul DeJong drove in three runs in his second game back from battling COVID-19 and Jack Flaherty tossed five shutout innings to help St. Louis beat Kansas City.
Paul Goldschmidt homered and also drove in three for the Cardinals, who have won four of five.
Astros 11, Angels 4
In Houston, Framber Valdez struck out a career-high 11 in seven strong innings and Carlos Correa drove in three runs as Houston snapped a three-game skid with a win over the Angels.
Angels star Albert Pujols passed Alex Rodriguez on the career RBIs list with a single for his 2,087th run batted in. Hank Aaron is the record holder at 2,297 — Babe Ruth is listed next on some charts with 2,214, even though 224 occurred before the RBI became an official statistic in 1920.
Rockies 3, Diamondbacks 2
In Phoenix, Rookie Ryan Castellani threw six strong innings for his first career win, Trevor Story hit his ninth homer of the season and Colorado snapped a seven-game losing streak by beating Arizona.
The Diamondbacks have lost six straight games and are in last place in the NL West.