CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians are just one victory away from reaching the 100-win plateau for only the third time in the 118-year history of the franchise.
The Indians (99-59) got steady run production in multiple innings, and coupled with a standout performance from the pitching staff, fought their way to a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins (83-75) in a battle of American League Central Division teams at Progressive Field Wednesday night.
With the win, the Indians reduced their “Magic Number” to clinch the top record in the American League down to four with four games remaining in the regular season, the series finale against the Twins Thursday afternoon, and then, a weekend series against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field.
The Indians took a one-run lead with an RBI single to center field in the bottom of the first inning.
After a double play eliminated shortstop Francisco Lindor, who walked to lead off the game, second baseman Jose Ramirez doubled to left field on an 0-1 pitch from Twins starting pitcher Adalberto Mejia. Then, on a 2-2 offering, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion smacked a slider into center field and drove in Ramirez for the first run of the game.
The Indians doubled their advantage with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Encarnacion and first baseman Carlos Santana started the frame with back-to-back singles to left field. After Jay Bruce flied out to his counterpart in right field and third baseman Yandy Diaz struck out swinging, center fielder Jason Kipnis walked to load the bases, and catcher Yan Gomes brought in Encarnacion when he was hit by a 1-2 slider low and inside.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Jackson hit a lead-off single to center field, and later, moved into scoring position when Encarnacion drew a walk. Although Encarnacion was erased at second base on a fielder’s choice from Santana, Jackson advanced to third and came around to score when Bruce reached on a throwing error.
Later, Gomes gave the Indians a four-run lead when he belted a solo home run off of Twins reliever Michael Tonkin over the 19-foot wall in left field in the bottom of the sixth inning.
While the Indians got key run production from the offense, Danny Salazar turned in a solid performance and made a case for a spot on the postseason roster.
Salazar allowed one hit and one run, and registered nine strikeouts in 4.2 innings of work against the Twins, an outing that helped him lower his regular-season earned run average down to 4.28. Salazar located the strike zone with 48 of his 64 pitches (75 percent).
On in relief, Mike Clevinger allowed just one hit in 1.1 innings, and American League All-Star Andrew Miller struck out two of the three batters he faced in the top of the seventh inning. Ten of Miller’s 14 pitches went for strikes.
The Twins scored cut the four-run deficit in half when Indians closer Cody Allen gave up a two-run home run to shortstop Jorge Polanco with one out in the top of the ninth inning.
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