CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians went to Target Field in Minneapolis with a chance to wrest first place in the American League Central Division away from the front-running Minnesota Twins, and that is exactly what they did.
With an offensive surge and solid pitching from both the starting rotation and bullpen throughout the weekend, the Indians (36-31) earned a four-game sweep of the Twins (34-33), and now, own a two-game edge in the division.
Here are five things the Indians proved throughout the weekend.
ENCARNACION HAS SETTLED IN WELL
Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion continues to swing a hot bat, and it is leading to victories for the Indians.
Encarnacion went three for four with two runs scored, two home runs and five RBI in a 5-2 win over the Twins Sunday, which allowed the Indians (36-31) to complete the sweep.
Encarnacion has six home runs in his last 10 games.
It was the third straight game in which the Indians had a player hit two home runs in the same game, a first for the club since Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome alternated multi-homer games in four consecutive outings during the 2000 season.
And that was far from the only damage Encarnacion did over the weekend, as he drove in three runs in an 8-1 win over the Twins on Friday night.
RAMIREZ IN QUITE THE GROOVE
Over his last six games, third baseman Jose Ramirez has four three-hit and two two-hit showings, and in all but one of those outings, the Indians have been on the winning end of competition.
Ramirez is batting .593 over his six-game hitting streak with three home runs, eight doubles, seven runs batted in and nine runs scored. Ramirez has had at least one double in each of the last six games, including two each in Friday and Sunday’s victories.
In the first of two wins over the Twins Saturday, Ramirez homered from both sides of the plate in the same game. It was the first time in his career and just the ninth time in franchise history that an Indians hitter accomplished the feat.
CARRASCO ON HIS WAY BACK TO FORM
Although Indians starter Carlos Carrasco struggled with locating his pitches in the seventh inning and failed to make it out of the frame, he allowed just one run, four hits, including a solo home run, and three walks with seven strikeouts over 6.1 innings of work in Friday night’s win.
Carrasco is now 5-1 with a 2.89 earned run average in road starts this season. Opponents are hitting just .197 against Carrasco in their home parks.
YOUNG PITCHERS WILL HELP INDIANS
Despite not factoring into the decision in the first game of the doubleheader Saturday, soft-tossing left-hander Ryan Merritt allowed just three runs, two of which were earned, after surrendering seven hits over his four innings of work. Merritt struck out two Twins hitters and did not allow a walk.
A rain delay shortened the outing for Indians starter Mike Clevinger in the nightcap of the doubleheader, but he accounted himself well. Clevinger allowed just two hits, one earned run and one walk against four strikeouts over four innings of work against the Twins.
Earlier this season, starting pitching was an issue for the Indians, but that was anything but the case when Clevinger took the bump against the top team in the American League, the Houston Astros, at Minute Maid Park in Houston on May 20.
In the rotation because of injuries to Corey Kluber and Carrasco, Clevinger allowed just two hits, two walks and struck out eight batters over seven-plus innings of work in a 3-0 victory over the Astros, who started the series with the best overall record in Major League Baseball.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE THE ROAD?
The Indians may be 15-17 at Progressive Field this season, but they are in first place in the Central Division because of their ability to play well away from home, as the reigning American League champions are 21-14 on the road.
The Indians are 7-0 against the Twins at Target Field, and 13-6 in road games against Central Division competition this year.
The Indians last had a four-game sweep of the Twins at Minnesota over the final weekend of the 2013 regular season, when they needed all of those victories to secure the top American League Wildcard Playoff spot.
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