Surging Twins beat Indians 6-4

Published 8:48 am Tuesday, June 7, 2011

CLEVELAND — There’s suddenly something old and familiar about the Minnesota Twins.

They’re winning again.

They extended their longest winning streak this season to five games on Monday night, getting seven solid innings from Scott Baker and two RBIs from Matt Tolbert in a 6-4 win Monday night over the falling-fast Cleveland Indians, who lost their fifth in a row.

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A season marked by injuries and tough losses is finally on the upswing for the Twins, who were 17-36 at the end of May but are 5-1 in June.

“We’ve had a lot of tough losses,” said manager Ron Gardenhire. “There’s a lot of excitement on our bench. There’s a lot better feeling that we have a chance to win right now. No matter what the score is we feel we can stay in the game.”

Baker (3-4) was down 2-0 after throwing just four pitches as the Indians hit screaming line drives all over Progressive Field in the first. However, the right-hander bobbed and weaved his way around trouble and stayed in until the eighth. He allowed three earned runs and nine hits.

“Nobody wants to spot anybody two runs before we get an out,” Baker said. “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. If I keep my team in the ballgame, I feel like I’m doing my job.”

Baker felt fortunate that the Indians didn’t do more damage.

“They hit some missiles, but they hit missiles right at guys,” Baker said. “Obviously, it was a battle all night. The offense picked me up and the bullpen did a great job.”

Josh Tomlin (7-3) lasted six innings for the Indians, who led the AL Central by seven games as recently as May 23 but dropped their seventh straight at home.

Asdrubal Cabrera hit a two-run homer and Michael Brantley added a solo shot for Cleveland.

After being swept four straight by Texas over the weekend, the Indians were relieved the defending league champions left town and were replaced by the last-place Twins, who came in with baseball’s worst record. Minnesota, though, is playing its best ball in what has been a disappointing and injury-pocked season so far.

The Twins, who have won the Central the past two years, are remembering what it takes to win.

“There’s a lot more confidence,” Tolbert said. “It kinds of feels like last year when we knew we were going to win. We knew we were going to score runs and pitch well.”

The Indians couldn’t string anything together against Baker, pulled after allowing the first two batters to reach in the eighth. Reliever Jose Mijares got Carlos Santana to hit into a double play before Cabrera scored on an error to make it 6-4. Alex Burnett struck out Matt LaPorta to end the inning.

In the ninth, Twins closer Matt Capps allowed a leadoff walk, but got a strikeout and game-ending double play for his eighth save.

Before the game, the Indians were puzzling in their handling of a players-only meeting. Initially, manager Manny Acta said he was unaware of the meeting, but was pleased it took place.

“I’m glad they got together,” he said.

However, after speaking to players during batting practice, Acta informed reporters that no such meeting happened. Later, a team spokesman sent out a text message confirming “a brief players gathering” between advance meetings for the position players and pitchers.

Outfielder Austin Kearns somewhat cleared things up and described the meeting “as just guys talking. No messages here or there. Just go out and play.”

The Indians came out flying.

Brantley led off with a double, and Cabrera followed by hitting Baker’s next pitch 407 feet to right to make it 2-0, giving the Indians their first lead in 34 innings. It was Cabrera’s team-leading 12th homer — double his previous career high.

Grady Sizemore, batting third in Cleveland’s reshuffled lineup, then lined into a double play and Baker retired Shin-Soo Choo on a line drive to right.

Tomlin didn’t make the lead stand long.

The Twins tied it 2-all in the second on a two-out, two-run single by Tolbert.

Baker then settled in over the next three innings and Minnesota grabbed a 5-2 lead in the fourth, scoring its runs on a safety squeeze, double-play grounder and wild pitch.

Brantley’s fifth homer made it 5-3 in the fifth, but the Twins went back up by three on Delmon Young’s bloop RBI double in the sixth.