CLEVELAND (AP) — Indians manager Terry Francona doesn’t need any reminders about how well the Minnesota Twins have played this season. The numbers are in front of him every day.
Francona’s approach is for the Indians to try to win each game, and that is just what they did against the team with the best record in the majors.
Francisco Lindor hit two of Cleveland’s four home runs Tuesday and the Indians defeated the Twins 5-2.
Lindor hit a solo home run in the third and broke a 1-all tie with a two-run homer in the fifth. Roberto Perez and Jake Bauers added back-to-back homers in the seventh.
The Indians have struggled offensively, but at least for one night out-hit the Twins 6-5. Minnesota holds a 10 ½-game lead over Cleveland in AL Central and leads the AL in runs, homers and batting average.
“I know we’re far from first place right now,” Lindor said. “It’s inevitable to see how many games out we are, but it doesn’t matter. We’ve still got a long way to go.”
Shane Bieber (5-2) gave up solo homers to Marwin Gonzalez in the second and Eddie Rosario in the sixth. He allowed two runs and struck out seven in seven-plus innings.
Bieber was pulled after Byron Buxton reached on Lindor’s fielding error to start the eighth. Oliver Perez struck out Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz. Brad Hand hit Mitch Garver with one out in the ninth, but got Gonzalez to bounce into a game-ending double play. Hand picked up his 17th save in 17 opportunities.
Rookie left-hander Devin Smeltzer (0-1) gave up all four homers in his second major league start. Smeltzer allowed five runs in 6 1/3 innings.
“The hits, I’m not worried about,” he said. “I know they left the yard, but I got behind in the count. That’s why I left them over the plate and why they got me.”
Lindor, who missed the first three weeks because of calf and ankle injuries, doubled in the seventh and walked in the first.
“He needed to get some at-bats and everything, but now he’s starting to look like Frankie,” Francona said.
Rosario moved into a tie for the AL lead with his 18th home run. Jorge Polanco, who ranks second in the league in batting, was 1 for 3 for a .336 average. Cruz played for the first time since May 12 when he strained his left wrist, and was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.
Smeltzer, a 23-year-old left-hander, pitched six scoreless innings against Tampa Bay in his major league debut last week. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer when he was nine years old. The cancer went into full remission when in 2012. Smeltzer was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016 and acquired by the Twins last season for second baseman Brian Dozier.
Smeltzer’s attempted pickoff throw in the first inning caught Gonzalez off guard, striking him on the right upper chest. A stunned Gonzalez grabbed the ball before breaking into laughter, as did Lindor, who was on first.
“I haven’t fooled anybody in probably four years with that,” Smeltzer said. “I guess it worked because I fooled our first baseman.”
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli also joked about the miscue, saying, “All of (Marwin’s) buddies in the dugout gave it to him pretty good. Smeltzer has got a pretty good pickoff move.”
Francona believes the Twins, who have won 16 of 20, are for real.
“They’re hitting the ball like crazy,” he said. “Their starting pitching is getting them deep enough into games where they can mix and match in their bullpen. They’ve really put together a pretty nice little run here.”
Twins: RHP Michael Pineda (right knee tendinitis) is on track to be activated off the 10-day injured list after he becomes eligible on Thursday.
Indians: RHP Mike Clevinger (strained muscle in upper back) will begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Triple-A Columbus. … RHP Jefry Rodriguez (strained shoulder) is on the 10-day IL and will be shut down for two to three weeks.
Twins: LHP Martín Pérez (7-2, 3.71 ERA) has allowed 24 earned runs in 23 2/3 career innings against Cleveland, posting a 1-2 record and 9.13 ERA in six appearances.
Indians: RHP Carlos Carrasco (4-6, 4.98 ERA) has lost three consecutive starts. His last victory was on May 14, when he threw seven scoreless innings against the White Sox.