CLEVELAND (AP) _ Kevin Slowey is enjoying being part of another strong September run by the Minnesota Twins.
Staked to a five-run lead in the first inning, Slowey gave up two runs over five innings to earn his first win in nearly a month, 6-2 over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
“It’s a lot of fun to be back and contributing,” Slowey (12-6) said after his second start since returning from a trip to the disabled list with a strained right triceps.
“I felt a whole lot better than the last time out, but still wasn’t as sharp as I would like,” Slowey said. “Getting five runs early helps. You don’t have to be quite as sharp.”
The win was the 4,000th for the original Washington franchise, which moved to Minnesota after the 1960 season.
More significantly for manager Ron Gardenhire, the Twins took two of three in the series, have won eight of nine and have baseball’s best record since the All-Star break at 39-16.
“We feel like we need to win every game in September,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve been there before, chasing. Whether you have the lead or are trying to catch up, you want to win.”
The last two years, Minnesota rallied to tie for first place in the AL Central and force a one-game playoff. The Twins lost to Chicago in 2008 and beat Detroit in 2009 in their 163rd game.
Minnesota entered play Sunday with a six-game lead and will open a three-game series in Chicago against the second-place White Sox on Tuesday.
“It will be a fun series,” Gardenhire said. “It is what baseball is all about, but no more 163s. I don’t want to go through that again.”
A year ago, Slowey missed the fun after having season-ending wrist surgery Aug. 4.
“I just sat around and watched,” he said. “It’s neat to be part of it now.”
Minnesota took a 5-0 lead on a walk, stolen base, four singles, error, wild pitch and sacrifice fly against Mitch Talbot (9-12) and emergency reliever Justin Masterson.
Talbot left after 14 pitches with shoulder inflammation. He walked leadoff batter Denard Span on five pitches. Manager Manny Acta and the Indians’ training staff quickly went to the mound to check on the right-hander, who spent early August on the disabled list with a strained back.
Talbot yielded a single to Orlando Hudson and RBI single to Joe Mauer before being replaced by Masterson.
“Before the game, it didn’t want to loosen up on me,” Talbot said. “I wanted to stay out there to see if I could get it to fire for me. It just wasn’t getting there.”
The rookie will have an MRI on Monday.
“None of us are really worried about the MRI showing anything other than inflammation,” Talbot said.
Talbot won his previous start Sept. 4 for his first win in more than two months. The rookie opened the season 8-6, but went 0-5 in 10 starts after beating the Cincinnati Reds on June 27.
Luis Valbuena, whose first-inning error led to two unearned runs, hit a two-run double in the second to get Cleveland to 5-2. Both runs were unearned after an error by Twins shortstop Alexi Casilla, who fielded a ground ball hit by Jayson Nix and threw wildly past first base.
Cleveland loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, but Slowey struck out Shin-Soo Choo and got Travis Hafner on a groundout in which second baseman Hudson ranged behind the bag and made a strong off-balance throw to first for the out.
“There’s not a lot of guys who make that play,” Slowey said.
Jason Kubel doubled and scored on a single up the middle by Michael Cuddyer in the sixth for a 6-2 lead.
Slowey had not won since beating Oakland on Aug. 15, when he was lifted after seven no-hit innings. He was 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA in his final four starts before being hurt in a 9-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 21. He is 5-0 in six starts against Cleveland the last two years.
Masterson, moved to the bullpen after 28 starts, struck out six over seven innings _ the longest relief outing for Cleveland since Jake Westbrook worked seven on April 19, 2004, against Detroit. Acta said Saturday the right-hander would likely work “about eight more innings this season,” in an effort to avoid overuse. Masterson has now pitched a career-high 173 innings.
NOTES: D.J. Reyburn umpired at first base after Angel Campos had an emergency appendectomy Saturday night. Both are in their first year as major league umps. … OF Michael Brantley had two singles, extending his hitting streak to an Indians season-high 13 games, the longest streak by a Cleveland rookie since Coco Crisp hit in 13 straight in 2003. … Twins LHP Jose Mijares worked a scoreless eighth in his first outing since being sidelined by a right knee injury Aug. 12. … Twins LHP Brian Fuentes pitched a perfect ninth. He had not worked since Aug. 28 due to a strained back. … Mauer has hit safely in 26 of his last 29 games against Cleveland, going 48 for 112 (.429). … Hafner has hit .320 in 52 home games.