CLEVELAND (AP) – They juggled their lineup, held a pregame meeting and came out swinging.
The Cleveland Indians still couldn’t stop their slide.
Their funk is getting funkier.
Minnesota’s Scott Baker survived a shaky start and Matt Tolbert drove in two runs as the Twins extended their season-high winning streak to five games with a 6-4 win Monday night over the falling-fast Indians, who lost their fifth straight and may soon cough up their lead in the AL Central.
“We’ve got to pull everything together,” said Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. “We’ve got to do it soon. We’re going through a bad time right now.”
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.
Josh Tomlin (7-3) lasted six innings for the Indians, who led their division by seven games as recently as May 23 but have dropped their seventh straight at home — their longest streak since 2003.
Asdrubal Cabrera hit a two-run homer and Michael Brantley added a solo shot for Cleveland.
“We can’t seem to get every part of the game right,” said Indians manager Manny Acta, whose young team is facing its first adversity after a stunning start.
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.
Suddenly, the Twins, two-time defending Central champs, have that winning feeling again.
“We’ve had a lot of tough losses,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “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.”
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, 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.
Afterward, Tomlin said the meeting was to thank players for baby shower gifts.
Acta feels his players are pressing.
“I can see that,” he said. “I see guys instead of just taking what the pitcher gives them and using the whole field, just hooking everything and that comes when you are trying to hit three- four- and five-run homers with one swing. It’s impossible. They just need to relax.”
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.
Baker had dodged a bullet — or three.
“We let him get into a rhythm and pound the strike zone and he got the best out of us,” Acta said. “I thought we were going to be able to score more runs.”
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.
NOTES: The Twins have activated LHP Francisco Liriano to start Tuesday’s game. … Oft-injured 1B Nick Johnson, signed by the Indians during the offseason as insurance, took batting practice before the game as he prepares to play in the minors leagues. Johnson, who had wrist surgery last year, could be an option later this season. He’s not currently on the 40-man roster. … Twins C Joe Mauer went 0 for 2 with a strikeout and caught five innings for Class A Fort Myers. The former AL MVP has been on the disabled list since April 14 with leg weakness. There’s no timetable for his return. … With the No. 8 overall pick, the Indians selected SS Francisco Lindor, who played at Montverde (Fla.) Academy High School. The switch-hitter batted .528 as a senior with 15 of his 28 hits going for extra bases.
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