MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Mitch Garver boosted Minnesota’s spirts and playoff hopes on the same day the Twins found out pitcher Michael Pineada was suspended for violating MLB’s drug policy.
Garver hit his second homer of the game, a three-run shot, in the seventh inning, helping the Twins rally past the Cleveland Indians 5-3 on Saturday night.
“It was a challenging day,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “There’s been a lot going day. It has been emotional, as well. We came, were focused and ready to play despite everything going on around us.”
Pineda was suspended for 60 games on Saturday after testing positive for a banned diuretic. He won’t be allowed to pitch for the Twins if they reach the playoffs.
Minnesota has a 5½-game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central after the teams split the first two games of the series. The Twins’ magic number is 14; they’ve won 11 of 14.
Garver set a Minnesota single-season record for home runs by a catcher with a solo shot that opened the scoring in the first inning. He capped the Twins’ comeback with his 28th of the season, sending the pitch from Nick Goody into the first row of flowers in the right field overhang in front of a sellout crowd.
Zack Littell (4-0) pitched a scoreless inning in relief of Jake Odorizzi, who struck out 10 in 5 1/3 innings for the Twins. Taylor Rogers earned his 25th save.
“He was very emotional,” Odorizzi said of Pineda’s pregame talk with the team. “It stinks for us moving forward, obviously, missing a big, key contributor, but there’s a lot of compassion, especially from me. It’s a tough thing. It was one of those things we wanted to get out there and kind of get a game going to put that behind us, for all of our sakes.”
Indians reliever Adam Cimber (5-3) gave up hits to Willians Astudillo and Jonathan Schoop to open the seventh. Schoop tied the game with an RBI triple high off the right-center field wall. Oliver Perez walked Max Kepler ahead of Garver’s homer.
“I kind of stepped in that box and I felt like something cool was going to happen,” Garver said. “I was going to get that run in one way or another. I was totally committed to getting that run in, whether I had to put a ball in play or beat out a double play or somehow get the ball in the air.”
Earl Battey previously held the Twins single-season record for home runs by a catcher with 26, set in 1963.
Yasiel Puig doubled twice for Cleveland after he failed to run out a ground ball in the fourth inning. The Indians have lost six of eight and had been 31-2 when leading after six innings, entering the day with the best bullpen ERA in the majors.
“These guys have picked me up plenty of times and I had the opportunity to do the same for them and I didn’t come through,” Goody said.
Cleveland had won five of the previous six games against Minnesota and started the day a half-game behind Oakland for the second wild-card spot.
PUIG STOPS SHORT
Puig hit a one-hop ground ball in the fourth inning back to Odorizzi and didn’t run toward first base. Puig took a quick step out of the box before turning around and heading back to the dugout as Odorizzi walked the ball to first.
In the dugout, Puig was approached by Carlos Santana and manager Terry Francona. Santana sat with Puig, talking to the mercurial outfielder for several minutes.
“Santana was giving me advice that I need to run out every play,” Puig said. “I am 100% with him and said sorry to him and sorry to Tito. I’m suppose to run on that play and I don’t know what happened in my mind when I stay at the plate and not running. Tomorrow is a new day and I need to run every play. That’s not going to happen again.”
Twins: DH Nelson Cruz said he had no pain in his left wrist after leaving Friday’s game early. It’s the same wrist that has a ruptured tendon he is playing with. Manager Rocco Baldelli said Cruz was an option to play Saturday, but held him out of the starting lineup as a “coach’s decision.” Cruz was later ejected after yelling at home plate umpire Laz Diaz from the dugout following a called third strike on C.J. Cron. … An MRI showed OF Jake Cave has a mild groin strain and wasn’t available Saturday. … Baldelli said RHP Kyle Gibson (10-day injured list) is doing well as he deals with ulcerative colitis and Gibson is expected to return to the rotation during the upcoming home series against Washington.
Indians: Mike Clevinger (10-2, 2.71 ERA) starts the finale of the three-game series on Sunday afternoon. Clevinger is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts against Minnesota this season.
Twins: Minnesota hasn’t declared a starter for Sunday in the spot open because of Gibson’s injury. The Twins could make it an extended bullpen game or possibly use Devin Smeltzer, who is 1-2 with a 4.00 ERA over seven games this season while making four starts.
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