MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins were desperate to create some good news for themselves on Saturday. Mitch Garver made sure they got it.
After losing their best starting pitcher to a 60-game drug suspension in the afternoon, Minnesota’s catcher hit two home runs and drove in four as the Twins shaved their Magic Number to win the American League Central to 14 with a 5-3 victory over second-place Cleveland at Target Field.
Taylor Rogers pitched a perfect ninth for his 25th save.
Garver, who also set the team record for home runs by a catcher, hit a solo home run to left center in the first inning, then broke open a 2-2 game in the seventh with a three-run shot into the home run deck in right field. Jonathan Schoop had tied the game with a run-scoring triple to score Willians Astudillo.
It was a happy ending to an otherwise disappointing day for the Twins. Pineda had been their best pitcher since the all-star break, 9-2 with a 3.38 earned-run average in his past 19 starts. But with only 20 games now left in the Twins’ regular season, every win is a big one — especially against their closest division rival.
The Indians entered this three-game series 6.5 games behind the first-place Twins but rallied in the 11th inning Friday for a 6-2 win. They took a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning on Saturday, scoring on Yasiel Puig’s one-out double off starter Jake Odorizzi and a wild pitch by reliever Tyler Duffey.
By the bottom of the seventh, the Twins had stranded six runners and left the bases loaded once. But Willians Astudillo opened the inning by reaching on a grounder that shortstop Francisco Lindor couldn’t handle. When Lindor threw wildly to first base, Astudillo ran to second, causing a brief ruckus on the field.
Because home plate umpire Laz Diaz already had called time, Astudillo was sent back to first, although it didn’t really matter, Schoop followed with a high line drive off reliever Adam Cimber that caromed off the scoreboard in right center. Astudillo scored easily, and Schoop cruised into third standing up.
Cleveland manager brought in left-hander Oliver Perez to pitched to Max Kepler, who drew a walk, and right-hander Nick Goody was brought in to face right-handed hitting Garver.
Garver, who had set the Twins’ single-season home run record for a catcher in the first inning with his 27th, breaking the record 26 Earl Battey hit in 1963, hit a 1-1 pitch into the home run deck in right field for his 28th home run of the season.
Nelson Cruz, given the night off after aggravating his left wrist in an at-bat on Friday, was thrown out of the game from the dugout by Diaz. … Saturday’s sellout (39,573) put the Twins over 2 million in attendance (2,007,192) for the eighth time in 10 seasons at Target Field. It was the Twins’ 11th home sellout this season.