MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Mitch Garver hit his second homer of the game, a three-run shot, in the seventh inning, helping Minnesota rally past the Cleveland Indians 5-3 on Saturday night hours after the Twins learned pitcher Michael Pineda had been suspended for violating MLB’s drug policy.
Garver set a Twins 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.
Minnesota has a 5 ½-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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cleveland entered the pivotal three-game series with hopes of winning a division title being boosted by a strong weekend. The Indians had won five of the previous six games against Minnesota and eight of the 15 games this season.
They 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 walked and sat with Puig, talking to the mercurial outfielder for several minutes.
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.