CLEVELAND -- It turns out the Indians do know how to hit and Trevor Bauer does know how to pitch.
Both were evident Sunday at Progressive Field, as Cleveland broke out of its offensive slump and Bauer finally offered up an efficient outing in an 8-3 victory over Central Division-leading Minnesota that avoided the series sweep.
A lineup change from manager Terry Francona, who replaced Carlos Santana with Jason Kipnis atop the batting order, appeared to work wonders for Kipnis and the Indians.
Kipnis’ leadoff home run in the opening inning was the first of eight runs over the first three innings for Cleveland, which entered the series finale with just a run over its last 24 innings -- and three runs or fewer in 10 of the last 14 games.
The scuffling Kipnis had a huge four-hit day, clouting his first two homers of the season while matching a career high with four RBIs.
“We kept saying it was a matter of time and it is because he’s too good,” Francona said of Kipnis, who entered the day batting .155 over 19 games after missing the first three weeks of the regular season with a shoulder injury. “It was just nice to see. He kind of set the tone early. We just did a lot of things today that we haven’t been doing and it made for a fun day. We needed a day like that.”
“I think (Francona) has a feel for when I’m coming around with my swing, just like I do,” said Kipnis, whose second homer put the Indians in front 8-0 in the third. “I think he saw what I did. It’s safe to say we were in need of a little shakeup going into this game. Over the last week, we haven’t been hitting the way any of us would like. We both felt it was the right time.”
While Twins starter Hector Santiago struggled to his worst outing of the season -- entered 4-1 with a 2.76 ERA -- Bauer worked probably his best, allowing three runs on seven hits over six innings. He struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter.
The right-hander, who had allowed fewer than four runs in just one of his previous six starts, surrendered a hit to the first batter he faced before retiring 11 of the next 12 hitters.
“I thought he pitched really well. I think I thought he pitched better than he did,” Francona said. “He had no walks, seven strikeouts. There were a lot more strikes than balls today. I thought he was really good.”
“I think I’ve pitched pretty well in six of my seven outings,” Bauer said. “I pitched better than my line said again, so it’s just frustrating. I thought the offense did a great job coming out today, setting the tone early. It’s a lot easier to pitch ahead than behind. A lot of credit going to them.”
Bauer entered the day with a bulky 7.67 ERA, but he believes he’s pitching better than the results have displayed.
“I went six innings and gave up three again today. It’s a quality start, but I still don’t think that really matched how well I pitched,” he said. “I’ll take it. It’s a good team win. I know my results will match my stuff at some point. I can’t keep having the home run per fly ball rate. It’s just absurdly high at this point, and that’s how most of my runs are scored.
“My BABIP is extremely high as well. Those aren’t sustainable for an entire year. At some point, that’s going to turn around, and I’m going to start getting the benefit of the doubt. Right now, those things are definitely against me.”
The same could be said about Cleveland’s offense.
“We know what kind of offense we’re capable of having,” Kipnis said. “That being said, it’s about going out and executing and guys hitting with runners in scoring position, putting pressure on the defense -- stuff we haven’t been doing lately.
“We know that we can put up crooked numbers with the best of them when things are going well.”