MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Trevor Crowe drove in two runs and had a career-high four hits, and the Cleveland Indians collected a season-high 20 hits in their fifth straight win, 10-4 over the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.
Crowe and Jason Donald, two of the youngsters thrust into action in this rebuilding, injury-marred season for Cleveland, each drove in two runs to help the Indians start the second half 5-0 for the first time in history.
Scott Baker (7-9) surrendered 10 hits in 4 2-3 innings, increasing Minnesota's concern about the rotation. After winning three out of four games from the first-place Chicago White Sox to cut the division lead to 1½ games over the weekend, the Twins fell flat. They lost to Aaron Laffey (2-3) and an Indians team, which began the day 12½ games back in the AL Central despite an inspired four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers out of the break.
Though their relievers never had a lead, the Twins bullpen was pretty bad, too. The 20 hits was a season most allowed, punctuated by the five-run seven-hit fifth inning against Baker and a pair of relievers.
The Twins started a stretch of 13 straight games against losing teams, but pitching like this won't beat anyone in the majors.
Jensen Lewis gave up Jim Thome's tower of a home run, his 11th in 159 at-bats this season, and Orlando Hudson's RBI double in the sixth — the first runs allowed by the Cleveland bullpen since the break after 13 1-3 scoreless innings.
That was the only hiccup for the Indians, however.
Baker took the mound for the first time in 11 days because of elbow tendinitis, and manager Ron Gardenhire warned that the right-hander could go on the disabled list if his arm didn't loosen up. Baker never looked comfortable, walking three and striking out only one while being noticeably disappointed with the way a few of his pitches went out of his hand.
He had help from a couple of double plays, plus a running, sliding catch by center fielder Denard Span to end the third and prevent a run. But Crowe's RBI double got the Indians started in the second, and his RBI single chased Baker in the fifth.
Alex Burnett and Ron Mahay each entered in that inning, sharing responsibility for the next three run-scoring singles the Indians used to stretch their lead to 7-1.
The inning started ominously with a twisting fly ball to the wall in left field that Delmon Young dropped, ruled a double for Carlos Santana.
Baker's ERA since June is well over 6, but he's not the only concern. Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey share the same dubious distinction, and with Brian Duensing ready to move from the bullpen to the rotation a shuffle could be coming.
Laffey, who has walked 28 batters in 50 2-3 innings this season, had his own problems finding the plate and failed to finish six innings for the fourth time in five starts. Still, with third and fourth hitters Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer going a combined 0 for 7 with runners on base for the game, the Twins couldn't muster much of a spark the day after their four-run rally beat the White Sox in the ninth inning.
The only run against Laffey was unearned, when Jason Kubel slid home on a passed ball in the fourth. The inning started in strange, stifling fashion for the Twins, when Kubel tagged up at second base with none out. Young's drive nearly cleared the left-field wall, hitting the padding, bouncing up and back to Crowe. There was no catch, only a long single for Young after a replay review by the umpires confirmed the hit was not a homer.
NOTES: With changes possible for the pitching staff, the Twins could make a series of roster moves this week. INF Alexi Casilla is due back from his rehab assignment, and Gardenhire hinted he could be activated in time for the game Wednesday afternoon. ... Shelley Duncan replaced Austin Kearns in RF in the fourth inning for the Indians. Kearns had a sore right knee. ... Twins closer Joe Nathan took a satisfying if insignificant step in his recovery from elbow surgery, lightly playing catch for the first time since the Tommy John procedure.