MINNEAPOLIS – Ever so gradually, the Minnesota Twins are finally starting to show signs of the team that was expected to contend for a third straight division title.
Jason Kubel had a two-run double in the seventh inning that lifted the Twins to a 4-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, Minnesota's third straight win after a putrid start.
Carl Pavano (2-2) gave up three runs on six hits in seven innings and Justin Morneau added two hits and two RBIs for the Twins, who took both games of the rain-shortened series to win their first series of the season.
Joe Mauer (leg weakness), Tsuyoshi Nishioka (broken leg) and Delmon Young (ribs) are still out with injuries, but the Twins have won five of their last seven games after a 4-10 start.
"We needed some wins, absolutely," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You still try to stay on an even keel as much as you possibly can, figure out what's right and wrong and try to work your way through it."
Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo kept the Indians in it by throwing two Twins out at the plate in the third inning. Michael Brantley hit what appeared to be a three-run homer in the fourth, but it was overturned on review and he was given a two-run double.
Rafael Perez (2-1) took the loss after giving up an unearned run on the double by Kubel and Matt Capps picked up his fourth save in five tries for the Twins.
Indians starter Carlos Carrasco left after three innings with tightness in his right elbow. He will be re-evaluated when the team gets to Cleveland.
Kubel, Jim Thome and Alexi Casilla each had two hits for the Twins, who are finally starting to swing the bats after struggling mightily at the plate for most of the season. They scored 10 runs on Saturday to beat Cleveland, then pounded out 10 more hits Sunday for the mini-sweep.
"These guys have been playing really well," Kubel said of the first-place Indians. "It's not a big series if you look in the long run, but it's a big series for now and we got that first one out of the way. Hopefully we can just keep rolling."
They trailed 3-2 in the seventh inning when Orlando Cabrera committed a costly error at second base, giving the Twins runners at first and second with nobody out. The lefty Kubel drove a changeup from the lefty Perez high off the wall in right-center field for a 4-3 lead.
Grady Sizemore doubled in the ninth to put the tying run on second base, but Asdrubal Cabrera flew out to the warning track in left field to end the game.
The Indians stayed in it thanks to Choo's cannon left arm in the third inning. With one out and runners on first and second, Kubel came through with a hard-hit single to right field. Casilla ran right through third-base coach Steve Liddle's stop sign and Choo, who led the league in outfield assists last year, threw him out by 5 feet.
Morneau followed with a two-run double, and Carrasco was again on his heels. Michael Cuddyer then delivered a soft single to shallow right and Liddle first waved Morneau home before putting up a stop sign when Morneau was halfway down the line. Choo's throw easily beat Morneau to the plate to end the inning.
"If he wins a Gold Glove, we'll probably have Steve hand it out," Gardenhire quipped.
The Indians came back with three runs in the top of the fourth. But Brantley was called back out of the dugout when umpires ruled that his hit bounced off the corner of the limestone facade in right field and caromed back into the ballpark. If it had hit the top of the wall, it would have been ruled a home run.
"They made the right call," Brantley said. "I watched the replay two innings later and it definitely wasn't a homerun, it hit the corner of the wall and came back. It was unlucky for us, but that's the way the game goes."
Pavano got Jack Hannahan to pop out to center field and struck out Sizemore to strand Brantley at second base and escape trailing by just one run, 3-2.
"Saved us a run and we got a win, so that's even better," Pavano said.
Notes: The Indians now head home, where they have won seven in a row for the first time since 2007. They're off Monday and open a series against Kansas City on Tuesday. ... Twins LF Delmon Young missed his fifth straight game with a rib injury. Manager Ron Gardenhire says he is hoping Young will be ready for the series opener against Tampa Bay on Tuesday after a day off on Monday.