September 20, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
57°F

Indians 7, Twins 3: Bats stay hot as streak hits 6

CLEVELAND — An offense that had trouble getting started for much of the first month of the season now can’t be stopped.
With hitting once again at the forefront Saturday at Progressive Field, the Indians slugged their way to a 7-3 victory over the Twins.
The Indians have won six in a row, and in each have scored at least six runs — for the first time since September 2005. They’ve also accumulated at least 12 hits every game — for the first time since July 1936.
“I just think we’re kind of on a roll right now,” said Nick Swisher, who returned to the lineup after a three-game absence (shoulder) and homered in the first inning. “I feel like we’ve got a pretty good lineup. If we keep going out there and playing like this, people are going to realize that.”
Swisher’s third homer was one of two first-inning solo shots — Jason Kipnis had the other — off Minnesota’s Kevin Correia, who came in pitching well (3-1, 2.23 ERA in five games).
The right-hander allowed all four of his runs within the first two innings, as the Indians built a 4-1 lead on consecutive one-out singles from Michael Brantley and Kipnis in the second.
Kipnis has begun to emerge from a season-long slump, going 7-for-18 with a homer and six RBIs over his last four games.
“I think he’s settling into the season,” manager Terry Francona said of Kipnis, who fell a double shy of the cycle Saturday. “Through the course of just playing the game, you’re seeing all aspects of his game improving.”
Much of the same can be said for left-hander Scott Kazmir, who has gotten better in each of his three starts. He allowed two runs on five hits Saturday, while striking out seven over six innings.
Kazmir allowed a run in a shaky second inning, then found his groove. He surrendered just one more on center fielder Aaron Hicks’ first career homer.
“I was just a little bit more consistent,” Kazmir said of his work after the second inning. “I was just thinking about attacking the strike zone and not worrying about anything else. I feel like everything’s getting a little bit easier.”
It was a historic day for Kazmir, who notched his first big league victory since 2010. He made just one appearance in the majors in 2011 and spent last season pitching for the Sugarland Skeeters in an independent league.
“I can’t remember that far back,” Kazmir said, when asked if he had any memories from his last win. “I’m glad this is out of the way so I don’t have to be reminded of it. I’m just going to keep looking forward.”
Kazmir appeared to be on the last leg of his career, but on Saturday, at least, he resembled a pitcher that could help Cleveland’s rotation.
“It’s a guy to pull for,” Francona said. “He loves to pitch. He wants so bad to make this work and he’s really dedicated himself. We pull for all our guys, but it’s hard not to have a soft spot for a guy that’s been through as much as he has.”
“This dude was pitching in the independent league last year,” Swisher said. “For him to do what he did today … He’s got a lot left in the tank and I’m glad he’s on our side.”
While Kazmir was a nice story, it was the offense that told the tale as Cleveland extended a winning streak that hasn’t been equaled since 2011. The big hits that were missing for much of the year have been coming in bunches.
The Indians entered Saturday owning a major league-best .514 slugging percentage with two outs, while ranking fifth with a .270 two-out batting average and seventh with a .345 on-base percentage.
Ryan Raburn’s .870 slugging percentage with two outs led the majors, while Carlos Santana (.750) was fourth and Mark Reynolds (.690) fifth.
“I just think the quality of our at-bats has been better,” Francona said. “We’re doing a really good job of extending innings and then doing damage once we extend those innings.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.