MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Cleveland Indians have a firm grip on the AL Central. With Corey Kluber finding his Cy Young form, their goals for this season are much bigger than the division title.
Kluber struck out 10 in seven innings and Carlos Santana hit a three-run homer to help the Indians to a 7-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.
Kluber (16-9) gave up an unearned run and four hits while passing the 200-strikeout mark for the third straight season. Bob Feller, Gaylord Perry and Jack McDowell are the only other Indians to accomplish that feat.
"I feel confident with Kluber," Santana said. "I know he throws well the last seven, 10 starts. He's throwing great."
Roberto Perez added two hits, including a triple, and drove in a run for Cleveland, which increased its lead in the AL Central to seven games over Detroit.
In the first two months of the season, Kluber was 4-6 with a 4.15 ERA and not looking at all like the top-of-the-rotation fixture he has been. But ever since he gave up five runs in 3 1/3 innings of a 17-1 loss to the Blue Jays on July 3, he has been dominant. The 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner is 8-1 with a 2.04 ERA over that span to help the Indians distance themselves from the Tigers.
The Indians took two of three in the series, and Kluber's quality start was much-needed after the team needed 10 pitchers to get through a 12-inning loss on Saturday night. The right-hander yielded an RBI single to Byron Buxton in the fourth inning, but had little trouble against a Twins lineup that included September promotions James Beresford, Kennys Vargas and Logan Schafer.
"I don't think he made too many mistakes," Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
Kluber reached at least 10 strikeouts in a game for the third time this season. It was his 24th 10-strikeout game, tying him with Luis Tiant for fourth on Cleveland's career list.
"Even if the bullpen was rested I'd still be trying to go out there for as long as I can," Kluber said. "That's just the way that I approach it."
Jose Berrios (2-6) lasted just 2 2/3 innings for the Twins, who committed four errors and managed just five hits. Berrios gave up five runs — three earned — and three hits. He walked four and had an errant pickoff throw in another shaky outing for the excitable 22-year-old.
With Berrios flailing early, Santana hit a 94-mph fastball an estimated 431 feet onto the veranda behind the right field seats in the second inning. It was his 31st homer of the season and third in the last six games.
"I know the team, they need me," Santana said, "and that's why I'm here."
Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin will start Wednesday against the White Sox, returning to the rotation after Danny Salazar developed some tightness in his right forearm. Tomlin was demoted to the bullpen after going 0-5 with an 11.48 ERA in August. Mike Clevinger, who pitched four innings on Saturday, likely will start again on Thursday, manager Terry Francona said.
The Indians also recalled left-hander Ryan Merritt and first baseman Jesus Aguilar from Triple-A Columbus. Merritt gives Francona, who has never been shy about using his bullpen, another arm after shuffling the decks to account for Salazar's absence.
Twins second baseman Brian Dozier has been on a historic power surge since the All-Star break, culminating in a run of homers in five straight games last week that pushed his total to 39 for the season. He has now gone four straight games without going deep. Dozier was 1 for 3 with a single and was hit by a pitch on Sunday.
Twins: One night after delivering a game-ending hit in the 12th inning, 1B Joe Mauer was given the day off. Molitor said Mauer is dealing with soreness in both quads and he likely will need to mix in more days off over the final three weeks of the season.
Indians: RHP Carlos Carrasco (11-7, 3.15 ERA) starts for the Indians when they open a four-game series in Chicago against RHP Miguel Gonzalez (3-6, 3.81) and the White Sox. Carrasco's 2.02 ERA on the road is the best in the majors.
Twins: RHP Ervin Santana (7-10, 3.58 ERA) will start the opener of a four-game series in Detroit on Monday night. LHP Daniel Norris (2-2, 3.94 ERA) gets the start for the Tigers.