Cabrera, Brantley lead Indians over Twins, 9-4
Masterson gives Tribe a quality start as Cleveland wins their third straight
CLEVELAND--Things couldn’t get any smoother for Tribe hitters Thursday afternoon. Behind another great starting pitching performance this time by ace Justin Masterson (2-1, 3.86 ERA), Indians bats exploded for nine runs on 15 hits, topping Minnesota, 9-4.
Notching their third straight victory, Cleveland (16-19) wins the four-game series with the Twins, now having won five of their last seven ballgames.
“You can tell the guys had high energy today,” manager Terry Francona said. “We came out and the weather was warm. Even with a quick turnaround from a night game, everybody came out with real good energy.”
It paid off greatly on both sides of the ball, especially on offense. Scoring three runs or fewer in three of their last 11 games after dropping the series opener Monday, Tribe hitters have since caught fire.
Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera led the charge offensively Thursday, going 4-for-5 with two doubles a homer and three RBI. Notching his first four-hit game in over two years, Cabrera landed a triple away from the cycle.
“He’s been working his tail off in the cage, we’ve been watching him,” Michael Brantley said. “It’s good to see it payoff, and it’s going to continue to payoff. He’s a great player.”
“I was going to give him the day off,” Francona said of his shortstop. “He talked me out of it.”
After David Murphy put Cleveland on the board with a RBI double in the first inning, Cabrera quickly gave his club a two-run lead one inning later, launching a solo homer off Twins starter Kevin Correia (1-4, 6.34 ERA).
He and the offense were just getting started.
Brantley chimed in with a two-run home run of his own in the fifth, giving the Indians a 4-0 lead. It was the left fielder’s team-leading sixth long ball of the season, as he also had a great day at the plate going 3-for-5 with three RBI.
Cabrera, Brantley and Mike Aviles went a combined 10-for-14, with five doubles, two homers and six RBI on the afternoon.
“You can see what a hot bat can do,” Francona said. “Aviles two nights in a row and now Cabby today, when guys do that, it can carry a team for a couple games.”
For Aviles it was his second straight three-hit game, as the infielder is hitting .545 (12-for-22) over his last seven games. With three more hits Thursday, Brantley also extends his hitting streak to eight in a row.
“It’s daddy strength, that’s all that is,” Brantley said, who recently became a father with his first daughter last month.
The offense chased Correia out of the ballgame after just 4 1/3 innings, tagging him for four runs on eight hits.
Masterson was dialed in early given a four run lead, tossing five shutout innings on just 50 pitches.
“He was so in control through those first five, he didn’t get hit real hard,” Francona said. “I can’t ever remember having him, ever, having the ball since he’s been a kid, where I didn’t feel like he’s going to get them out. I just always feel that way.”
The Tribe starter would run into some trouble in the sixth, issuing an error on a groundball that led to two unearned runs in the inning. Twins first baseman Chris Colabello cut Cleveland’s lead in half lining a two-run infield single off Masterson that Cabrera wasn’t able to bare hand.
Like they have been accustomed to of late, the Indians would answer right back. Brantley added his team-leading 29th RBI on a fielder’s choice in the home half of the sixth. Minnesota then answered plating another two runs off Masterson in the seventh.
Danny Santana lined a RBI double down the right field to end Masterson’s day, after going a strong 6 1/3 innings of work allowing two earned runs. It marked the sixth consecutive quality start by a Tribe starter this week.
“Our pitching gave us a chance every single game and that’s a good way to play,” Francona said. “When you pitch that consistently, you always have a chance to win.”
Over the last six games, Indians starters are 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA yielding just seven earned runs over 41 innings.
“Things have been working pretty well for all of us,” Masterson said. “Just going out and throwing strikes, I think that was the biggest thing that got us into some trouble early. Lately we’ve been able to keep low pitch counts and stay in the ballgame.”
Clinging to a 5-4 lead in the seventh, three straight hits by Murphy, Cabrera and Ryan Raburn helped Cleveland score three more runs to secure the victory.
“We needed this homestand, that’s exactly what we needed,” Masterson said. “To come home and take care of business like we were supposed to, and even have a little diversity within that, but still comeback and able to win the series was tremendous.”
Scoring four runs or more in three straight, the team will look to take their offensive surge on the road, looking for a better road trip this time around.
“It makes it easier on everybody,” Brantley said. “When one guy picks up another guy, it just keeps the line moving we got to continue to do that. Confidence is key when you’re in a little bit of a rut to start. Hopefully we keep the momentum going and build off this win and obviously last night’s win as well, and keep it moving forward.”
Up next for Indians: The Tribe travels to St. Petersburg, Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Rays (15-19) for a three-game weekend series beginning Friday at 7:05 p.m. Making his eighth start, Corey Kluber (2-3, 3.60 ERA) toes the rubber against right-hander Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 6.38 ERA). It’s the first time both clubs will be matched up since the 2013 A.L. Wild Card game.
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