CLEVELAND - What first looked like a long and daunting 11-game road trip has suddenly turned into one in which the Twins get to protect a division lead again.
Behind more early runs and solid, if somewhat laborious, pitching from Ervin Santana, the Twins on Sunday defeated the Indians 4-0 to complete a three-game sweep of the weekend series - their first such sweep here since June 14-16, 1991.
By winning all three games, the Twins slipped back into first place in the AL central by one half-game over the Indians, whose offense disappeared in the face of Twins pitching.
When Cleveland used the series in Target Field to start an 8-1 spurt, it looked to be the surge that would allow the defending AL champions to pull away from pack. But the Road Twins preformed like they have all season, entering opposing ballparks and grinding out wins.
And this series sweep - their third three-game sweep to go with a pair of two-game sweeps - is an eye-opener for a few reasons.
Miguel Sano did not play in the first two games of the series because of illness.
Sano, Eddie Rosario (illness) and Max Kepler (bruised right foot) did not play on Saturday. The Twins had to use Kennys Vargas (.262 on base percentage) as the No. 3 hitter on Friday and start Chris Gimenez in left field on Saturday.
Twins starters failed to pitch into the sixth inning in the first two games of the series. And Twins pitchers as a whole issued ten walks over the first two games.
Cleveland's contribution to all of this can't be overlooked. From Trevor Bauer's errant throw on Friday to Jason Kipnis and Yan Gomes blundering on Saturday, the defending AL champions haven't exactly played clean baseball.
The most damning statistic of the weekend: Cleveland was 1-for-23 with runners in scoring position. And the Indians left 30 runners on base.
The Twins took 2-0 lead in the second when Jason Castro swatted a two-run double to left to score Eduardo Escobar and Jorge Polanco. Rosario marked his return to the lineup with a solo home run in the fourth. Castro drove in Rosario with a double in the sixth to make it 4-0.
In 52/3 innings, Indians righthander Josh Tomlin, 4-9, gave up four earned runs on nine hits and three walks while striking out five.
Meanwhile, righthander Ervin Santana weaved his way through six shutout innings to improve to 10-4 on the season. He had to fight for it, as he never retired the side in order and pitched with a runner on third three times. But he wouldn't allow Cleveland to break through. He stranded two runners on base in the second, fourth and sixth innings.
The Indians have been shut out at home three times this season, twice by the Twins. And after averaging 7.0 runs a game while torturing the Twins at Target last weekend, they averaged .67 runs a game this weekend.
In six shutout innings, Santana gave up nine hits but now walks while striking out seven. He lowered his ERA to 2.80.
Buddy Boshers pitched two shutout innings. And Brandon Kintzler pitched the ninth.
The Twins are 39-34 mainly because they play above average defense, take good at bats and can win on the road.
But this weekend, they showed they can improvise when the lineup card has to be ripped up. And that's another good trait to have.