CLEVELAND – Cleveland hit a home run for a franchise-record 20th consecutive game on a pleasant Monday night at Progressive Field.
The Twins hit one more than that, neither a record but enough to win 5-2 to start the four-game series.
Second baseman Jorge Polanco hit one of those two home runs, a third-inning solo shot giving the Twins a 3-0 lead on a 4-for-5 night that included three doubles. Center fielder Byron Buxton followed Sunday's breakthrough 2-for-5 day at Tampa Bay on his road back from injury, this time by hitting a fifth-inning solo homer after Cleveland had pulled within 3-2.
And the tag-team pitching pair of young Bailey Ober and savvy veteran Michael Pineda combined for seven innings to give the Twins bullpen a little relief.
Cleveland's only runs were from designated hitter Franmil Reyes' two-run, fourth-inning homer than extended his team's homer streak dating to August 15 — with 34 home runs total.
It was Pineda's first relief appearance in his major-league career and he turned it into three scoreless innings pitched in his first game back from a mild oblique strain.
"In my 10 years around the league, I never did it," said Pineda, who also earned the win. "I felt a little bit excited to do that."
After it was all over, Twins acting manager Bill Evers won a game that officially will go on Rocco Baldelli's record. Evers, 67, is a career minor-league manager and major-league coach who has been a mentor to Baldelli. The Twins manager returned to Minnesota on Sunday to be with his wife, Allie, for the birth of their first child.
Evers called the manager's role "exciting" and "thrilling" and then some.
"It was any adjective you can think of that's great," said Evers, who will retire at the end of the season. "I'm happy for the team and it'll make Rocco a lot happier — and the happiest moment is yet to come for Rocco."
Last month, Polanco won three games in four days in a game-ending situation. On Saturday, he came one triple shy of hitting for the cycle. On Monday, he delivered a hitting display that that Ober called "nuts" and compared it to video-game statistics.
"Three doubles and a home run, it doesn't get any better than that," Evers said.
Polanco's first-inning double helped produce a fast 2-0 lead and he followed his 27th homer of the season with two more doubles. His only out was a ninth-inning strikeout.
All four hits came on four different types of pitches: He hit a 92.5-mph four-seam fastball out of the park; for his doubles, he hit an 84.8-mph change-up, an 82-mph slider and a 95.1-mph sinker.
He credited his night and a season that just keeps getting better to seeing the ball well.
"Sometimes when you're seeing the ball good, for me it's the timing," Polanco said. "When the timing is not right, sometimes you lose the ball. Today, I was seeing the ball really good and I was on time at the plate."
Buxton had six hits in his last six at-bats his last time in Cleveland, with two homers and two doubles. He started Sunday's game at Tampa Bay 2-for-30 in his return from a fractured left hand injured in June. Now he's 6-for-40 on that road back that included a rehab stop at St. Paul.
"I went through a tough week," Buxton said. "Obviously, I'm not doing what I'm capable of doing. Just stick to the plan and things are starting to come back around for me."
Baldelli and pitching coach Wes Johnson put Ober and Pineda together back-to-back to ease Ober's late-season load with four innings pitched and bring back Pineda without a rehab assignment after a month of being injured.
"It worked out just like we had planned and scripted it," Evers said. "The guys settled in and everybody did their job."