For the second night in a row, the Twins were happy to have Jorge Polanco up in a big spot.
His seventh-inning double off the right-field wall drove in the only run in a 1-0 victory over the Cleveland Guardians on Friday at Target Field.
Polanco was hitless in his first three at-bats, in his second game back from injury. The second baseman rejoined a shorthanded team playing three starting players short, with only one player available off the bench.
Polanco was reinstated Thursday from the 10-day injured list after he missed 11 games because of a left hamstring strain. He went 1-for-5 in his return, but that one hit was a double in the ninth inning, setting up Willi Castro's sacrifice fly for a 7-6 walk-off victory to open the four-game series.
"Polanco has come back very, very sharp," Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. "He has had some very solid at-bats, hitting balls hard. He looks good and that's great because when you have a really good player and he's coming off the IL, you want these guys to come back ready, not just come back to be back, to take three or four games to feel it.
"He must have prepared himself really well both physically and on the mental side."
Polanco's two-out double in the seventh scored Kyle Farmer from second.
"We had an opportunity in that inning to score, men on base," Polanco said. "I went to the plate just to get a pitch to hit. I tried to hit the ball hard somewhere and try to drive a run in and I did."
That's all the Twins needed to increase their lead in the AL Central Division, 3 ½ games ahead of second-place Detroit and 5 ½ games ahead of defending division champion Cleveland.
The Twins played on without three players who were scratched from Friday's lineup.
Two of the three — stars Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa — left Thursday's game early because of injury.
Buxton was hit in the ribs by a pitch in Thursday's fourth inning and left in the fifth inning, too sore to go on.
Correa aggravated a hurting heel and troublesome plantar fasciitis later in the game and Baldelli said before Friday's game he was hopeful the shortstop could play Saturday.
The third player who left Thursday's game, outfielder Max Kepler, was back in the lineup Friday after recovering from a migraine that prevented him from finishing the series opener.
Joey Gallo was another player not in Friday's lineup. He was scratched because of what the team called a left hamstring strain. After the game, Baldelli indicated the team might summon help from Class AAA St. Paul and possibly put Gallo on the injured list before Saturday's game against the Guardians.
The Twins played Friday with only Christian Vázquez available on their bench.
"You know what's funny?" Baldelli asked. "We knew this going into the game: Let's just let the guys play. Rarely do we say let's just roll it out there with what we've got and see what happens. But that's exactly what we were in for going into the game. Joey in an emergency would have gone to first base and would have played if we needed him to. Other than that, we were going with these guys."
Polanco's double gave the Twins the only run they needed after reliever Jhoan Duran came on in the eighth inning after starter Bailey Ober, Jovani Moran and Brock Stewart combined to get them there without allowing a run. Ober pitched six innings, giving up four hits and walking none while striking out three.
Duran got two guys out in the eighth, then came back for the ninth and pitched around a two-out single for his eighth save of the season, as the Twins clinched their first three-game winning streak since April.
Baldelli said he was comfortable with Duran going to a second inning because he had three full days off between appearances and hadn't thrown since an efficient two innings in Houston.
"He has had plenty of time to come back and feel good," Baldelli said. "Now is he coming back and pitching tomorrow? I will determine that tomorrow. But we won the game and he was a big, big part of it."