CLEVELAND – When Joe Mauer doubled in the first inning Wednesday, you knew what was coming. Three straight times the previous two days, Mauer doubled and Max Kepler followed with a home run, so there Mauer stood, waiting to trot home.
Weird: It didn’t happen. Kepler walked — hey, the Indians recognize the pattern, too — and the Twins … well, denied that particular bit of magic, they simply found a variety of new ways to pummel the first-place-for-now Indians. The final score was 13-5, marking the first time in franchise history the Twins have scored in double digits three consecutive times in a series.
“It’s a lot of fun. Up and down the lineup [it’s] unbelievable,” said Mauer, who might be the hottest Twins hitter of all — and considering that both the guy batting in front of him [Brian Dozier] and the guy batting behind him [Kepler] each have homered four times since Sunday, that’s saying something. Mauer has 10 hits in three games here, seven of them for extra bases. In fact, his five doubles in the first three days of August match the five he hit in May, June and July — combined.
“I know he’s been watching film and looking back some times where he was barreling up balls a little more consistently,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Mauer, who doubled twice, singled and tripled Wednesday. “He’s hitting a lot of balls on the nose. He seems to be locked in.”
That’s a big club at the moment, of course; the Twins have outscored Cleveland 35-16 in the series, and own an 8-4 season series advantage against the team that owned the AL’s best record until Minnesota came to town. Eddie Rosario had three hits and three RBI; Dozier tripled and homered; and Kepler singled twice, driving home a pair of (controversial) runs. With seven extra-base hits, the Twins have piled up 26 in three nights.
“You’ve got to enjoy these things when they come along, because we know it can be the converse,” Molitor said. “Guys are just going with the flow.”
That includes the pitchers, too. If Tyler Duffey was pitching for his job Wednesday, everybody on the field seemed to be trying to help. The offense remained on its baseball-crushing roll, Indians baserunning chipped in with a couple of extra outs and even the umpires came through with a couple of razor-thin calls that they might or might not have gotten right, even with replay, that went the Twins’ way.
With that much aid and comfort, how could Duffey lose?
“Mauer and Kepler, I wouldn’t want to pitch to them right now,” Duffey said after a decent, but not spectacular, bounce-back outing. He gave up five runs over six innings and earned his sixth win in a game that felt — and the Indians fervently believed was — a lot closer. Cleveland manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway were even ejected for expressing that conviction to umpire Jim Reynolds.
At issue was Lonnie Chisenhall’s diving attempt at catching Max Kepler’s sinking line drive in the third inning, a play that scored two runs and ended Indians starter Trevor Bauer’s night when Reynolds ruled the ball bounced on the grass an instant before landing in Chisenhall’s glove. Replays seemed to indicate that Chisenhall may have made the catch.
But when Francona challenged the call, umpires in New York found ambiguity in the blurry replays. The call stood, the runs scored, the fans booed, and Callaway and Francona charged Reynolds. Automatic ejections followed — and so, eventually, did the Twins’ fourth consecutive victory, tying their longest winning streak of the season.