Just hours after allowing two home runs to Lonnie Chisenhall in a 6-2 loss on Saturday night, the Minnesota Twins were again bitten by a double dose of the long ball. This time, it was off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion, whose two home runs chased Kyle Gibson and pushed the Cleveland Indians to a 5-2 win and a four-game sweep on their getaway day at Target Field.

The home runs were Encarnacion’s 15th and 16th of the season, as the right-handed slugger accounted for all five runs on the day for the Indians. Encarnacion is hitting .261/.377/.496 on the season.

Gibson was credited with a quality start, but it was by no means an ironclad one, as the tall righty danced in and out of danger all day, completing six innings with three earned runs, four strikeouts and three walks as well as the two home runs allowed. His ERA for the season still sits at a robust 6.56.

“Kyle pitched well,” Molitor said during his postgame conference. “Obviously he got ambushed by the first homer. We missed a couple plays that gave them other opportunities that he was able to pitch around for the most part.”

Tyler Duffey came on and was unable to complete the seventh, as he allowed an earned run on two hits while striking out batters for both the outs he’s recorded. It’s worth wondering if he’s becoming a bit overworked, as only 17 relievers have thrown more innings (of a total of 170) than Duffey’s 34 coming into Sunday’s action.

Duffey’s ERA — which was as low as 2.10 in late May — swelled up to 3.89 with his appearance on Sunday, though he has still struck out more than a batter per inning and kept the ball in the park for the most part (four home runs allowed).

Jose Ramirez was again a thorn in the Twins’ side, as he went 3-for-4 on Sunday with a pair of doubles. The final damage from him in the series was that he went 11-for-18 with six doubles and a pair of home runs. “They can spread it out,” Molitor lamented about the Indians offense after Sunday’s game. “They had different guys who were offensive heroes in each game.”

The Twins got nothing going against Bauer, who came into the game with an ERA of 5.85. Bauer went seven innings, striking out eight batters and walking two while allowing two earned runs on the day. Bauer threw mostly fastballs and curveballs, but the Twins were still unable to square anything up against the 26-year-old righty who at times registered as high as 97 mph on the radar gun.

“We couldn’t muster anything against Bauer,” Molitor said. “We had a couple hits. Kepler’s chopper, Rosie’s hit up the middle where we couldn’t score. We left a couple guys out there. Until the last couple innings, we didn’t get much going.”

The hit up the middle from Rosario that Molitor was referring to was a liner up the box into center that spun Bauer around on the mound. Center fielder Bradley Zimmer came up throwing, and his worm-burner evaded the peak of the mound and just nabbed Max Kepler at the plate on a foot-first slide.

Replays were inconclusive but appeared to show catcher Roberto Perez tagging Kepler on the hind end before his ankle touched the plate. A head-first slide would have given him the flexibility needed to get an appendage on the plate more quickly, but also would have been more risky in a game where one run ultimately didn’t end up mattering that much. The Twins opted not to challenge the ruling, and the second inning ended with Byron Buxton grounding out to Francisco Lindor six pitches later.

That play turned the tide for Bauer, who recorded a stretch of 15 straight batters retired after the Rosario single where Kepler was thrown out. After the Rosario single, the next Twin to reach was Kennys Vargas in the seventh inning, when he was hit on the rump with a 1-1 pitch. Eduardo Escobar followed with a first-pitch double to drive home Vargas, but the inning ended when Rosario was thrown out between first and second base on an RBI single which made the score 4-2, but ended the rally.

The Twins threatened again in the eighth against Cody Allen, as Robbie Grossman hit for Buxton and walked on eight pitches. Three batters later, Mauer walked on five pitches, but Miguel Sano jumped on the first pitch from Allen and lifted a lazy fly to right to end the inning and the threat.

The Indians pushed across a run in the top of the ninth when Encarnacion hit a sac fly to right to score Ramirez, as both players who plagued the Twins all weekend long teamed up for one final twist of the knife to cap the scoring at 5-2. The Twins got Vargas on with a walk in the ninth, but Rosario was ruled out on a bang-bang play at first to end the game, giving Andrew Miller his first save of the young season.

“Collectively it was a frustrating series,” Molitor said. “You let four games go to — at least for now — your chief competitor. You have to get past it, and learn from it. They played better, there’s no question about it. They did everything better. I don’t know if you want to use it as a measuring stick or whatever you want to do, but hopefully these guys learn what it takes to go out there, and hopefully we’re better for it.”

“They played well, they outplayed us and the ball was bouncing their way,” Molitor concluded.

Notes and Quotes

  • Hector Santiago will make a rehab start for Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday.
  • The Twins have lost eight games in a row against the Indians at Target Field and 12 of their last 16.
  • Cleveland improved to 8-2 against the Twins this season, with both losses coming at Progressive Field.
  • Bauer has beaten the Twins all three times he’s faced them this season.
  • The Twins scored just one run in 14.2 innings (0.61 ERA) in the series against the Indians bullpen, which has the best ERA in MLB.
  • Molitor on Bauer: “He’s still relatively young. I think he’s still one of those young pitchers who has tremendous talent who is trying to find a way to bring it out there every time. We got him on a really good day. We’ve seen it in the past, as he’s pitched well against us. He was throwing hard with a good curve. The fastball-curveball mix was enough to handle us for the most part.”
  • Molitor on the recent struggles of Sano: “I think he’s a guy who wants to be a difference maker. I don’t fault him. You try to be a guy who gets a big hit or makes a big play. He’s carried us at different points in the season. He hung in there. I think he was sitting on a breaking ball from Allen and just missed it. I’m not too concerned about him. Most people are going to have ups and downs, and for the most part he’s been up.”

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