DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Sports Writer
Mike Napoli hit a mammoth home run on the first pitch of the fifth inning to give Cleveland the lead, and the Indians hung on to beat the Minnesota Twins 5-4 on Friday night and maintain their six-game lead in the AL Central.
The Indians won for the ninth time in their last 11 games, but a concern came up when starter Danny Salazar was removed after four innings due to tightness in his right forearm. His departure was announced by the team as a precaution, but Salazar was on the disabled list for elbow inflammation a month ago.
Napoli’s drive off Tyler Duffey (8-11) was estimated by the Twins at 456 feet, landing in the third deck above left field three sections over from the foul pole.
That followed Byron Buxton’s two-out, two-run homer that tied the game against Salazar in the fourth and glanced off the back wall of the Twins bullpen in left-center. The 22-year-old Buxton has five of his eight career home runs in the eight games since his recall from Triple-A on Sept. 1.
Joe Mauer also went deep and Brian Dozier added an RBI double, but the Twins lost for the 23rd time in their last 29 games.
Salazar threw 76 pitches. One of the four runs the right-hander allowed was unearned due to a fielding error by second baseman Jason Kipnis on the speedy Buxton’s bouncer, but Salazar has not won in seven starts since July 19.
Joe Colon (1-1) completed the fifth inning for the victory and Cody Allen finished the ninth for his 27th save in 30 attempts, as the Indians started their final stretch of 23 games, all intra-division affairs. They’re only 9-8 against the Twins, who are on track for 100-plus losses.
The Indians scored four runs in the third inning against Duffey, whose low throw to second base on a comebacker by Francisco Lindor not only cost him a potential double play but contributed in a major way to the rally. Lonnie Chisenhall added a two-run double, and Tyler Naquin tacked on an RBI single.
Napoli’s 32 home runs are the most he’s hit in 11 major league seasons, and his latest long ball pushed his RBI total to 93, surpassing his previous career high set in 2013 with Boston.
The Twins lead the league with 110 errors, already their highest season total in five years and on pace for their most since 1980. They made three highlight-reel plays, diving stops of grounders by Mauer at first and Miguel Sano at third and a sliding catch by Max Kepler in right, but the two mistakes made a much bigger impact.
Indians: Roberto Perez, sharing the catcher role with Chris Gimenez while Yan Gomes (separated shoulder) is working his way back on a rehab assignment, struck out a season-high three times.
Twins: RHP Trevor May (back strain) and LHP Tommy Milone (biceps tendinitis) were reinstated from the DL before the game.
The Indians will send RHP Mike Clevinger (2-2, 5.30 ERA) to the mound for the middle game of the series. LHP Hector Santiago (11-8, 4.91 ERA) will pitch for the Twins.