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MIN@CLE: Butera scores Hughes with a bunt single

CLEVELAND -- It's amazing how much can change in just the span of five days.

The Twins' 6-4 win on Monday represented a complete reversal of fortunes from where they were last week. After losing on Wednesday, the Twins fell to a season-worst 20 games under .500 and trailed the Indians by 16 1/2 games in the American League Central.

But with a four-game sweep in Kansas City, and their win on Monday over the suddenly scuffling Indians at Progressive Field, the Twins have made up five games in the standings in five days and are doing their best to make themselves relevant in the division race.

"I think there's a lot more confidence," said second baseman Matt Tolbert. "It feels more like last year, where we felt like we knew were gonna score runs, we knew were going to pitch well and we knew were gonna win. And that's what the last five games have felt like."

This time, Minnesota utilized a solid outing from right-hander Scott Baker and a scrappy offense that went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position to beat the Indians and right-hander Josh Tomlin.

It continued an impressive stretch by the Twins over their past five contests, as they've outscored their opponents, 32-10, while the Indians have lost five in a row.

"It makes you feel good," Baker said. "We can obviously use a run, especially on the road within our division and especially against the first-place team. So I think it comes down to the starting pitching in my opinion. Guys are giving us a chance to win and with offensive help, it's a good combination."

Baker certainly gave the Twins a chance to win, allowing three earned runs on nine hits over seven-plus innings while striking out five and walking none.

But it came after he struggled in the early going, allowing a leadoff double to Michael Brantley and two-run homer to Asdrubal Cabrera before he recorded an out. Baker was able to settle down, however, by mixing in his offspeed pitches to keep the Indians' hitters honest.

"He slowed them down and laid off the fastball and worked them in," Butera said of Baker, who improved his record to 3-4. "But those guys at the top of the lineup killed us. You know, Brantley and Cabrera were on tonight. The key to their lineup is getting on base, but I think Scott did a good job later in the game keeping them off balance."

The Twins were also kept off balance by Tomlin, for the most part, but they got big hits when they needed them and utilized a small-ball approach with sluggers such as Jason Kubel and Jim Thome out of the lineup.

They tied the game with two outs in the second inning on a two-run single by Tolbert before employing some strategy and getting some luck in the fifth inning to score three runs.

Luke Hughes led off the inning with a double and scored after back-to-back bunt singles by Matt Tolbert and Butera. Butera's bunt was the back-breaker as it scored Hughes, and surprised the Indians and even Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

"Drew Butera said he was tired of missing the slider, so he decided to push bunt," Gardenhire said with a grin. "And you know what, if you're gonna explain yourself, that's a good way to explain it. I was tired of seeing him miss sliders, too."

After another single by Ben Revere, Tolbert scored on a double-play groundout by Alexi Casilla before Butera crossed home when Tomlin threw a wild pitch.

"Josh today was obviously hurt by the bunt play we couldn't execute," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "That kind of opened the floodgate there."

The Indians pulled back with a run in the bottom of the fifth on a solo shot from Brantley, but the Twins struck right back in the bottom of the frame with an RBI bloop double from Delmon Young.

Cleveland made it interesting in the eighth, when Baker allowed a leadoff single to Cabrera before plunking Grady Sizemore. He was then removed in favor of left-hander Jose Mijares.

Mijares was able to get Carlos Santana to ground into a double play, but the Indians scored on an error by Michael Cuddyer at first base despite replays that showed Mijares beat baserunner Shin-Soo Choo to the first-base bag. Right-hander Alex Burnett followed Mijares and struck out Matt LaPorta to end the threat before closer Matt Capps threw a scoreless ninth to preserve the win.

The Twins now have a chance to make up even more ground on the Indians over the next two days and are trying to prove they can get out of their early season rut.

"I think looking ahead is something we'll try not to do and we'll try to put the past behind us," Butera said. "We don't want to dwell on it too much or get too high or too low." Comments