MINNEAPOLIS -- With runs difficult to come by on Wednesday afternoon against the Twins, Jose Ramirez and Rajai Davis elected to force the issue for the Indians.
Ramirez and Davis used their legs to generate a run in the sixth inning, giving Carlos Carrasco all the support he required in a 2-0 victory to wrap up the three-game set at Target Field. Carrasco piled up 10 strikeouts and Cleveland left with consecutive series wins on its trek through Detroit and the Twin Cities.
"The hits and runs were hard to come by," Davis said. "To scrounge out one was the difference today."
Carrasco overpowered Minnesota's lineup for the American League Central-leading Indians (59-48), but the Tribe struggled to get anything going with lefty Adalberto Mejia on the mound. Following five shutout frames by the Twins starter, Davis and Ramirez pulled off a unique play that initially looked like a double steal of second and home.
When the smoke cleared, there were no official steals on the play, but it was nonetheless effective. Cleveland then tacked one unearned insurance run against closer Fernando Rodney in the ninth to help seal the road to the win column.
Davis and Ramirez got things rolling with consecutive one-out singles off reliever Matt Magill in the sixth. On Ramirez's hit to right field, Davis sprinted to third, putting runners on the corners with slugger Edwin Encarnacion at the plate.
Ramirez was off and running for second on the first pitch.
"I was just focused on trying to get to second base," Ramirez said via team translator Will Clements. "I didn't think the catcher was going to make the throw, because everybody knows that Davis is really quick at third base."
Catcher Mitch Garver came up firing out of the crouch to second baseman Ehire Adrianza, who gloved the ball and slapped down a tag as Ramirez slid headfirst into the base. As soon as the ball was in flight to second, Davis broke for the plate, beating the throw back to Garver to score the Tribe's first run.
"I'm just reading. Obviously, we read right," Davis said. "I'm waiting for the catcher to make the first move. Catcher made his move, so I made mine."
Ramirez was called out on the play, but Indians manager Terry Francona challenged the ruling. Had the All-Star third baseman been deemed safe, Davis would have added a steal of home to his impressive baserunning portfolio. Replays clearly showed Adrianza tagging Ramirez's left spike before the runner reached the base and the out call was confirmed after a 44-second review.
Technicalities aside, that proved to be the decisive moment in the win.
"Raj did a really good job," Francona said. "Because, at times, we have communication where the guy at third goes and, at times, we don't. With Jose getting thrown out there, that had a chance to be not good. So, I thought Raj did a terrific job on going on that ball. If we come up empty there, that's not good."
Working with little margin for error, Carrasco shouldered 7 1/3 innings, scattering four hits along the way. The big righty set down the first 11 batters he faced to open his outing and only once allowed a runner to reach third. Carrasco struck out 10, issued no walks and improved to 13-5 with a 3.66 ERA with the win.
"He was outstanding," Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor said. "He went fastball and he attacked the hitters. When he threw off it, he kept them off-balance. He was located in. He was locating outside. His offspeed, if he wanted to bounce it, he'd bounce it. And if he wanted to throw it for a strike, he was going to do that.
"He was very effective today. It's pretty scary if you've got a guy like that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Giving Brad a hand: With a runner on first in the eighth, the Indians turned to All-Star lefty Brad Hand. The Twins countered with pinch-hitter Robbie Grossman, who fouled off five pitches en route to an 11-pitch walk. Minnesota then called upon recently acquired John Forsythe, who pulled a pitch from Hand sharply into the hole on the left side. Lindor made a sliding backhanded grab, spun and got a throw off in time to second baseman Erik Gonzalez to start a critical 6-4-3 double play. Hand then held the Twins in check in the ninth for his 26th save (second with Indians).
"I know he was going to try to pull the ball, so I shaded more towards my right side," Lindor said. "As soon as he hit it, I knew I had a chance. I just dived to stay underneath the baseball and it was just a matter of going to second. I know Gonzo has really quick hands and a good arm to first. I knew we had him."
Hand thought it was a hit off the bat.
"It was unbelievable," Hand said. "I thought It was getting through. Just to knock it down there would have been a good play to not let the run score. To be able to get two in that situation is huge."
Triple threat: After Carrasco struck out both Jake Cave and Adrianza to begin the sixth inning, veteran Joe Mauer roped a pitch into the right-field corner and legged out a triple. It marked only the second triple in the past 252 games for Mauer. Pitching coach Carl Willis jogged out for a quick mound visit with Carrasco, who escaped the jam by striking out Eddie Rosario. That marked the pitcher's 10th strikeout, giving him four double-digit showings this year and 19 in his career.
"Two outs. He got a triple right there and I was going to face Rosario," Carrasco said. "I think he's one of the best right now in baseball. I just tried to strike him out or get a ground ball, but I don't want that run. Those guys play hard for me, so I don't want that run coming in. So, I thought we did a great job right there, the way [catcher Yan Gomes] called those pitches."
Carrasco now has three career games with at least 10 strikeouts and no walks. That puts him into a tie with Carsten Sabathia, Sam McDowell and Sonny Siebert for the second-most outings of that kind in Indians history. Tribe ace Corey Kluber holds the franchise record with 10 such games.
Following a team off-day on Thursday, the Indians and Angels will open a three-game set at Progressive Field with a 7:10 p.m. ET tilt on Friday night. Righty Mike Clevinger (7-7, 3.43 ERA) is slated to start for the Tribe and newly acquired center fielder Leonys Martin is expected to be in the starting lineup. Los Angeles will counter with righty Jaime Barria (6-7, 3.74 ERA).