MINNEAPOLIS -- Chris Gimenez heard about it plenty from some of his old Indians teammates during batting practice before Friday night's American League Central showdown at Target Field. Manager Terry Francona shrugged off the comments by the Twins catcher, because Cleveland knows him, and knew it was all in jest.Still,
MINNEAPOLIS -- Chris Gimenez heard about it plenty from some of his old Indians teammates during batting practice before Friday night's American League Central showdown at Target Field. Manager Terry Francona shrugged off the comments by the Twins catcher, because Cleveland knows him, and knew it was all in jest.
Still, when Gimenez told reporters Thursday that the Twins were "ready to kind of take the bully on and punch him in the mouth," the Tribe had a chance to get in the first swing. In a bruising 8-1 victory over Minnesota, the Indians showed why the players in their clubhouse believe it's only a matter of time before Cleveland pulls away from the American League Central pack.
"They're feeling good about themselves," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "And he's trying to keep that flow going for them. I don't think there was even a need for response from us at all. That was more for their locker room than ours."
The Indians responded with one of the most complete wins of the season.
Cleveland, which sits one game back of the AL Central-leading Twins with three games on tap for the next two days, received a strong starting effort from Carlos Carrasco, turned in some stellar defense and had plenty of thump on offense. Slugger Edwin Encarnacion drilled a jaw-dropping three-run homer in the third inning and Cleveland churned out four two-out runs in the fifth to pull away.
While the Tribe ran out to an 8-0 lead by the fifth inning, Kipnis and Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor looked at each other in the dugout. Cleveland, which has hovered around the break-even mark for most of the season, resembled the club that claimed the division crown and AL pennant last season.
"We said, 'This is the best game we've played so far this year as a team,'" Kipnis said, "in terms of pitching, hitting, baserunning, defense, everything. We looked at each other and were like, 'Everyone's locked in right now.' Then we were like, 'Where the [heck] has this been?'"
Indians manager Terry Francona does not like to call any singular game more important than others. Instead, every series is "a huge series," as the manager said before Friday's rout. Inside the clubhouse, though, there was a different vibe after the win. Cleveland has been searching for a way to get on a strong run and begin separating itself from its division rivals.
Maybe this series could provide that spark.
"It's a good measuring stick for both of us at this point in the season," Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall said. "We just need to keep going in that direction where it's one through nine and it's not just sitting around waiting for one guy."
Told of Gimenez's comments, Chisenhall smirked.
"I'm good friends with him," he said. "[He was probably] just letting them know, 'Hey, we're in first place. If we're going to do it, these are the guys we've got to beat.'"
Being the bully is new territory for the Tribe, considering the club has two division titles in the past 15 seasons. Before last year, Cleveland was used to being pushed around by the Tigers and Royals. In that sense, the Indians have enjoyed flipping the script.
Given their history with Gimenez, who played for Cleveland last year, his quote did not make its way to the bulletin board.
"It was kind of tongue-in-check, because he's spent a lot of time over there," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Cleveland isn't a team that needs much internal motivation. I got a pretty good laugh when I saw that this morning."
The Indians had the last laugh Friday.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.