CLEVELAND — Max Kepler hit two more home runs off Trevor Bauer, Jake Cave drove in three runs and the Minnesota Twins tightened their grip on the AL Central with a 6-2 win Saturday night over the Cleveland Indians, who have slipped two games further back this weekend.
Kepler homered leading off the game and again in the second inning off Bauer (8-7), giving the Twins outfielder five homers in five consecutive at-bats — all in Cleveland — over two games against the right-hander. Kepler homered three times off Bauer on June 6.
Cave homered in the second and added a two-run double in the eighth to give the Twins a 5-2 lead.
Jake Odorizzi (11-4) didn’t get to pitch in Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Progressive Field because of a blister on his middle finger. But he came off the injured list and held the Indians to one run in 5 1/3 innings.
By winning the first two games of the series, the Twins have moved 7½ games ahead of the Indians, who knocked six off Minnesota’s lead in the weeks leading into the break.
José Ramírez and rookie Bobby Bradley homered for Cleveland, which will turn to All-Star MVP Shane Bieber to avoid being swept Sunday.
The Twins and Indians will meet 11 more times this season, but these three games could determine whether Cleveland buys or sells before the July 31 trading deadline.
Kepler, who has 11 career homers in Cleveland, connected on Bauer’s third pitch, driving it over the right-field wall for his 22nd homer.
Kepler’s second homer made it 3-0, and came one batter after Cave hit his second, an opposite-field shot to left that dropped Bauer’s head and elicited a collective groan from Cleveland’s big crowd.
Bauer finally bested Kepler in the fourth, striking him out swinging but only after the slugger hit a foul ball into the upper deck down the right-field line.
According to Elias, Kepler matched the longest streak in the expansion era for homers in consecutive at-bats against one pitcher. Carlos Delgado did it against Jorge Sosa (2003-04) and Frank Howard connected against Bob Hendley (1963-64).
Bauer shook off the early adventure and kept the Indians close, striking out 11 in six innings.
Bradley, brought up late last month from Triple-A Columbus to give the Indians’ some needed power, connected for his first career homer in the seventh, a 457-foot smash to right off Tyler Duffey to pull the Indians within 3-2.
But the Twins came right back in the eighth off reliever Tyler Clippard, with Cave bringing in two runners with a double just past diving Indians first baseman Carlos Santana.