CLEVELAND — Jason Kipnis kept watching and hoping.
Kipnis’ high drive barely cleared the right field wall for a three-run homer that broke a sixth-inning tie and sent the Cleveland Indians over the Minnesota Twins 5-3 on Thursday.
Usually, when it’s close, Kipnis said he tries to study “the outfielder and see how big his eyes are getting or if he’s timing up a jump. Once the fans’ arms go up, mine goes up with them.”
Kipnis, who has struggled offensively most of the season, lofted a 2-2 pitch from reliever Alan Busenitz that was just out of the reach of leaping Max Kepler. The homer came two batters after Yonder Alonso’s tying single.
The AL Central-leading Indians opened a 14-game margin over second-place Minnesota. Cleveland is 31-11 against division opponents, and needed this win to beat the Twins 10-9 in the season series.
Mike Clevinger (10-7) allowed two unearned runs in 6 2/3 innings. The right-hander struck out nine and gave up four hits.
Brad Hand, the Indians’ third reliever, allowed a leadoff homer to Miguel Sano in the ninth. Mitch Garver drew a one-out walk, but Hand struck out Jake Cave and Tyler Austin for his 30th save overall, and sixth since being acquired from San Diego at the trade deadline.
Cleveland reliever Cody Allen, who allowed two runs in the seventh inning and was the losing pitcher Wednesday, was booed when he entered the game with one out in the eighth.
The frequent closer walked Logan Forsythe, but retired Robbie Grossman on a flyball, causing some fans to rise to their feet and begin cheering. Forsythe was thrown out trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt.
Jake Odorizzi (5-9) was charged with three runs in 5 1/3 innings. He was pulled following one-out walks to Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion.
“I assumed I was staying in the game,” Odorizzi said. “I thought I had more in me, but that wasn’t the case. I thought I had a pretty good game going. You’re one pitch away from getting out of the inning.”
Ehre Adrianza hit a two-run homer in the fifth that gave Minnesota a 2-1 lead. The drive came after Ramirez misplayed a routine grounder to third base.
Encarnacion’s RBI single put Cleveland ahead in the fourth.
Clevinger appeared to be hit in the upper leg by Forsythe’s grounder in the fourth, but recovered in time to throw him out at first.
Clevinger limped around the mound, but stayed in the game after throwing a few warmup pitches. Carlos Carrasco was struck on his glove hand by Adrianza’s line drive Tuesday, but also remained in the game. Carrasco missed three weeks after being hit in the right elbow by Joe Mauer’s liner in June.
Clevinger threw 114 pitches, his third-highest total of the season, and believes manager Terry Francona is gaining confidence in him.
“I think I said this early, but it’s a hard man to get his trust,” Clevinger said. “He’s been around a while and really knows the game, so you’ve really got to earn it here. Especially with the staff that’s before me, it’s pretty clear why you have to earn it.”
Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario pulled up after beating out a groundball later in the fourth. He stayed in the game despite having a noticeable limp, but was removed in the bottom of the fifth with a strained right quad.
The Twins employed a four-man outfield against Ramirez in the first with the bases empty. Adrianza moved from shortstop to left field, leaving no one playing on the left side of the infield. Ramirez lined out to Kepler, who was shaded near the line and moved a step to make the catch.
“We talked about it before the series, just trying to gather what players will do against it,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “You could tell by Ramirez’s reaction, he had to take it all in and step out of the box.”
“It shows you the impact Josey is having against the league,” Francona said. “But if teams do that, Josey’s going to bunt a double. Josey’ll end up on second one way or another.”
Ramirez stole his 29th base of the season in the seventh inning and has 33 doubles.
Twins: SS Jorge Polanco (hamstring/leg cramps) was held out of his third straight game, but performed some light running on the field. He was injured Sunday against Oakland.
Indians: RHP Nick Goody (sore elbow) will have arthroscopic surgery Friday. He’s been out since May 3.
Twins: LHP Stephen Gonsalves (0-2, 11.37 ERA) takes on Rangers RHP Drew Hutchison (2-2, 6.52 ERA) as Minnesota continues its nine-game road trip.
Indians: RHP Corey Kluber (16-7, 2.91 ERA) faces Rays RHP Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 3.80 ERA) in the opener of a three-game series.