By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
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CLEVELAND: The Indians’ 7-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night at Progressive Field included:
• Jason Kipnis’ first home run since July 21 at Minnesota.
• Michael Brantley’s first hit in 23 at-bats.
• The first time an opposing starter failed to strike out any Tribe batsmen since July 21 at Minnesota.
What do all these bits of data mean? The Indians’ inconsistent offense came to life. Maybe it was lousy pitching by Twins starter Liam Hendriks or smart hitting by the Tribe. More than likely, it was a combination of the two.
“It was good,” Kipnis said. “We needed an excellent offensive game. The offense has been struggling a little.”
One thing that was not in the hitters’ favor was a stiff wind blowing directly in from center field.
“It was a good night to pitch,” manager Terry Francona said. “The wind was blowing in. Zach [McAllister] established his fastball and used the ballpark.”
Combined with a solid outing by McAllister, it added up to a rare easy victory for the Indians, who had the game in hand by the end of the fifth inning.
Before Kipnis homered, he delivered a two-out single in the first inning and trotted home on Carlos Santana’s 16th home run of the season. Four of Kipnis’ home runs have come off Twins pitching, which has limited him to a .434 batting average and 20 RBI in 53 at-bats in 2013.
“Carlos’ home run was really hit,” Francona said. “The ballpark was playing big, but it didn’t matter how much the wind was blowing on the ball Carlos hit.”
Added Santana, “I made good contact on the home run, wind or no wind.”
During batting practice, a young boy named Niko wearing braces on both his legs and using walking device met Santana and asked that he and Kipnis hit home runs.
Maybe Niko should show up for every game.
In the third, Drew Stubbs led off with a single and two outs later, Kipnis went deep for the 16th time this year to tie Santana for the team lead.
Kipnis didn’t have to worry about the wind. His ball resembled a heat-seeking missile that probably never got 20 feet off the ground.
“They hit a couple that were held up by the wind,” he said.
Kipnis has been fighting a mini-slump but nothing he hasn’t expected.
“It’s a long season, and you know there are going to be ups and downs,” he said. “When I start thinking too much at the plate, I’ll get a pitch right down the middle and won’t even swing at it.”
The way McAllister (7-7, 3.51 ERA) was pitching, it didn’t look like he would need more than four runs, however the offense continued to roll in the fifth.
Stubbs got his second leadoff single and Michael Bourn followed with a walk. Nick Swisher doubled to the right-center-field fence to score both runners, and second baseman Brian Dozier robbed Kipnis of a hit by making a diving catch of his line drive.
Hendriks said goodbye after that, and Anthony Swarzak took over, walking Santana and giving up an RBI single to Brantley to complete the three-run rally.
McAllister made the Twins suffer for 7⅓ long innings, holding them to two runs, four hits and two walks while striking out five.
“It was exciting,” he said about having four runs to work with by the third inning. “It’s nice to sit on the bench for as long as it takes, when these guys are putting up runs.”
McAllister gave up his first run in the third on a one-out walk to Clete Thomas, a single by Pedro Florimon and Dozier’s sacrifice fly. When Dozier led off the eighth with a home run and Chris Herrmann hit a drive to Brantley near the left-field corner, Francona went to his bullpen.
For the first time in his young career, McAllister has won three consecutive starts. Since returning from the disabled list late in July, he has posted a 3-2 record and 3.66 ERA. Against the Twins this year, McAllister is 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA.
“I think he looks like he never skipped a beat,’’ Francona said.
“A lot of guys come back and look tired. He’s strong, and he looks really good.”
It was notable that Marc Rzepczynski pitched the ninth, because it became his 10th consecutive appearance without allowing an earned run since joining the Tribe.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.