Indians 4, Twins 3
On Wednesday night, he may have buried them.
Rookie Asdrubal Cabrera's two-run homer off Johan Santana and Victor Martinez's solo shot in a four-run first off Minnesota's ace sent Sabathia to his long-delayed 15th win as the first-place Indians won their fifth straight, 4-3 over the Twins.
"It feels good to sweep these guys and let them know we're for real," said Sabathia (15-7), who in the past has irritated the Twins with biting remarks and brushback pitches. "We definitely have something to prove to everybody."
The Indians' seventh win in eight games, coupled with Detroit's 5-0 loss in Kansas City, upped Cleveland's lead in the AL Central to 4½ games over the second-place Tigers.
Santana (14-10) dropped to 0-4 in five starts this season against the Indians, already the only team to beat the All-Star three times in the same year.
"Unbelievable," Sabathia said.
Santana gave up 10 hits, matching a career-high, but shook off a four-run, six-hit first and managed to stay in as long as Sabathia.
The Indians, though, did enough early damage against the two-time Cy Young winner and completed a three-game sweep of the Twins, who came in riding a season-high five-game winning streak.
The defending Central champions fell 8½ games behind Cleveland and only play the Indians three more times.
"This was a disappointing series for us," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They shut us down. But there's a month to play. You keep playing until you're told you're out. We obviously put ourselves in a deep hole, but we owe it to our fans and to ourselves to keep playing."
Joe Borowski rarely has a routine save and had another interesting one for his league-leading 39th.
He gave up a leadoff single in the ninth before Nick Punto fouled out to the catcher trying to sacrifice. Pinch-hitter Brian Buscher, who hit his first career homer off Borowski on Tuesday, grounded into a game-ending double play.
Sabathia had been stuck at 14 wins since Aug. 3. The lefty allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings, a nearly identical line to his five previous starts this month. But the Indians haven't been scoring for their All-Star, vying to become Cleveland's first 20-game winner since Gaylord Perry in 1974.
Sabathia feels the Indians have established themselves as the team to beat in a division they haven't won since 2001.
"I definitely feel like people are still doubting us and not taking us serious," Sabathia said. "I think we're here to stay."
Cabrera started at shortstop in place of Jhonny Peralta, who is just 3-for-28 with 22 strikeouts against Santana. The Indians have gone 10-3 since Cabrera replaced Josh Barfield in their starting lineup.
Santana, who has pitched at least five innings in 119 straight games dating to May 29, 2004, was in danger of being chased in the first.
Grady Sizemore singled leading off and Cabrera hit his second homer, a liner to left that barely cleared the wall and clanged off a metal railing. One out later, Martinez connected for his 21st homer, another hard smash off the usually dominant Santana, who has given up an AL-leading 29 homers this season.
Santana can't figure out why the Indians have owned him.
"I feel like I've pitched well enough to win against them," he said. "It takes a whole team to win a game. I feel like I've given my team a chance, but sometimes it just doesn't work out. These games are over, but we are not done."
Franklin Gutierrez doubled with two outs and Kenny Lofton singled home Cleveland's fourth run, giving Sabathia a rare cushion. The Indians had scored just 18 runs in his previous seven starts, a span where he went 1-3 with three no-decisions.
Sabathia helped himself in the second when he barehanded Jason Tyner's hard comebacker and began a 1-6-3 double play.
"That was an accident," Sabathia said.
Sabathia is the first Indians pitcher to allow two runs or less in six straight starts since Orel Hershiser in 1996. ... Santana became the fourth pitcher in team history to surpass 200 strikeouts in four straight seasons, joining Walter Johnson, Bert Blyleven and Camilo Pascual. ... On Thursday, the Indians will play makeup No. 3 with the Seattle Mariners, whose season-opening four-game series at the Jake was snowed out. ... The Twins will officially break ground for a new ballpark in Minneapolis on Thursday. The original ceremony scheduled for Aug. 2 was postponed by the tragic Interstate 35W bridge collapse. Commissioner Bud Selig is expected to attend. ... Before the game, members of Cleveland's front office and coaching staff met to discuss the club's potential September callups.