CLEVELAND — José Ramírez homered again, Cleveland’s bullpen combined on a four-hitter and the Indians beat the Texas Rangers 5-1 to sweep a doubleheader Wednesday and gear up for a big, four-game series in Minnesota.
Ramírez’s two-run homer helped the Indians win the opener 2-0.
He connected in the second inning of the second game off Lance Lynn (14-7), Franmil Reyes hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh and Carlos Santana, Yasiel Puig and Jason Kipnis drove in runs in the eighth as the Indians improved to 39-16 since June 4 — baseball’s best mark over two months.
Indians manager Terry Francona turned to his relievers in the second game and the reliable group came through with A.J. Cole (3-1) — Cleveland’s third pitcher — getting the win by working 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Nick Wittgren got the final five outs for his third save.
The Indians head to Minnesota for a showdown starting Thursday with the first-place Twins, who have seen their 11 ½-game lead in the AL Central cut to two by the Indians. Minnesota lost 11-7 to Atlanta on Wednesday.
The Rangers managed only two runs in three games at Progressive Field. Texas won the opener 1-0, but then didn’t score for 21 straight innings before Willie Calhoun homered leading off the eighth.
Making up for a sluggish start this season, Ramírez homered off Lynn, who entered 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three career starts against Cleveland.
But the right-hander made one mistake in the second, grooving a 95 mph fastball on his first pitch to Ramírez, who turned and deposited it into the lower seats in right field.
In the opener, Ramírez connected off Ariel Jurado (6-7), who had blanked the Indians on two singles before allowing the third baseman’s 15th homer.
After struggling for three months, Ramírez, a two-time All-Star, has found his rhythm at the perfect time for the hard-charging Indians. Ramírez batted .320 in July and has raised his average by nearly 50 points since June 20.
In the opener, Nick Goody (3-0) replaced rookie starter Zach Plesac in the seventh and pitched two scoreless innings. All-Star closer Brad Hand struck out the side in the ninth for his 28th save.
Plate umpire Chris Guccione left the second game in the middle of the fourth, shortly after he was struck in the mask with a foul tip. Guccione was replaced by John Libka, who left his spot at third to go behind the plate.
Brian O’Nora (first) and Mark Ripperger (third) worked the foul lines.
The Indians have 12 shutouts, tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the most in the majors.
The newly Puig showcased his strong arm in the opener.
With a runner on first, Delino DeShields hit a double that bounced off the wall and was grabbed by Puig on the warning track. He quickly fired a strong throw — the ball traveled over 250 feet — toward the plate. It was caught on the fly by catcher Roberto Pérez, who took several steps up the first-base line as runner Logan Forsythe held at third.
Rangers: RHP Shawn Kelley (sore biceps) was activated from the 10-day injured list and was brought in during the eighth inning of the second game.
Indians: Francona said the plan is for RHP Corey Kluber to throw “50-ish” pitches in his rehab start Thursday for Triple-A Columbus, a significant step for the two-time Cy Young winner in his recovery from a broken right arm. Francona added that Kluber, who was struck by a line drive on May 1, is cleared to throw his full array of pitches.
Rangers: Rookie LHP Kolby Allard will be recalled from Triple-A Nashville and make his debut for Texas on Friday in Milwaukee. He was acquired from Atlanta at the trade deadline.
Indians: RHP Mike Clevinger (6-2, 3.07 ERA), who had his start pushed back by Tuesday’s rainout, starts the series opener against Twins RHP Kyle Gibson (11-4, 4.02). Clevinger is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last three road starts.