Sano's grand slam capped a five-run eighth inning and the Twins grabbed firm control of the AL Central by beating the Cleveland Indians 9-5, completing the sweep of Saturday's day-night doubleheader.
The sweep pushed the Twins 5 1/2 games ahead of the Indians in the AL Central going into the final game of the showdown series Sunday.
"This is a big day for us. for our fans, for everybody," Sano said. "We never put our heads down. We fight and we compete."
Twins manager Rocco Baldelli was obviously pleased with the way the day went, but isn't ready to light a victory cigar just yet.
"These are important games, of course," he said. "It was a lot of fun, but we've got a long way to go."
Sano's 415-foot blast on Nick Goody's first pitch ended up in the bleachers in left-center. The Twins' dugout erupted when the ball landed and the sellout crowd at Progressive Field went silent.
"It's a tremendous swing in a very challenging, dramatic moment," Baldelli said. "These are emotional games and it was a huge swing."
Sano was hitless in seven at-bats with five strikeouts against Goody when he walked to the plate.
"I came in, left one hanging," Goody said. "The guys played really well and once again....it stinks."
"We just made bad pitches to the wrong hitters," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Hanging a couple of breaking balls to those guys hurts."
The sweep allows the Twins to make a change in their rotation. All-Star Jose Berrios, who was scheduled to start Sunday, will pitch Monday against the Chicago White Sox. Rookie right-hander Randy Dobnak will go in the series finale.
The Twins used two bullpen games to complete the sweep. Five pitchers combined to stop Cleveland's offense 2-0 in the first game.
Four pitchers worked in the second game, with rookie right-hander Brusdar Graterol (1-0) going two scoreless innings for his first major league win. Graterol hit 100 mph five times in his outing.
Friday's rainout also prompted the Indians to go with their bullpen in the nightcap, and Cleveland led 5-4 going into the eighth.
Jonathan Schoop singled off Adam Cimber to start the inning. Max Kepler hit into a force play, but shortstop Francisco Lindor's throw to first bounced into Minnesota's dugout, allowing Kepler to take second base.
Jorge Polanco's double off Oliver Perez (2-3) tied the game. Cruz and Rosario walked to load the bases, bringing Goody in to face Sano, who returned for the doubleheader after missing four games with a sore back.
Cruz's two-run homer off Carlos Carrasco in the sixth cut the lead to 5-4.
Taylor Rogers got the final five outs for his 26th save, but had to work out of trouble in the eighth and ninth.
"It was a gem," Baldelli said. "A tremendous performance from beginning to end. It was an absolutely magnificent performance across the board."
Polanco hit a two-run homer in the second off Mike Clevinger (11-3), who had won 10 consecutive decisions. Clevinger struck out 10 in eight innings, but lost for the first time since June 28.
The Twins' All-Star shortstop also cut off Cleveland's best scoring threat in the third when he speared Santana's line drive with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Twins: RHP Sam Dyson (sore biceps) shut down his throwing session Friday. He hasn't pitched since Sept. 3.
Indians: C Roberto Perez remained in the first game after being hit by Tyler Duffey's pitch in the seventh. The ball deflected off Perez's left arm and hit him in the face. He went to first base after being examined by a team trainer. Kevin Plawecki was behind the plate in the second game.
Dobnak (0-1, 2.21 ERA) will start against RHP Shane Bieber (14-7, 3.17 ERA) on Sunday.
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