MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Cleveland Indians were mounting another comeback, and the bullpen was holding strong.
Just one off-target slider was the end of that, when Josh
Willingham's tiebreaking home run in the eighth inning sent the
Minnesota Twins to a 4-3 victory Monday night.
Kurt Suzuki had a two-run double among his three hits, Trevor Plouffe hit an RBI double and the Twins beat the Indians at home for the first time in more than 11 months.
Suzuki, a first-time All-Star selection who was the catcher for the
ninth inning of the American League's victory here at Target Field last
week, posted his ninth three-hit game this season. He raised his batting
average to .311 and is 25 for 63 in last 17 games.
In another All-Star game reprise, Glen Perkins pitched a perfect ninth for his 23rd save in 26 chances.
One week ago, the Home Run Derby was delayed by rain on a cool,
autumn-like evening. Tack on about 30 degrees and thick humidity, and
that's what the conditions were like for this series opener, which began
with a first-pitch temperature of 89 degrees.
Willingham sent the sweaty Twins fans home happy with his dead-pull
line drive on a full count that just cleared the left-field wall against
Bryan Shaw (4-2), his ninth homer and only his second this month.
"It was a slider, kind of middle half, not where I was trying to put
it," Shaw said, adding: "I was trying to throw something soft because he
was catching up to the heater."
Casey Fien (5-4) picked up the win despite letting the Indians
tie the game in the top of the eighth on an RBI single by Roberto Perez
that cost Twins starter Kris Johnson his first career victory.
The Indians lead the major leagues
with 162 runs in the seventh inning or later this season. After winning
three of four games at first-place Detroit last weekend, they arrived at
Target Field with a deficit in the AL Central of 5 1/2 games.
This rally fell short, though.
Due to Justin Masterson being on the disabled list with inflammation
in his right knee and a doubleheader they had last weekend, the Indians
have had to do a little shuffling in the rotation. Rookie T.J. House,
who made eight starts earlier this season, was recalled from Triple-A
Columbus to take the mound in Minnesota.
"He did throw a lot of strikes, just not the quality strikes that
we've kind of seen," manager Terry Francona said. "There was a lot of
contact. Fortunately, we executed a couple plays to keep them off the
House completed five innings, giving up three runs. The Twins
could've scored more, but Plouffe was thrown out attempting to advance
after his double in the third when the cutoff man, Mike Aviles, dropped
Suzuki was also thrown out on the bases when he tried to stretch a single in the fourth.
House gave up six hits and three walks, striking out two. He was more
complimentary of his relievers than of his own performance.
"I don't want to leave them out there for three or four innings," he said.
The Indians lost shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to spasms in his lower back after two innings. His status will be re-evaluated Tuesday.
Chris Dickerson delivered a pinch-hit RBI single in his place, and
Aviles quickly shifted back to his natural shortstop spot after his
first start of the season in center field. Nick Swisher also played
right field for the first time this year in another mild surprise with
Yan Gomes hit third, having not batted higher than fifth all season
and getting most of his time in the seventh slot, and hit an RBI double.
He's 10 for 21 with five RBIs in his last six games.
NOTES: CF Michael Bourn joined the Indians
for the road trip, though he's not yet ready to return from his
strained left hamstring. He has resumed throwing and hitting off a tee,
with light jogging. ... Masterson made a rehab start for Columbus on
Sunday and will need one more Friday, Francona said, before returning to
the Indians. ... SS Francisco Lindor, the top prospect in the Indians organization, was promoted from Double-A Akron to Columbus.