Indians turn back Twins
CLEVELAND — Asdrubal Cabrera has come to the Indians' rescue so often this season, it's almost expected.
But he hadn't gone deep since Aug. 1, when he hit two home runs against the Boston Red Sox. So in the best illogical baseball logic, he was "due."
Maybe he was and maybe he wasn't. But his three-run homer in the third inning filled a critical offensive vacuum and propelled the Indians to a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night at Progressive Field.
"Asdrubal has done it for us pretty much the whole year," manager Manny Acta said. "And he's going to continue to do it if he stays healthy," and Acta tapped the top of his wooden desk.
In their past three games, the Indians have scored nine runs, three in each game, yet have won two. That's bucking the odds, though the quality of the team's pitching obviously has been the crucial variable.
Saturday night, it was Josh Tomlin who totally mesmerized the Twins batsmen.
"He was outstanding," Acta said. "He threw 15 first strikes to his 24 batters, he stayed ahead in the count, and he used all four pitches effectively."
No runner reached second against Tomlin until the seventh inning, when Joe Mauer led off by slapping an accidental double just inside the first base line. Matt LaPorta might have held it to a single but couldn't quite get his glove down quickly enough to keep it from skipping into the outfield.
When Jason Kubel drew Tomlin's only walk with one out, Acta went to the bullpen for Joe Smith. He quickly retired Danny Valencia on a fly ball, but Delmon Young floated a short fly to left that was too shallow for Shin-Soo Choo to reach for an RBI single.
That's how the Twins scored their only run off Tomlin, who has given up three runs in his past two starts, a span of 13B7 innings. All three runs were let in by the bullpen.
"I threw pretty well in my last start," Tomlin said. "Tonight I didn't throw that well, but I made pitches when I needed to keep them off balance."
Tomlin (12-5, 3.97 ERA) retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced and 16 of the first 18. Of the 19 outs he recorded, 14 were achieved on ground balls, infield pop flies or strikeouts. Only four batters were retired by outfielders.
"That's a little different for me," Tomlin said. "Usually, I throw a lot of fly balls."
The Indians fielded a lineup that was missing several regulars, including injured Michael Brantley and uninjured Travis Hafner, Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis. All four hit from the left side, which is the same arm with which Twins starter Brian Duensing uses to pitch.
Before the game, Acta said Chisenhall was being held out of the game because of the left-on-left matchup and that Kipnis "was a little banged up from diving all over the place" but not hurt. Hafner hadn't had a day off since Aug. 5 and has been in a mini-slump for a week.
Whether the missing pieces were the cause of the Tribe's inability to mount much of an attack or the expertise of Duensing b" he gave up nine hits in 6b innings but struck out a career-high nine b" is open to question.
But he made one fatal pitch, to Cabrera, that put the Twins in a deep hole.
Duensing (8-11, 4.53 ERA) didn't do much else wrong, certainly nothing that cost him a run, even though the Tribe put at least one runner on base in every inning, before and after Duensing left the scene.
"Duensing does a pretty good job," Acta said. "Other than what Cabrera did to him, we couldn't do anything. He always pitches good against us. I know we have a lot of left-handed guys and that helps him, but every time we got runners on base, he made a good pitch."
The only inning the Indians could put anything together was the third, when Choo led off with a walk and stopped at second on Jason Donald's single. After looking at ball 1 from Duensing, Cabrera whacked a drive over the left field wall onto the concrete patio for his 20th home run of the season.
In the ninth, Chris Perez took over and retired the Twins in order, striking out the final batter for his 25th save of the year. In saves Friday and Saturday, he retired all six batters he faced.
Perez thinks there are signs that the Indians are on the verge of a hot streak.
"It's like we played in April," he said. "We'd get off to an early lead, the starters would go six or seven innings, and we'd turn it over to the bullpen."
(c) 2011, Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio).
Visit Akron Beacon Journal Online at http://www.ohio.com/.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.