Twins 4, Indians 2, 10 innings
CLEVELAND (AP)—The Indians fell short of moving within a percentage point of the AL Central lead. They got the Twins’ attention though.
It took 41-year-old Terry Mulholland to slow down Cleveland’s hitters and give Minnesota the chance to rally for just its second win in eight games.
Corey Koskie hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning, and Twins overcame a two-run deficit for a 4-2 win Sunday that gives them a two-game lead over the second-place Indians.
Cleveland had won six straight and 10 of 11, taking the first two games of the series by six-run margins.
“We’re happy to leave here in first place,” Mulholland said. “There are a lot of games left, and I think both these teams are going to be playing some fun baseball.”
The teams have 10 games remaining against each other, including the final series of the season at Minnesota.
“I think they know already. We’re going to play,” Cleveland’s Ronnie Belliard said. “They know they’ve got to prepare for the Indians.”
Joe Nathan earned his 34th save in 35 chances. He has not allowed a run in 27 appearances.
The Indians put two runners in scoring position in the ninth, but Juan Rincon (10-5) retired Belliard—his only batter—on a lineout to center.
“We brought in our lucky charm. He’s the vulture. He just picks up wins,” Mulholland said.
Mulholland allowed two runs and six hits in eight innings, the longest outing for the left-hander since 2000, when he was with Atlanta.
“He got us in place to win after getting shellacked here twice,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It is nice to get out of here with a win.”
Mulholland spent last season in the Indians bullpen, giving him plenty of time to scout their young hitters.
“He’s a crafty veteran,” the Indians’ Casey Blake said. “He got to sit out in center-field and watch a lot of games last year. I’m sure that helped his game plan.”
The Indians scored in the first inning for the third time in the series, but Mulholland was able to keep them from a big inning. After Belliard walked, Omar Vizquel grounded to the pitcher for what should have been an easy double play. Mulholland threw wide of Christian Guzman at second and into center field for an error.
Mulholland said he was fortunate to get out of the first with one run.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys. They have some hot hitters. As for facing a former team—I’ve faced a lot of former teams,” said Mulholland, who is on his 10th club.
Minnesota tied the score in the sixth on a two-run double by pinch-hitter Jose Offerman off Rafael Betancourt, who blew a save for the seventh time in nine chances. Cleveland has failed to convert 25 of 48 save opportunities.
The Indians bullpen has plagued them all season but had settled down following Bob Wickman’s return from elbow surgery in early July.
Wickman pitched a perfect ninth. Indians manager Eric Wedge said he was not tempted to leave him in for the 10th.
“With Wicky coming off the injuries, we’ve got to be smart,” Wedge said.
The Twins hit Indians starter Chad Durbin hard, but had only two hits off him. Durbin got out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth by getting Koskie to strike out and Guzman to line out.
Durbin threw 106 pitches in five innings, forcing the Indians to go to their bullpen early.
“It was a big relief for them,” he said of the Twins’ win. “We’re a team that can contend, and I think they see that too.”
The Twins lead the season series 5-4. … The Indians lead the majors in extra inning games, going 10-12. Minnesota is 10-6 in extra innings. … Tim Laker’s single in the second ended an 0-for-16 skid. … Hafner was hit by a pitch for the 17th time. He leads the AL and tied the club record set by Minnie Minoso in 1959. … Torii Hunter flied out four times and fouled out to the catcher.