CLEVELAND (AP)—Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire kept his clubhouse doors closed 10 extra minutes.
“The guys were a little flustered,” he explained. “Sorry.”
No apologies needed. This loss hurt a little more than most for the Twins. Not just because it’s September, and not just because Detroit won. This one stung because it came in a game that Johan Santana started.
Rookie Ryan Garko’s bouncer scored Franklin Gutierrez from third in the 10th inning Friday night, sending the Cleveland Indians to a 5-4 win over Minnesota and dropping the Twins two games out of first in the AL Central.
The Twins battled back to tie it with a two-run ninth, a rally that kept Santana unbeaten since July 9. However, Minnesota’s top-notch bullpen had a rare falter and the Twins fell to 12-1 in games Santana has started since the All-Star break.
“It was a tough one,” said Santana, who was icing his arm when the Indians scored the winning run. “We battled the whole night and had our chances.”
Minnesota, which trailed Detroit by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 7, is now two back of the Detroit Tigers, who roughed up Baltimore 17-2.
Sizemore struck out and the Twins walked Casey Blake to set up a possible double play against the slow-footed Victor Martinez, who was 0-for-10 in his career against Reyes. However, a wild pitch advanced the runners, Martinez was put on and Gardenhire called for Jesse Crain.
Garko, who homered in the first off Santana, then hit a hard hopper toward center that was backhanded by second baseman Luis Castillo, who flipped to Jason Bartlett for the force. However, Bartlett’s throw to first was off the bag, and Gutierrez scored.
Garko was swarmed by his teammates for the traditional helmet-pounding celebration.
“It’s probably the best groundout I’ve hit in my entire life,” Garko said.
Bartlett had to avoid a slide by Martinez before getting off his throw.
“I knew I had to get rid of it as fast as I could,” he said. “Garko’s not the fastest guy but I still knew I didn’t have time.”
Fernando Cabrera (3-2) pitched one inning for the Indians, who improved to 22-13 since Aug. 9.
Trailing 4-2 in the ninth with Santana poised to get his first loss since July 9, the Twins, who stranded 11 runners, rallied to tie it off Cleveland closer Tom Mastny.
Bartlett singled leading off and Mastny walked Castillo before Indians manager Eric Wedge came out for a visit. The right-hander then gave up a single to Nick Punto, loading the bases.
Joe Mauer’s groundout to first made it 4-3, and the Indians chose to intentionally walk Michael Cuddyer to face Morneau, who hit a drive deep enough to left to score Castillo easily. Mauer finished the game 0-for-4 and saw his average drop to .344, two points behind Derek Jeter.
The Twins’ comeback saved Santana, who remains unbeaten in 13 starts (9-0) since the All-Star break. Last year’s Cy Young winner, who could be on his way to a second straight award, allowed four runs—three earned—and seven hits in eight innings.
Since 2004, Santana is 31-2 in 43 starts after the break.
“I really don’t think about that,” he said. “Every game from now on counts. We can’t afford to lose any games.”
If not for Minnesota’s comeback, Santana losing wouldn’t have been the only surprise of the night. Cleveland starter Fausto Carmona, who only recently returned to the rotation after a colossal failure as a closer, was three outs away from his first win since April 15. He allowed two runs and two hits in five innings.
Dominant since losing to Texas just before the break, Santana didn’t allow a run in his previous two outings, and the left-hander’s scoreless streak was at 15 1-3 innings when Garko ended it with his two-out homer in the first.
After Santana got two quick outs on long flys, Victor Martinez singled and Garko followed by pulling a 2-0 pitch that rattled off the metal railing just above the wall in left for his sixth homer.
2B Joe Inglett, quickly becoming a Cleveland fan favorite, made a diving catch at second to rob Morneau in the eighth. … Morneau’s 122 RBIs are the third most in Minnesota history, matching Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew’s total in 1961. Killebrew also holds the club record (145, 1969) and the second most (126, 1962). … With Cuddyer and Morneau now over 100 RBIs, the Twins have two players with more than 100 in the same season for the first time since 1996 when Paul Molitor (113) and Marty Cordova (111) eclipsed the mark.