Twins edge Indians 3-2 in 9th inning
CLEVELAND — There were a number of positives coming from Jacobs Field for the Indians on Saturday, but the end result was a negative one.
Jake Westbrook emerged from his season-long slump and the Indians nearly made history by beating Twins ace Johan Santana, but Cleveland still dropped a 3-2 decision to Minnesota, which evened the series at a game apiece.
The Twins rallied for a run off Indians closer Joe Borowski to snap a 2-all tie in the ninth inning, while preventing Cleveland from taking over sole possession of first place in the Central Division by ending their season-long five-game losing skid.
The Indians, which played in front of the second sellout crowd (41,203) of the season at Jacobs Field, remained a half-game behind the first-place Tigers, while Minnesota stayed nine games off the division pace.
Westbrook, who entered his 13th start of the season with just one win — none since leaving the disabled list on June 24 — didn’t get his second, but the right-hander produced a long-awaited quality outing nonetheless.
He allowed two runs on just four hits, striking out three and walking three through seven innings. It was just the second time that Westbrook has allowed less than three runs all season.
“Jake was real good,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. “His tempo was a little bit better. There were a number of things that he did that made him look like the guy he normally is.”
Westbrook kept pace with Santana through the first two innings and though he could have earned a better fate, it was clear things were working against him a bit when light-hitting Jason Tyner scored the first run of the game with a solo home run to right in the third. Minnesota added another run in the inning on a single from Justin Morneau to go up 2-0.
It was the first career homer for Tyner, who entered the game as the majors’ active leader without a long ball, logging 1,220 at-bats without going deep.
“I thought it was a good cutter,” Westbrook said of the 1-1 pitch to Tyner. “Either he was looking for it or he put good wood on it. I think it surprised a lot of people.
“The way (Santana) was early, I knew that once I gave up the two runs, I couldn’t give up any more, and that ended up being the case.”
Westbrook (1-6, 5.85) is looking to build on one of his few positive efforts of the season.
“A starting pitcher has to be consistent start in and start out,” he said. “That’s up to me the next time. Hopefully I can get back into the groove.”
Facing Santana through the first six innings was a fit of futility for the Indians, who didn’t get their first hit until Grady Sizemore sliced a double into right field with two outs in the sixth.
With the opportunity to become the first team in big league history to beat Santana three times in one season, the Indians mustered just one base runner through the first five innings. Cleveland made contact just three times off the two-time Cy Young Award winner from the second through fifth inning, with Santana recording nine of his 12 strikeouts over the span.
“That might have been as good as we’ve ever seen him,” said Wedge, whose team beat Santana April 24 in Minnesota and May 17 in Cleveland, with Fausto Carmona earning both decisions. “He was a handful tonight.”
The Indians closed in on the three-win milestone in the seventh when Travis Hafner followed a leadoff single from Victor Martinez with a game-tying two-run homer to right.
It left Santana, who allowed two runs on four hits through seven innings, without a decision.
The Twins ensured that Santana’s effort would not be wasted though, when they broke through against Borowski in the ninth.
Torii Hunter led off the inning with a double to left-center before Borowski got the first out and hit Rondell White with a 3-2 pitch to leave runners on first and third.
Brian Buscher followed with a ground ball to defensive replacement Mike Rouse, who with White running on the pitch, hurried a throw to the plate to get Hunter that sailed high, allowing the winning run to score. A good throw may have saved the run.
“I was just trying to get it to home plate as fast as I could,” Rouse said.
The Indians had the heart of the lineup up in the ninth against Minnesota closer Joe Nathan but went down in order, with Martinez grounding back to the pitcher, Hafner bouncing to third and Ryan Garko ending the game on a pop-up to short.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or email@example.com.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Minnesota
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Sabathia (13-5, 3.70 ERA) vs. Garza (1-2, 1.33)
TV/RADIO: Channel 3; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM
Indians closer Joe Borowski reacts after Minnesota’s Torii Hunter hit a double in the ninth inning of the Twins’ 3-2 win Saturday night in Cleveland. Hunter later scored the go-ahead run on a ball hit by Brian Buscher.