CLEVELAND — The Indians decided they didn’t need outfielder Josh Willingham this offseason.
The Minnesota Twins obviously do.
With Willingham powering the way Wednesday night at Progressive Field, the Twins secured the second game of the series with a 6-4 victory that broke a last-place tie between them and Cleveland in the Central Division standings.
Minnesota, which owns a 12-5 record against the Indians this year, goes for the sweep today at noon.
Willingham got a three-year deal from Minnesota when the Indians were only offering two. He chose the Twins and has made Cleveland pay since, hitting four home runs and driving in 19 runs in the 17 head-to-head match ups.
He went 4-for-5 with four RBIs Wednesday, hitting a two-run homer off Indians starter Zach McAllister to break a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning.
“He’s a good hitter,” manager Manny Acta said of the Twins left fielder, who is batting .262 with 35 homers and 110 RBIs in 140 games. The 35 homers are the most by a Minnesota player in one season since Harmon Killebrew hit 40 in 1970. “He’s done it in the past. He’s a very good hitter and a professional on the field.”
McAllister (5-8, 4.31 ERA) started his outing off with two scoreless innings, but began to unravel in the third, when the Twins tied the game at two on four consecutive one-out hits.
“Zach struggled a little bit with his command, mainly because his mechanics were off,” Acta said. “He couldn’t put guys away. He had to throw a lot of pitches and put us in a deep hole.”
McAllister lasted just 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on eight hits.
“I expect to go out and pitch well every time, or at least keep the team in the game,” McAllister said. “When I don’t, I’m not happy with that. I wasn’t able to do that tonight.”
Things went much smoother for Twins starter Liam Hendriks, who notched his first big league win in 18 tries, allowing two runs on two hits over six innings. The 17 starts before a win is the third-longest drought in major league history.
Asdrubal Cabrera’s solo homer in the opening inning and Jason Kipnis’ one-out single in the third scored the first two runs for the Indians, who scored two more in the eighth inning to make it respectable.
“We struggled offensively up until the end,” Acta said. “It was a big hole to crawl out of.”
The Indians got a positive performance from unheralded outfielder Vinny Rottino, who went 1-for-3 with a double, scoring two runs and making a diving catch in left field.
“We like Vinny, man,” Acta said of the 32-year-old journeyman. “We liked him at Triple-A (Columbus). We like how he plays the game. That’s why he’s here. Some people might second-guess why he’s here in September, but we like what he does.”
With the loss, Cleveland slumped to 17-48 since the All-Star break, accounting for the lowest winning percentage in the American League.
Cabrera left the game in the top of the eighth inning after tweaking his injured right wrist during a swing. Acta said he was removed as a precaution but that Cabrera would not play in the series finale with Minnesota today.
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