CLEVELAND — Round 1 of the Central Division featherweight bout between Cleveland and Minnesota went to the Twins — in extended and bizarre fashion.
Last-place Minnesota landed the first blow in the battle to stay out of the division basement Tuesday night at Progressive Field, outlasting Cleveland 6-4 in 12 innings.
The Twins, who thanks to the victory, climbed back into a fourth-place tie with the Indians, scored twice in the 12th inning to secure the win, plating the go-ahead run on a mental mistake from Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta.
More photos below.
LaPorta’s miscue loomed large, but manager Manny Acta pointed at his team’s offensive inefficiency in the 10th inning as the cause of defeat.
Cleveland put runners on first and third with no outs in the 10th, yet failed to score, opening the door for Minnesota to win it two innings later.
“If you can’t drive in a run to walk-off with no outs and a runner on third base, you pretty much don’t deserve to win the ballgame,” said Acta, whose team fell to an American League-worst 17-46 since the All-Star break, losing for the eighth time in 10 games. “We didn’t execute offensively when we had to to win the ballgame.”
Still, LaPorta was wearing the goat’s horns after the final out was recorded, thanks to his disastrous decision in the final inning.
With two outs, a runner on second and the game still tied at four, Alexi Casilla sent a grounder between LaPorta and second baseman Jason Kipnis, with Kipnis ranging into the outfield to snare the ball.
Rather than covering the bag for the potential final out of the inning, LaPorta took the position for a relay throw, and was tardy getting to the base to take the throw from Kipnis.
Casilla beat the throw to first, but more importantly, Darin Mastroianni was able to score from second, as LaPorta threw late and wide to home plate. An RBI single from Pedro Florimon scored the second run of the inning off Cleveland reliever Scott Maine.
“You don’t think, you see the ball go through,” Acta said of the notion that LaPorta thought the ball was going to get by Kipnis for a base hit. “It was pretty much a routine ball to second base, plus we don’t need a cutoff man there. It was a big mental mistake there.”
“I’m sure he thought that the ball was going through,” Kipnis said. “He knows he needs to turn around. It’s not like he wasn’t trying.
“This isn’t all on Matt. The game wasn’t all on his shoulders. We had plenty of opportunities to win the game. It’s going to look like that, but it’s not his fault. He didn’t lose the game for us.”
LaPorta was unavailable for comment.
Left-hander David Huff made his first start (third appearance) for the Indians, lasting just 4 1/3 innings after allowing three runs on seven hits. His pitch count began mounting after Huff allowed two runs in the first.
“They were pretty aggressive coming out of the gate,” Huff said of Twins hitters. “As far as being efficient after the first, I did that.”
“Once he got ahead, he started nibbling and didn’t attack the guys,” Acta said of Huff.
Carlos Santana hit a two-out solo home run in the 12th to provide the final count, but Santana was one of the culprits failing to come through with the game on the line in the 10th.
The Indians employed 10 pitchers on the night, falling one shy of the MLB record for one game.
Minnesota improved to 10-5 against Cleveland, outscoring the Indians 99-65 over the span.