July 23, 2014

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Indians 4, Twins 3: Tribe avoids sweep

CLEVELAND — Some would say the Indians have nothing to play for, but that wasn’t evident Thursday afternoon at Progressive Field.

On the verge of being swept by Minnesota at home, Cleveland rallied for its second walk-off win in four games, turning back the Twins 4-3 in 10 innings.

The victory, just the Indians’ third in the last 12 games, left them tied with Minnesota for last place in the Central Division.

With contention no longer an option, Cleveland’s incentive is to break that tie before the season is complete to avoid finishing in the division’s cellar.

“We have to prioritize things,” said manager Manny Acta, whose club owns the worst record in the American League since the All-Star break at 18-47. “We have some guys that need to play and some guys that need to rest, but no one wants to finish last. It’s a pride thing. It just doesn’t sound good.”

Cleveland began the day in sole possession of last place, but a rare quality outing from right-hander Corey Kluber and a bases-loaded single from Casey Kotchman with one out in the in the 10th sent them on the road with a win.

In what was one of his best outings of the year, Kluber lasted six innings, allowing three runs on five hits, while striking out five.

He didn’t allow a run over the first three innings, surrendering one apiece over his last three, including a go-ahead solo home run to Trevor Plouffe with two outs in the sixth.

Kluber (1-4, 5.36 ERA), a candidate for Cleveland’s rotation in 2013, has allowed four or more runs in six of his 10 starts this season.

“There’s plenty of things to work on,” Kluber said. “Overall, I’m starting to feel more comfortable. I think I’ve done something positive in every start.”

The Indians went scoreless over the first three innings off Twins right-hander  Esmerling Vaszquez (0-2, 6.75), who was making just his fourth start of the season.

The Indians scored twice to go up 2-1 in the fourth on consecutive base hits from Kotchman and Brent Lillibridge, then after Plouffe’s homer, tied the game back up on a two-out single from Jack Hannahan in the sixth.

Both bullpens took over from there to keep the tie preserved, with Cleveland’s relief corps of Cody Allen, Vinnie Pestano, Chris Perez and Esmil Rogers shutting Minnesota out on one hit and a walk over the final four innings.

Shin-Soo Choo got the game-winning rally started with a pinch-hit double off reliever Anthony Swarzak to lead off the 10th.

Choo advanced to third on a ground out from Jason Kipnis, with the Twins choosing to walk the next two hitters — Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley — to get to Kotchman.

Kotchman fouled off the first pitch he saw before shooting a grounder up the middle to score Choo with the winning run.

“I was just happy I got a pitch to hit,” said Kotchman, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run.

Though his team is team is no longer in the postseason race, Kotchman said the daily goal doesn’t change.

“The objective is the same every day whether you’re in first place or last place,” Kotchman said. “Winning makes everything a little bit better.”

 

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.