Riding a six-game winning streak in which they had collected at least six runs and 12 hits in every game, the Indians hit a wall in the series finale with Minnesota. The Twins avoided the sweep with a 4-2 decision.
Cleveland mustered just six hits and scored single runs in the fourth and ninth innings.
“We were pretty silent today offensively,” said manager Terry Francona, whose team lost for just the fourth time in 13 games to fall four games behind American League Central Division-leading Detroit.
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Playing the biggest part in halting the Indians’ offensive surge was Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey, who entered his sixth start of the year with a 2-3 record and 7.66 ERA.
Pelfrey allowed just a run on four hits, while striking out seven over six innings. He allowed a hit over the first three innings and retired seven straight after Cleveland scored its lone run off him on a sacrifice fly from Mark Reynolds in the fourth.
“You have to tip your hat to Pelfrey,” Reynolds said. “He threw the ball very well today, sinking in at 94 (mph), it’s tough. He just kept the ball down and we couldn’t get anything going against him.
“That’s the way it goes. You’re not going to win them all.”
The Indians got an acceptable outing from starting pitcher Corey Kluber, who allowed three runs on five hits over 5⅔ innings.
Kluber (2-1, 3.06 ERA) surrendered a two-run home run to Trevor Plouffe in the second inning, then shut out Minnesota on one hit over the next three innings.
“For the most part, he was pretty good,” Francona said. “He threw maybe one too many breaking balls to Plouffe, and he paid for it. But he kept us in the ballgame and gave us a chance to win.”
Plouffe, who also went deep off Cleveland ace Justin Masterson in the series opener Friday, has seven career homers against the Indians — six of them coming in Cleveland. He is 4-for-11 with two homers and three RBIs against the Indians this year.
Though he took the loss, Kluber was satisfied with his effort.
“There were a lot of pitches that I just missed with,” he said. “The result was four walks and a couple runs. I thought I made some good pitches.”
A leadoff double from Asdrubal Cabrera led to the Indians’ run in the fourth. After Cabrera crossed the plate, the Indians had two aboard with two outs, but Pelfrey struck out Lonnie Chisenhall to end the threat.
The Twins added to their lead in the sixth when Kluber allowed the first three hitters to reach — two on walks — and Justin Morneau singled to right field to make it 3-1.
A two-out RBI double from Joe Mauer off right-hander Matt Albers made it 4-1 in the seventh inning.
Cleveland looked to be going quietly in the ninth against Twins closer Glen Perkins, who retired Nick Swisher and Reynolds to start the inning. But Carlos Santana clouted a solo shot to pull the Indians within two runs.
A single from Ryan Raburn brought the tying run to the plate in Mike Aviles, who pinch-hit for Chisenhall. Despite producing a solid at-bat, Aviles struck out swinging to end the game.
Kluber is still winless in 10 games (eight starts) at Progressive Field, owning an 0-5 record and 5.00 ERA.