The Indians did something predictable tonight. Actually, they did two predicable things in front of a crowd of over 31,000.
The first thing was that they struggled offensively behind Justin Masterson, who left the game in the eighth inning down 2-1.
The second thing was that they rallied in their final at-bat and pulled out a win. A very big win, as they downed the Minnesota Twins 3-2 on a pair of run-scoring doubles — one each from Carlos Santana and Matt Laporta — to cap a night when the Tribe went only 2-for-12 with men in scoring position, but got the big hits when they were most-needed.
Rafael Perez faced one batter and threw four pitches, but got the victory to move to 5-2. And Chris Perez set the Twins down in order in the ninth to earn his 24th save.
Glen Perkins came into the game in the Tribe eighth in relief of Carl Pavano and took the loss (as well as the blown save), falling to 4-3.
For the longest time this looked as if it might be a bitter loss, especially with Detroit winning in Baltimore, 5-4.
In the Twins’ third, a throwing error by Santana on a steal of second by Ben Revere moved Revere to third with one out, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka delivered an RBI single to put Minnesota up 1-0.
It stayed that way until the sixth, when the Indians tied the game on a Nishioka error (the culmination of a nightmarish inning at short) on a Travis Hafner grounder with two outs. Shin-Soo Choo, who was appearing tonight for the first time since June, scored on the error, and the game was knotted at 1-1.
In the Twins’ eighth, Nishioka (who seemed to be in the middle of so much action tonight) again delivered a two-out base hit, putting Minnesota up 2-1 and knocking Masterson out of the game.
But then came the game-winning bottom of the eighth.
After Asdrubal Cabrera flied out leading off, Hafner walked and was lifted for pinch-runner Michael Brantley. That also brought Perkins into the game, and Santana greeted him with a double that split the gap in right-center, scoring Brantley all the way from first. After a Kosuke Fukudome grounder moved Santana to third, LaPorta brought in what turned out to be the game-winning run with a bloop double to shallow left that deflected off the glove of left-fielder Revere.
That was all that the Tribe needed as Chris Perez got Matt Tolbert to fly out, Joe Mauer to ground out and Justin Morneau to pop out, and Cleveland had moved back to two games over .500 at 59-57.
The middle game of this three-game series will be on Saturday evening at 7:05, with Josh Tomlin gunning for his 12th win of the year in a match-up with the Twins’ Brian Duensing.