- Preview via SB Nation and Sports Network *
(Sports Network) – Despite getting first baseman Justin Morneau back into the lineup on Friday night, the Minnesota Twins still saw their record against the Cleveland Indians this season take a hit and now they have to protect themselves from falling even further behind in the American League Central as the two clubs continue a three-game set at Progressive Field.
Last night the Indians won for the third time in the last four outings as they kicked off the series against Minnesota with a 3-2 triumph. Carlos Santana doubled in a run in the bottom of the eighth inning and then scored himself on a double by Matt LaPorta to get the Tribe back into the win column. Santana finished with two of the team’s 12 hits, another three coming from Ezequiel Carrera in four at-bats.
“We just feed off each other,” LaPorta said of his team’s efforts. “We see one guy step up, and we want to step up, too, and help the ball club out. I don’t think we quit. We continue to go out there and give it everything we have.”
Cleveland starter Justin Masterson worked his way through 7 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on just five hits and a walk, striking out four, but he didn’t factor into the decision. Instead, it was Rafael Perez who logged his fifth win of the year by posting just a single out, while Chris Perez notched his 24th save.
Carl Pavano scattered 10 hits for the Twins over 7 1/3 innings, leading to two runs — one earned — while fanning four. Saddled with the loss was reliever Glen Perkins who permitted the game-winning run.
Danny Valencia and Tsuyoshi Nishioka both finished with a pair of hits, the former scoring one of the team’s two runs. Morneau, who underwent surgery to remove a herniated disk fragment in his neck on June 29, was hitless in four at-bats as his batting average sank to .221.
Minnesota entered Friday’s game with a 6-3 edge in the season series with the Tribe, but with eight losses in the last 10 games the Twins are now fourth in the division standings and 11 games out of contention.
Taking the ball for the Indians tonight, in search of his 12th win of the campaign, is righthander Josh Tomlin. The Texas native, now in his second year in the majors, has been stuck on 11 victories since the middle of July when he topped Baltimore on the road.
Most recently Tomlin was on the mound on Sunday against the Texas Rangers and permitted just two runs on four hits over seven innings of action. The hurler walked three, the most since his second appearance of the season, and fanned four in what turned into a 5-3 setback.
For the most part Tomlin has gained control over his pitches since the first two games of the season when he issued a total of six bases-on-balls, allowing a total of just 13 walks since then.
Countering for the visitors will be Brian Duensing, already 1-0 versus Cleveland this season and a perfect 3-0 for his career. The lefty out of Nebraska has lost three of his last four decisions, the Twins scoring just three combined runs in those setbacks.
On Sunday Duensing was pitted against the White Sox at home and was touched for four earned runs on nine hits — two home runs — and fanned four over 6 1/3 innings of work. Unfortunately, his teammates failed to give him any offensive support in what turned into a 7-0 loss.
With Morneau and Joe Mauer both spending time on the DL this season, its no wonder that the Twins have had trouble putting up strong power numbers. At this point in the campaign the team is second from the bottom in the AL in home runs with just 74, a total which is far off the pace set by the team last year when they produced 142 overall. Two years ago the Twins cranked out 172 home runs in 163 games.