For six innings today it looked like a typical Justin Masterson start for the Indians.
Four Tribe errors and an offense that was not producing had Cleveland behind 3-0 after six frames, and Masterson looked as if he was going to drop to .500 for the season, and the Indians conversely looked as if they would not be returning to .500 on this day.
But then Cleveland erupted for six runs in the seventh inning, held off a Minnesota threat late, and saw Chris Perez earn his 34th save and Masterson move to 12-10 with a 6-5 victory on a cool, drizzly day in Minneapolis.
With the win the Tribe is indeed back at .500 with just 12 games to go in the season.
Minnesota drew first blood in the second inning on a Joe Benson RBI single, and the Twins extended their lead with unearned runs in the fourth and the sixth.
In the fourth, Lou Marson’s throwing error extended the Twins’ lead to 2-0, and in the sixth, errors on Jason Donald and Jason Kipnis and a passed ball set up Brian Dinkelman — who ended up with four hits — for an RBI single to make it 3-0 heading for the seventh.
That is when the Indians came alive.
Shelley Duncan started things with a leadoff homer off of Carl Pavano (8-13). The blast was Duncan’s 10th of the year. Lonnie Chisenhall then reached on an error on first baseman Chris Parmelee. After Donald flied out and Ezequiel Carrera grounded into a force out, Cleveland got some two-out magic.
Marson singled, sending Carrera to third, and Kosuke Fukudome walked, loading the bases and ending Pavano’s day. On came Jose Mijares, who walked Kipnis to cut the Tribe’s deficit to 3-2. Alex Burnett came in and also walked the only batter he faced, and the free pass to Carlos Santana tied the game at 3-3.
The parade of Minnesota pitchers continued as Glen Perkins came on, only to give up a tie-breaking infield single to Jim Thome, scoring Fukudome and making it 4-3 Indians. Duncan then put an exclamation point on the inning with a two-run double, and the Tribe had some breathing room at 6-3.
Minnesota came back with two in the eighth. and ironically both runs scored on bases-loaded walks by Vinnie Pestano, although the runs were charged to Tony Sipp, who began the inning by sandwiching a double and a single around an out. When Pestano entered the fray, he struck out Benson but then hit Matt Tolbert to load the bases and set up the two sacks-juiced walks.
Pestano finally got out of it when he got Trevor Plouffe to pop out.
Chris Perez allowed a one-out single to Parmelee in the ninth, but ended the contest with a strikeout of Dinkelman and this road trip was over.
Masterson went six innings and allowed only one earned run, dropping his ERA to 3.15. Justin surrendered seven hits, walked one and fanned three.
Now the Indians return to Progressive Field for a make-up game against the Seattle Mariners on Monday at 4:05. Then the White Sox are in town for four games, starting with a day/night doubleheader on Tuesday. After Chicago pays a visit, Minnesota comes in next weekend for the final four home games of the season, including a day/night doubleheader on Saturday.