The Cleveland Indians' offense continues to find ways to produce. Unfortunately the starting pitchers aren't holding up their end of the bargain.
Right-hander Josh Tomlin turned in the latest subpar performance on Saturday night, allowing four runs in the first inning as the Minnesota Twins defeated Cleveland 7-4 at Progressive Field.
Minnesota third baseman Trevor Plouffe added a solo home run off Tomlin (2-3) with one out in the sixth, putting the Twins ahead for good at 5-4. Joe Mauer belted a two-run homer off Indians reliever Tony Sipp in the seventh to put the game away.
"Everything I threw up there in the first inning, they were either taking it or putting a good swing on it," said Tomlin, who allowed five runs and 10 hits in six innings. "But it was even more frustrating to give up the homer to Plouffe because our guys had fought back to tie it up. In that situation, it's my job to put up a zero and keep our momentum going, and I didn't do that."
Following the game, the Indians announced that left fielder Johnny Damon had been placed on the paternity list in order to be with his wife and twin daughters. Acta said first baseman-outfielder Matt LaPorta will be recalled from Triple-A Columbus on Sunday to fill his spot on the 25-man roster until Damon rejoins the team Wednesday in Detroit.
The Indians, who led the AL Central by 3 1-2 games on May 24, have gone 2-6 since to fall 1 1-2 games behind the Chicago White Sox. During that span, Cleveland's starting pitchers have posted a gaudy 9.52 ERA while its injury-plagued hitters have scored five runs per game.
"We just didn't pitch good enough to win tonight," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Josh had a rough first inning and he struggled with his location. Everyone knows he's going to throw first-pitch strikes, but he left them over the plate and they hit them hard. It's one thing to throw strikes, but throwing quality strikes is another."
Second baseman Jason Kipnis had two hits, two runs and a stolen base for Cleveland, while center fielder Michael Brantley knocked in a pair of runs and extended his hitting streak to a team season-high 11 games.
Brantley's RBI single in the fifth plated Kipnis and tied the game at 4-4, also sending Minnesota righty P.J. Walters to the showers. Walters went 4 1-3 innings in his first career appearance against the Indians, giving up four runs on eight hits and tweaking his ankle on a pickoff move.
Brian Duensing (1-2) replaced Walters and earned the victory with two perfect innings. Twins relievers Duensing, Jared Burton and Glen Perkins combined to retire all 11 batters they faced before giving way to Matt Capps, who allowed one hit in the ninth inning to earn his 11th save.
"It was a nice win," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The bullpen was super. They all did their job. Duensing was fantastic."
Cleveland is already missing four everyday players with catcher Carlos Santana (concussion), designated hitter Travis Hafner (right knee surgery), third baseman Jack Hannahan (left calf strain), and center fielder Grady Sizemore (back surgery) all on the disabled list.
Santana was eligible to come off the 7-day disabled list prior to the game, but likely won't return until he passes baseball's mandatory concussion test. He took batting practice, threw the ball around the infield, and ran the bases Saturday. Acta hopes Santana will return Tuesday.
"Let me go to sleep tonight and wake up tomorrow before I think about that," Acta joked when asked what his roster would look like by the time Damon returns. "I'm not sure I'll be here in three days."
The Twins led 4-1 after the first inning, which lasted 35 minutes and saw both teams load the bases on multiple occasions.
"We had a good approach against Walters and felt like we could have done more damage than we did," Acta said.
Mauer had three hits and three RBIs in his first appearance behind the plate since taking a foul-tip to the face Monday against Oakland. He snapped an 0 for 10 slump with a run-scoring single in the first.
Notes: Brantley's hitting streak is the longest on the Indians since Trevor Crowe had a 13-gamer from Sept. 8-27, 2010. Brantley is batting .357 (15 for 42) with 10 RBIs and Kipnis is hitting .391 (18 for 46) over their last 11 contests. ... Cleveland is 11-2 in its last 13 games against Minnesota, including 3-1 this season. ... The teams wrap up their three-game series Sunday at 3:05 p.m. Cleveland RHP Justin Masterson (2-4, 5.14 ERA) faces Minnesota LHP Scott Diamond (3-1, 2.27 ERA). ... Former Indians INF Carlos Baerga threw out the ceremonial first pitch.