The Minnesota Twins will look to carry some momentum into today's rubber match as they host the Cleveland Indians in an American League Central divisional bout at Progressive Field.
Joe Mauer and Trevor Plouffe drove in three runs each to push the Twins to a 7-4 win in the second game of the series on Saturday. Justin Morneau also had an RBI while Minnesota's bullpen held the Indians scoreless for 4 2/3 innings.
The seven-run performance by Minnesota's offense was its most productive since its 11-8 loss to the White Sox on May 24. The Twins outburst was much needed, as they have scored only 197 runs, which is the second-lowest total in the American League.
"The bullpen was super; they all did their job," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The shutout performance by the bullpen was very encouraging for Minnesota, which ranks last in the American League with a team ERA of 5.25. Although the Twins are in last place in their division, they have come out on top in four of their last five.
The bullpen's efficiency was needed after starter P.J. Walters (2-1) was pulled after 4 1/3 innings in which he allowed eight hits and four earned runs. The Twins' 4-0 lead evaporated inning by inning until the inexperienced Walters was replaced. Gardenhire has to hope he will get better execution out of his starting pitcher today as southpaw Scott Diamond takes the mound.
Diamond had trouble with Cleveland in his rookie year in 2011, going 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two starts versus the Tribe. The 25-year old has been much more sufficient in his sophomore campaign with a 3-1 record and 2.27 ERA.
The Indians will counter Justin Masterson, who leads the team in strikeouts. Masterson (2-4) has been erratic so far in 2011. The right-hander gave up only three earned runs in 14 innings in two games before allowing nine hits and seven earned runs to the Royals his last time out.
Masterson's control has been an issue and he enters Sunday's game with 34 walks, the fifth most in the AL. The righty has held Mauer to only two hits in 14 at-bats over the last two seasons and went 1-0 with a 2.12 ERA in his five starts against Minnesota in 2011.
Michael Brantley helped the Indians fight back from their 4-0 deficit and hit a big single that evened the score in the fifth inning. Brantley's game-tying single extended his hitting streak to 11 games. He has a batting average of .357 with 10 RBI during that span. Cleveland produced just one more hit the rest of the way. Seven of the team's eight strikeouts in the loss came from the 1-5 hitters in the order.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis swiped second base in the bottom of the third inning. The act tied Kipnis for the American League lead with 13 stolen bases and allowed him to score on an Asdrubal Cabrera single.
"We just couldn't get that last push, that last hit," Tribe manager Manny Acta said. "We take the lead there, and things are different. We could probably match up some guys out of the pen after that when we're ahead and it could have been a different story. But we couldn't do it. We had a good approach against [Twins starter P.J. Walters], and we could have done more damage than what we did."
Cleveland has still won 11 of its last 13 games against the Twins, which includes three of four this season. The Indians are just 1 1/2 games back of the division leading White Sox prior to Sunday's games.