MINNEAPOLIS – The Cleveland Indians are falling behind.
After watching the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers make significant trades this week, the Indians saw their deficit in the American League Central race reach a season high.
Justin Morneau hit a two-run homer, Brian Duensing threw six smooth innings as a late fill-in for Francisco Liriano and the Minnesota Twins finished a three-game sweep of the Indians with a 5-1 victory on Sunday.
"I'd be lying if I told you this doesn't deflate you a little bit," said left fielder Shelley Duncan. "It's one of those things where this time of year you start to scoreboard watch a little bit. After the game you check and see how other teams did."
Ubaldo Jimenez (8-10) worked into the seventh and struck out six, but the Indians (50-52) lost for the eighth time in their last 11 games. They were a season-high 5 1/2 games out of first place in the division when the game began, behind the White Sox. They haven't been two games under .500 since mid-April.
"Teams that do have those good little stretches in August and September are the ones that aren't worrying about what the other teams are doing," Duncan said. "That's something we need to put our focus on."
Duensing (2-6) found out late the night before of this assignment, after the Twins finalized their trade of Liriano to the White Sox for a pair of prospects. The left-hander lost all four of his previous starts this year, but he needed only 70 pitches to finish six frames and yield to the bullpen after scattering five singles without a walk, giving up one run and striking out two.
Ben Revere had two hits, two steals and two RBIs for the Twins, who outscored the Indians 28-6 in the series. The Indians had only one extra-base hit and batted .140 in the three games.
"In order for our lineup to survive offensively you need to have at least six guys surviving, doing something at the plate," manager Manny Acta said. "That's not the case, so we have to get in gear."
Duensing gave up consecutive two-out singles in the fourth inning, the second one by Duncan a bloop that barely carried over shortstop Brian Dozier's head. That put the Indians in front, but their lead was brief. Morneau's soaring shot over the 23-foot wall in right-center field came in the bottom of that frame to make the score 2-1 Twins.
"Just left an off-speed pitch up and got just enough of it to get it up in the flower bed up there," Morneau said. "Puts us ahead against a guy who's pretty tough and throwing the ball very well."
Revere doubled in the fifth, moved up on a balk and score on a wild pitch by Jimenez to stretch the lead to two in the fifth.
Jimenez walked Denard Span, his last batter. After a double steal by Dozier and Span, Tony Sipp gave up a two-run, one-out single to Revere to make it 5-1.
"We still have a lot of time left, but if we want to do something we have to keep it going, we can't be losing like that," Jimenez said.
Jimenez just hasn't pitched the way the Indians envisioned when they acquired him right before the trade deadline last summer from the Colorado Rockies. The right-hander fell to 0-3 with a 7.97 ERA in his last four starts after allowing six hits and three walks.
"He battled for us, but he's walking such a tight rope right now it seems like every time he walks a guy he ends up scoring," Acta said. "It's kind of hard for a guy to be pitching with a one-run lead and expect to hold it."
NOTES: Acta said he's still not sure when or where RHP Roberto Hernandez, who played as Fausto Carmona until his false identity was revealed this spring, will pitch in his next minor league game. Hernandez is serving a suspension issued by Major League Baseball and is eligible to rejoin the Indians on Aug. 11. ... The Indians are off Monday and start a three-game series in Kansas City Tuesday. RHP Derek Lowe (8-9, 5.09 ERA), who has won only two of his last 12 starts, takes the mound. He'll face RHP Luke Hochevar (6-9, 5.26 ERA) of the Royals.