CLEVELAND – Even with Francisco Liriano not at his best, the Indians mustered little against the Twins ace. Unfortunately for Cleveland, hitting wasn’t a problem for Minnesota.
With their ace enduring an off day by his standards, the Twins’ offense picked him up and then some, as Indians pitchers allowed a season-high 20 hits in an 8-3 loss in the rubber match of a three-game series at Progressive Field.
It could have been worse from an Indians’ perspective, with Minnesota leaving 16 runners on base.
“They hit us around today,” said Indians manager Manny Acta, whose pitchers allowed three home runs and five extra-base hits on the day. “That was an awful lot of hits. They made Progressive Field look small.”
The offensive assault began early with the Twins scoring twice in the first off Cleveland starter David Huff, both on Orlando Hudson’s second homer of the season.
Minnesota hit all of its homers, including one from former Indian Jim Thome, off Huff, who allowed four runs on 10 hits over five innings.
“David didn’t have good command at all,” Acta said. “It seemed like when he needed to throw a strike he threw a ball, and when he needed to throw a ball, he threw too many over the plate. He threw a lot of balls right down the middle and they really hurt him.”
Huff, who allowed hits in each inning he worked — the Twins collecting at least one hit in all nine innings – seemed to disagree with his manager’s assessment, when asked if he struggled with command.
“No, not at all,” said Huff, who has allowed five homers in his last two starts and seven in five starts on the season. “I just left a few up in the zone in the first inning. After that, I made the adjustment to keep it down. I felt like I was hitting my spots. I just tip my cap to them.”
Every player in Minnesota’s lineup save Michael Cuddyer had at least one hit. That included catcher Wilson Ramos, who was called up to make his big league debut in place of an injured Joe Mauer, and went 4-for-5 with a double. Ramos was the first Twins player to collect four hits in his debut since Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett accomplished the feat in 1984.
It appeared that the Indians would take advantage of a shaky Liriano when they scored twice in the first to snap the left-hander’s scoreless innings streak at 23.
But Liriano found his groove after the opening inning, limiting Cleveland to just a run over his final six innings of work. He yielded three runs on eight hits, while striking out nine.
From the first out of the second to the first out of the fourth, Liriano struck out six of the eight batters he faced.
“I felt like we had a few opportunities to score more runs but we weren’t able to land that knockout blow,” Acta said. “Francisco seemed to get better later in the game after we let him off the hook.
“It’s been a struggle offensively all season long for seven or eight guys. We need a couple of them to get going.”
The Twins broke a 2-all tie in the fifth on back-to-back homers from Thome and Delmon Young, which was all they needed against the struggling Cleveland offense.
At that point, Huff had to be thinking the game was over, with Liriano back on track against the Indians’ flailing offense.
“I think about what I need to do to keep our team in it, and it was tough today,” Huff said.
Even with a sub par performance from Huff, the Indians were still in the game, down by just a run before reliever Jamey Wright allowed two runs in the seventh inning and the Twins capped their eventful offensive effort with two more in the ninth.
Thome’s homer was the 569th of his career, moving him into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for 11th place on the all-time list. Thome, still Cleveland’s franchise leader in long balls (334), has also belted the most home runs at Jacobs/Progressive Field with 184.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or email@example.com.