September 2, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
70°F

Twins 5, Indians 4: Huff’s start not enough

CLEVELAND — If a major league baseball game lasted only four innings, David Huff and the Indians would have been winners Sunday at Progressive Field.

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Unfortunately for Huff and the Indians, they had to play five more innings, and that turned them into losers as they dropped a 5-4 decision to the Twins in the series finale.

The Indians led 4-0 before the Twins took the lead for good via a five-run fifth inning that featured an implosion from Huff.

“We came out of the gate really good,” Indians man­ager Manny Acta said. “We had a 4-0 lead and we weren’t able to hold it. It was kind of deflating.”

Huff, who has made two starts since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus, cruised through the first four innings, allowing just two singles and retiring seven straight prior to the fifth.

But the Twins figured him out in the fifth, bring­ing a shocking and emphatic halt to an outing that looked so promising.

Former Indian Jim Thome landed the first big blow, jacking a two-run home run for the Twins’ first runs of the game. A two-run double from Orlando Hudson put Minnesota in front, with Huff walking the next batter and departing in favor of reliever Justin Germano.

“I don’t know (what happened),” said Huff, who allowed six of the first seven hitters he faced in the fifth to reach base. “That fifth inning, I just didn’t have it. I don’t know what the deal was.

“I wasn’t efficient. I wasn’t attacking hitters. I was trying to nibble. It was like two different pitchers pitching out there today.”

“Unfortunately, David had no command of his fastball and pitched behind in the count all day,” Acta said. “You can’t get away with that on this level.”

Though Huff disagreed with Acta’s assessment that he pitched behind all day, a lack of command could be one of the issues plaguing him. Huff began the season with a 1-1 record after working a complete game for his first win of the year April 15. Since then, he has gone 1-10 with a 7.24 ERA and has already pitched himself out of the majors once.

“I still don’t see the fastball command,” Acta said. “That’s the key for him. Whatever the reason is, it hasn’t been good.”

It was the 578th career homer for Thome, who is still Cleveland’s franchise leader in the category (334). He ranks 10th on the all-time homer list, with the two RBIs he recorded Sunday giving him 1,601 to move him past the Indians’ Nap Lajoie and into sole possession of 31st on the all-time list.

It looked as though the Indians would make quick work of Twins starter Brian Duensing, who began the season as a reliever and was making just his fourth start of the year.

Cleveland scored three times off the left-hander in the first, the last two on Matt LaPorta’s seventh homer of the season, then added another in the second to lead 4-0.

That was the end of the line for the Indians off Duensing, who didn’t allow another run and just four hits over the final 5 1/3 innings of a career-high

7 1/3-inning outing. He retired the side in order three times.

“You always want to add on, but you’ve got to give Duensing credit,” Acta said. “He did what he was supposed to do. He was throwing strikes.”

LaPorta and left fielder Trevor Crowe had six of the Indians’ nine hits. Crowe, who is batting .255 on the season, is hitting .356 (21-for-59) when he plays left field.

The Indians put the wraps on a testing 24-game stretch since the All-Star break, going 13-11 — all against teams with records above .500 (Tigers, Twins, Rays, Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox).

According to Acta, it was a positive stint from a last-place team that employs the youngest roster in the majors (eight rookies).

“I’m extremely happy with the way things have gone,” Acta said. “We were really worried about running out these kids against big league clubs with winning records.

“They survived. They deserve a lot of credit.”

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.

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