CLEVELAND — The end came early for the Indians on Sunday at Progressive Field.
In a first inning that saw Cleveland’s starting pitcher Mitch Talbot leave with an injury, the Twins scored five runs and never looked back, winning the rubber match of a three-game series, 6-2.
“We shot ourselves in the foot in the first inning,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “We continue to struggle offensively, but the story was that first inning.”
Talbot left the game after facing just three batters and was diagnosed with right shoulder inflammation.
Inflaming the ire of Acta was second baseman Luis Valbuena.
With Justin Masterson on the mound in relief of Talbot and the Indians trailing by a run, a single from Michael Cuddyer loaded the bases for Jim Thome, who sent a tailor-made double-play opportunity to Valbuena. Rushing to complete the double play despite the slow-of-foot Thome heading to first, Valbuena bobbled the ball and couldn’t make a throw anywhere, which allowed a run to score.
The extension of the inning resulted in two more runs crossing the plate in the Twins’ five-run first.
“When you’re playing a good team like that, you can’t give them extra outs,” Acta said. “We basically gave them two runs on that double-play ball.”
Valbuena atoned for the error a bit an inning later, driving in Cleveland’s only runs with a two-out double.
Masterson, who was moved to the bullpen Saturday to preserve his innings count, wound up making what amounted to a start anyway.
He allowed one unearned run on five hits, while striking out six over seven innings. It was the longest outing by a Cleveland reliever since Jake Westbrook pitched seven innings out of the bullpen in 2004. It was the longest relief outing in the majors since Texas’ Dustin Nippert tossed seven in 2008.
“Things worked out pretty good for the most part,” Masterson said. “I did what I could. It’s definitely not the easiest thing in the world, but it seemed to work out.”
“Justin was terrific,” Acta said. “They didn’t put too many good swings together against him.”
The same could be said for Indians hitters, who managed just two unearned runs off Twins starter Kevin Slowey.
Cleveland outhit the Twins 9-7 but left seven on base, as opposed to Minnesota’s two.
The Indians’ best opportunity for an uprising arrived in the fifth — Slowey’s last inning.
Cleveland loaded the bases with one out on three consecutive singles from Chris Gimenez, Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera. The Indians got nothing when Shin-Soo Choo struck out and Travis Hafner grounded out to second baseman Orlando Hudson to end the inning.
Hudson made a circus play to get Hafner, back-handing the ball deep behind second base and spinning to make the throw off one foot.
Talbot, who took the loss after allowing three runs on two hits and a walk, knew something was amiss with his shoulder as he warmed up in the bullpen.
“Before the game, it didn’t want to loosen up for me today,” he said.
Talbot is the first Indians starter to fail to record an out since Jeff D’Amico in 2004, and he’s the first Cleveland starter to face just three batters since Scott Scudder in 1992.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.