MINNEAPOLIS — Justin Masterson had no regrets about the pitch that cost him his chance at a no-hitter.
Masterson took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning, Michael Brantley hit a bases-loaded triple and the Indians beat the Minnesota Twins 7-1 on Sunday to avoid a three-game sweep.
Masterson (11-7) had faced the minimum through six, allowing only a hit batter, when Brian Dozier led off the seventh with a broken-bat blooper to center field that dunked in under the glove of a sliding Drew Stubbs for a double.
That not only ended Masterson’s attempt at making history, it briefly halted what had been a quick, decisive trip through the Twins’ lineup. Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana immediately went to the mound to check on the big right-hander.
“He said, ‘Maybe we should have started him off with a slider.’ I said, ‘No, we wanted to challenge guys,’” Masterson said. “That’s what we do. I don’t care if we have no hits or 100 hits, you still have to challenge guys.
“Broken bat? That’s what you want. It falls in, but in my mind I get so many balls put in play I’m like, something’s going to happen. There’s going to be a hit sometime. So let’s just make sure when it does happen, we stay in our game and make sure it doesn’t have a trickle-down effect,” he added.
Besides, by then the Indians were leading 6-0.
“I thought what he did was good enough,” manager Terry Francona said.
The Indians led 3-0 on Mike Aviles’ sacrifice fly and two-run homer by Jason Kipnis when they loaded the bases with one out in the fifth on a walk to Kipnis and consecutive singles by Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana off starter Scott Diamond (5-9).
With right-hander Anthony Swarzak warming in the bullpen, acting manager Terry Steinbach — in charge because Ron Gardenhire had the flu — visited Diamond on the mound. Diamond got Mark Reynolds to pop out to first for the second out, but Brantley hit a liner to the wall in right-center for a standup triple that cleared the bases and ended Diamond’s day.
The Indians hit Diamond hard even when making outs — 11 of the balls they put in play were solid line drives. That included Kipnis’ homer, which bounced off the top of the wall in left for his second opposite-field shot in two days.
“My stuff was really bad,” Diamond said. “I think I tried to overdo some things, and that kind of led to what happened.”
Diamond, the Twins’ best starter last season as a rookie (12-9, 3.59 ERA), gave up six runs, five earned, on seven hits and three walks as the left-hander lost his third straight decision. He hasn’t won since beating the Chicago White Sox on June 20, and his ERA rose to 5.53.
“It seemed like I’s throw one pitch and not be able to come back with the next one,” Diamond said. “It was just a matter of trying to focus and not overthink things. I just battled myself the whole time.”
The Twins scored when Dozier came in from third on Joe Mauer’s one-out grounder to second that was bobbled by Kipnis for an error, his second in two days. But the first-time All-Star also homered for the second time in two days.
“When he hits the ball the other way he’s getting rewarded for it and it’s creating a ton of confidence — and it should,” Francona said. “Right now he’s keeping everything fair and hitting everything with authority, and that’s a good recipe for success.”
Masterson, who hadn’t pitched since a no-decision against Toronto on July 10, finished the seventh before being pulled after 91 pitches for right-hander C.C. Lee. Masterson, also selected to his first All-Star team this year, was charged with an earned run on one hit and struck out eight in his first victory since June 30 against the White Sox. He lowered his ERA to 3.60 with his 13th quality start of the season.
Masterson plunked Aaron Hicks in the elbow in the third inning, but Hicks was thrown out attempting to steal for the second out and Pedro Florimon grounded out to end the inning.
That was as much as the Twins could muster against Masterson until the seventh, when Dozier looped the first pitch into shallow center.
In other Tribe news, right-hander Corey Kluber could have his next start pushed back a day after leaving Saturday night’s 3-2 loss after five innings because of a hip injury. Kluber said Sunday his left hamstring tightened up on him during the game and was sore, but he didn’t anticipate missing his next scheduled bullpen session today.