Twins fall to Tribe
By Jon Krawczynski, AP Baseball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Travis Hafner had two hits and the go-ahead RBI in the eighth inning, and Justin Masterson became the latest Cleveland player to put his first-half struggles behind him in the streaking Indians' 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
Masterson allowed three runs on seven hits in 61/3 innings and Shelley Duncan added a bases-loaded double in the sixth for the young Indians, who are 6-0 since the All-Star break.
The Twins had a chance to take the lead in the seventh inning when Joe Mauer came to the plate with two on and one out and the score tied at 3. But the three-time batting champion curiously laid down a bunt to move the runners up a base instead.
Jason Kubel grounded out to end the inning and Hafner came through in the top of the eighth for Cleveland.
Rafael Perez (3-0) picked up the win in relief of Masterson and Chris Perez picked up his ninth save.
But it was the head-scratching decision from Mauer, the reigning AL MVP who signed an eight-year, $184 million contract extension in the spring, that may have been the turning point.
The Twins trailed 3-1 after Duncan's double in the sixth, but tied it on a bloop single by Denard Span and a roller through the left side from Orlando Hudson.
That brought up Mauer, who has been struggling by his sky-high standards this season. He entered the game hitting .297 with just four homers and 40 RBIs while battling a sore shoulder.
So with the go-ahead run in scoring position, Mauer dropped down the bunt. The runners advanced, but Mauer was thrown out at first for the second out and Kubel followed with a groundout to first to end the inning and keep the game tied.
The Indians took advantage in the eighth against Jose Mijares (1-1), who walked leadoff man Carlos Santana before Hafner ripped a double to the gap to take the lead.
Kevin Slowey gave up three runs and six hits in 52/3 innings for the Twins. He struck out seven and walked one. It was an improvement from his recent starts, but not enough against a suddenly effective Masterson.
Like the rest of these young Indians, the All-Star break appears to have done him quite a bit of good. Masterson gave up 11 earned runs and 19 hits in 101/3 innings over his previous two starts before the break.
NOTES: Twins closer Jon Rauch was available on Tuesday night, but manager Ron Gardenhire wanted to give him a day off after he took a ball off his ankle on Monday night. ... Indians manager Manny Acta said 2B Jason Donald has earned the right to play every day and INF Jayson Nix will be used in a utility role the rest of the way. "We feel that Donald is part of the future here," Acta said. ... The Indians activated SS Asdrubal Cabrera from the 60-day disabled list. He went 0 for 5 with a strikeout.