Indians let another game slip away to Twins
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MINNEAPOLIS — Instead of burying the Twins in the AL Central race, the Cleveland Indians left town with their lead over Minnesota no worse than when the sweltering four-game series started.
Danny Valencia singled home the go-ahead run for the second straight day, this time in the eighth inning, and Minnesota beat the Indians 7-5 Wednesday in a sloppy game played on another sweltering day at Target Field.
The Twins salvaged a split in the four-game series and remain five games behind the AL Central-leading Indians, right where they were when the series started. But despite missing a chance to push the Twins to the fringes of the division race after sweeping a doubleheader on Monday, the Indians were glad to hold serve.
"We played four games with them and left it the way we came in, so it's not like we lost ground either," Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. "As disappointed as I am that we didn't win the series, we did play four games here and they didn't gain any ground.
"There's too many games left for us to be thinking that this is a series that is going to make or break our run. We have two months of baseball left, and we'll see what happens."
For the second straight game, Cleveland's short-handed outfield played a key role in an Indians loss. With the game tied at 4, Alexi Casilla led off the eighth inning with a fly ball to deep left-center field off Cleveland reliever Tony Sipp (4-2). Left fielder Luis Valbuena and center fielder Ezequiel Carrera converged but neither caught the ball, which bounced off the warning track and into the bullpen for a ground-rule double.
"Nobody called the ball. I tried to catch but I feel he's right there next to me and I was scared I was going to run into him," said Valbuena, normally a utility infielder who was filling in while Michael Brantley (heat exhaustion) and Travis Buck (headache) are on the mend.
Valencia, who won Tuesday night's game with an RBI single in the ninth, lined a ball to right field, which just eluded the glove of second baseman Orlando Cabrera, to score Casilla, who had three hits, two runs and an RBI.
Tsuyoshi Nishioka added a two-run single to cap the Twins' rally, which might never have begun if the Indians had an extra outfielder rather than forcing Valbuena into an tough spot.
"If you have an everyday outfielder, I'm sure that (Casilla's double) probably could have been caught, but we know what we're dealing with," Acta said. "Luis is playing out of position. He played a lot of left field in Triple-A, but it's a different ballgame up here."
Acta said the Indians didn't make a roster move because Brantley and Buck are expected to return to the lineup on Friday, when the Indians open a three-game series against the White Sox in Cleveland.
Sipp allowed three runs on two hits and a walk in just a third of an inning. Indians starter Josh Tomlin pitched six innings, giving up four runs on eight hits.
Matt Capps (3-5) earned the win in relief of Nick Blackburn, who gave up four runs — one earned — in six innings. Joe Nathan gave up a solo homer to Lonnie Chisenhall, but earned his sixth save.
The Indians also benefited from an outfield miscue.
With the bases loaded in the fourth, Cleveland's Matt LaPorta sent a high sacrifice fly to center field, but the ball glanced off Minnesota center fielder Ben Revere's glove allowing two runs to score.
Revere took one away from LaPorta later, going back to the wall in the eighth with a runner at third and two outs to make a leaping, two-handed grab and keep the score tied.
With the Twins leading 4-3 in the sixth, the Indians tied it on a passed ball by Twins catcher Drew Butera that allowed Travis Hafner to score from third.
NOTES: 2B Orlando Cabrera went 1-for-4 and is now hitting .343 (79-for-230) in his career against the Twins. Buck was still experiencing headaches before the game and was unavailable. Buck was hit in the head by a pitch from Francisco Liriano on Tuesday, but hasn't shown signs of a concussion. Acta said Buck is not subject to the MLB concussion testing. Tomlin has gone at least five innings in each of his 32 career starts, the first time since 1919 the feat has been accomplished.
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