It’s September and the reinforcements have arrived. But the Twins’ 6-2, 11-inning loss to Cleveland on Friday night to open a six-game homestand a Target Field sure had a shorthanded feel to it.
That’s because the Twins were down a couple of position players by game’s end, and they also didn’t have a few key relievers available because of injuries or recent use. So the the Twins had to turn to a few of their callups to help hold off the second-place Indians and they did … for a while.
Cleveland broke through in the 11th with four runs off of Lewis Thorpe, Brusdar Graterol and Trevor Hildenberger — all coming with two out — as the Twins dropped the opening game of their three game series against an Indians team that now trails them by 5½ games in the AL Central.
“We had a few guys in the bullpen who were also down and not available tonight,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said, “but our guys as a whole threw the ball well, and this was a game that was a good, close game that we just lost.”
The Twins were attempting to win their second consecutive 2-1 game, but Oscar Mercado led off the eighth inning with an outfield fly to right off Sergio Romo that landed just out of the reach of LaMonte Wade Jr., who was shifted over to left-center field. Mercado ended up on third with a leadoff triple, and two batters later Yasiel Puig drove him in with a sacrifice fly for the tying run.
The score stayed tied until the 11th. Lewis Thorpe gave up a leadoff single to Puig, who made it to third after a groundout the Twins nearly misplayed into an error and a wild pitch. But Thorpe struck out Franmil Reyes for the second out, and then Baldelli turned to the much-hyped Graterol, only to see the flamethrowing 21-year-old fail to retire a batter.
Graterol fell behind pinch hitter Greg Allen before intentionally walking him. Perez then hit a 96-mile-per-hour fastball to right for a go-ahead RBI single. Pinch hitter Mike Freeman was hit by a pitch to load the bases, then Francisco Lindor hit a rocket that deflected off third baseman Miguel Sano for an infield single and a 4-2 lead. Hildenberger entered for his first appearance with the Twins since May but gave up a two-run single to Oscar Mercado.
“In reality, I wasn’t trying to do anything different,” said Graterol, whose fastball reached 99.3 miles per hour in his third major league outing and Target Field debut. “I just went out there trying to execute my pitches and I felt really comfortable. Maybe too comfortable for the situation. Maybe that’s what happened.”
And the Twins could be even more shorthanded Saturday — as much as a team with 36 active players can be.
Nelson Cruz left after striking out in the eighth inning because of pain in the same left wrist in which he suffered a ruptured tendon a month ago against the Indians. He had to be looked at during an at-bat in the fifth inning, when he winced because of discomfort.
“Just precautionary,” said Cruz, who thinks he might miss a game or two. “It feels good. The range is good. Like I say, I think it’s just inflammation.”
Right fielder Jake Cave left in the fifth inning because of a tight left groin as he ran to first base, with Wade replacing him. Cave said pulled up before he could injure further and hopes to be available sooner than later.
Twins righthander Michael Pineda held Cleveland to one run over six innings and has a 2.96 ERA over his last 14 outings. He gave up a home run to Lindor in the third, but the Twins came back with an RBI double by C.J. Cron in the fourth and RBI single by Jorge Polanco in the fifth. However, that would be all the Twins — 4-7 in extra innings — would muster against righthander Adam Plutko and the Indians bullpen.
“Didn’t figure out a way to get it done tonight,” Baldelli said. “Our guys battled really hard and played pretty well for most of the game. Pushing a run or two more across the board would’ve helped.”