CLEVELAND – Another series in Cleveland. Another infielder playing the outfield. Another misplayed ball.
And it led to the Twins losing 4-3 in walk-off fashion to Cleveland.
Eduardo Escobar, making the first start of his career in the outfield, misplayed Asdrubal Cabrera’s drive into a double, the ball barely getting by him. Cabrera was bunted to third, then scored on a single to center by Mike Aviles over reliever Casey Fien. It ended an entertaining game in which the Twins came back from a 3-1 deficit with two runs in the seventh.
Jason Bartlett played six innings in left field at Progressive Field on April 6 and struggled on a few plays. He was replaced by Escobar, who was making his third career appearance in the outfield. Escobar was back out there Wednesday and made three putouts before the ninth-inning play. He went after Cabrera’s ball, but his inexperience showed.
“I went after it 100 percent,” Escobar said. “I went back on it and couldn’t tell if I was close to the wall or not.”
So Escobar pulled up some and just missed making a good catch.
“I’m sure he shied away from the ball,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s not been out there a lot.”
But Gardenhire was not nervous when the ball was hit in that direction.
“Not at all,” Gardenhire said. “He’s played out there a little bit. He’s fine. He just didn’t catch that one. It got away a little bit. The kid did fine out there other than that play. That’s just experience.”
The Twins were locked in a 3-3 tie heading into the late innings.
Brian Dozier gave the Twins a 1-0 lead in the third with an RBI double. Twins righthander Ricky Nolasco struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the inning but then gave up two singles and walked Nick Swisher to load the bases. Michael Brantley made him pay with a two-run double.
Yan Gomes’ homer in the fifth made it 3-1, as the Twins made solid contact off Cleveland starter Danny Salazar but had little to show for it.
But Josmil Pinto hit a one-out single in the seventh, and Escobar followed with a double to put runners on second and third. Gardenhire sent up rookie Danny Santana to pinch hit for Pedro Florimon, and Indians manager Terry Francona countered with reliever Bryan Shaw. Santana responded by lining an RBI single to center that almost took Shaw for the ride. Dozier added a sacrifice fly to tie the score at 3-3.
In six innings of work, Nolasco gave up three earned runs on six hits and a walk with nine strikeouts. He was one punchout away from becoming the first Twin since Francisco Liriano in 2012 to hit double-digit strikeouts in a game.
Nolasco kept the Twins in the game, until things got away from them in the ninth. Fien was one pitch away from extra innings.
“We had chances, a couple of them, to get a hit,” Gardenhire said, “and they got one at the end to drive in a winner, with two outs, off Casey, who has been one of our better relievers. You tip your hat, he just made a bad pitch over the plate and Aviles hit it like you’re supposed to.”