Twins drop two to Cleveland

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 19, 2011 - 10:19 AM

The Twins, other than Joe Mauer, struggled to find offense in a sweep that dropped them seven games back.

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Joe Mauer had six hits in Monday's day-night doubleheader against Cleveland and would have had seven had the hard bouncer he hit in his final at-bat not deflected off Indians reliever Rafael Perez.

As Perez recovered the ball and threw to first, Mauer hustled down the line and dived headfirst, trying to elude the tag from Carlos Santana.

Mauer was out, but when he got up, with dirt caking the front of his uniform, the Twins had to hope the former MVP was back to his former self.

On a stifling day at Target Field, the Twins got swept as Cleveland rode seven strong innings from David Huff for a 5-2 afternoon victory in Game 1 before Fausto Carmona pitched six innings in Game 2, leading the Indians to a 6-3 victory.

The losses pushed the Twins seven games behind first-place Cleveland in the AL Central with two games remaining in the series.

"It was a long day," Mauer said. "A little longer when you lose."

But Mauer not only raised his batting average from .260 to .290, he answered some questions about his durability.

Mauer, who missed 58 games because of bilateral leg weakness, got his second career start at first base in Game 1. Once again he was error-free, and made two diving stops.

Asked to compare it to July 7, when he made his debut at first base in Chicago, Mauer said: "Leading up to it, I was probably in a better state. It's only the second time I've been over there; there's still some nerves. Yeah, it's getting easier."

Mauer made it look easy at the plate, going 3-for-4, but besides a two-run homer from Michael Cuddyer in the ninth inning, the Twins couldn't get anything going offensively to support losing pitcher Anthony Swarzak.

For Game 2, Mauer was behind the plate as lefthander Scott Diamond took the mound for his major league debut.

"Joe calmed me down a lot," Diamond said.

Diamond kept the Twins in the game, leaving with Cleveland leading 3-2 in the seventh inning, but the Indians pulled away late.

"Both kids actually threw pretty well today," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Swarzak had one bad inning, and Diamond really threw the ball well for us. The runs they scored [against Diamond] were on two or three bloops. Overall, he did a really good job for us."

Mauer went 3-for-4 in Game 2, including a first-inning double that short-hopped the left field wall.

"Just trying to keep it simple," Mauer said. "I was trying to do a little too much, but days like this with the heat, you're a little more fatigued, and I guess you stay within yourself a little bit. It was good to get on base and get a couple hits, but I'd rather take some wins."

Gardenhire could see Mauer's determination in that final at-bat, which came in the eighth inning with the Twins trailing 4-2. All of a sudden, Mauer was making like Nick Punto, trying to dive into first base.

"He's swinging good, he's playing hard," Gardenhire said. "You see him diving into first base, trying to beat out a play there, The guy's body -- it was a long day, in the hot sun, he played two games -- and I think it shows a little bit about his courage."

Said Mauer: "If I get on there, Cuddyer could hit a home run and tie the ballgame. That's what I was trying to do, get on base, just trying to do everything you can."

Of course, the next question is how Mauer's body will respond to playing 18 innings on a day like Monday. Mauer sounds determined to be back in the lineup again Tuesday night, when the Twins face righthander Justin Masterson.

"We'll see what happens," Mauer said. "Long day today, but hopefully get back in there and get a win."

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    Up next: 7:10 p.m. tonight vs. Cleveland • Target Field • TV: FSN (1500ESPN)

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