CLEVELAND – P.J. Walters didn’t survive the first inning. The Twins offense was horrible with runners in scoring position.
But there they were in the ninth inning. With a chance.
The Twins, playing catch-up all night, rallied for two runs in the ninth and had the lead run at the plate in pinch hitter Josh Willingham. But the Mighty Hammer struck out to end the game as Cleveland held on for a 8-7 victory.
“Our pitching wasn’t there at the beginning.” said outfielder Chris Parmelee, who hit two solo home runs. “Our offense was there to pick us up. We made a run at it, and we were one run short.
“No one should be hanging their heads in the clubhouse. We were in it the whole time.”
The Twins entered the ninth inning down 8-5 with Cleveland closer Vinnie Pestano on the mound. Justin Morneau doubled and scored on a groundout. Then Parmelee hit his second homer of the game. The Twins were down 8-7 and surging. Brian Dozier drew a walk, bringing Willingham to the plate.
But he couldn’t check his swing on a 2-2 pitch, and the Twins lost to Cleveland for the second consecutive night.
The 3-hour, 47-minute game included 10-pitch at-bats by Clete Thomas and Jason Giambi, 13 walks and 10 pitchers used between the two teams. The Twins hit four home runs and have slugged 14 in their past seven games.
When a team loses a one-run game, the focus often goes on all the little things that could have changed the outcome. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was pleased about how his team responded to the early deficit to care that they were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. Three of those four homers were solo shots.
“They gave us a chance there at the end, which was fun to watch,” Gardenhire said. “They kept pecking away at them.”
It was a nutty game, beginning with Walters’ inability to throw strikes. He was given a 2-0 lead in the first inning, courtesy of a two-run homer by Joe Mauer. Walters faced nine batters, but didn’t get out of the inning. He was charged with six runs over two-thirds of an inning on one hit and five walks. He had no command, and became the first Twins starter to walk five batters in an inning since Joe Decker on June 10, 1975, also at Cleveland.
“Throughout the inning we tried just about everything,” said Walters, whose ERA rose from 3.23 to 4.88. “Up, down, in, out. The ball was all over the place.”
Anthony Swarzak replaced Walters and pitched 3⅓ innings of scoreless ball. The bullpen gave up only two runs the rest of the night. The Cleveland bullpen was much shakier.
The Twins focused on chasing down Indians starter Corey Kluber and his bullpen buddies. Oswaldo Arcia clubbed a solo home run in the fourth to make it 6-3. Cleveland scored two runs off reliever Ryan Pressly to take a 8-3 lead in the fifth.
Trevor Plouffe drove in Clete Thomas with a single in the seventh, and Parmelee hit a home run to right in the eighth. It was 8-5 at that point. And while they could not come up with a hit to push them over the top, they sure made things interesting when it appeared the Indians were going to coast to victory.
“We were one swing of the bat away from winning there in the last inning,” Walters said. “That’s the toughest part of the day, I thought I let my team down. I didn’t come out and do my job, and that is what it boils down to.”