CLEVELAND — Starting pitching has been a problem all season for the Minnesota Twins. Right-hander P.J. Walters took their woes to a whole new level on Saturday night.
Walters allowed six runs and five walks in two-thirds of an inning, including two bases-loaded walks, as the Cleveland Indians held on for an 8-7 victory over the Twins.
Minnesota, which trailed 6-2 after the first, nearly pulled off a memorable comeback as Chris Parmelee hit solo homers in the eighth and ninth innings.
The Twins scored twice off Indians closer Vinnie Pestano in the ninth and sent the potential go-ahead run to the plate with two outs, but pinch-hitter Josh Willingham struck out to strand Brian Dozier at first base.
"When you score seven runs, you should win in this league," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Walters just didn't have it tonight. It was just a bad night. He couldn't find anything. Hopefully, we won't see that again from him."
Walters (2-3) only faced nine batters and threw 46 pitches, but tied his career high in bases on balls and matched his season high in runs allowed. He walked Jason Giambi and Drew Stubbs with the bases loaded, hit Mike Aviles with a pitch, and gave up a two-run double to Jason Kipnis.
Anthony Swarzak replaced Walters after Cleveland batted around, but promptly allowed a single to Michael Bourn that plated the fifth and sixth runs of the inning. The outing raised the Twins' starting pitchers season ERA to 5.25, which is the worst in baseball.
"Obviously, that was not something I was trying to do tonight," said Walters, who had pitched into the sixth inning in all five of his previous starts. "I felt fine, and I tried just about everything. I was up, down, in, out. The ball was all over the place.
"I feel like I let my teammates down and didn't do my job. That's what it all comes down to today."
Parmelee went 3 for 5 with two runs in his first career multi-homer game for Minnesota, which has lost the first two games of the series. His first blast came off Indians reliever Brian Shaw in the eighth and cut the Twins' deficit to 8-5, while Pestano gave up his second shot, which occurred with two outs in the ninth and made it 8-7.
Earlier in the game, Joe Mauer and Oswaldo Arcia homered off Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber (5-4), who went 5 2-3 innings and allowed three runs in winning his third straight start.
"Nobody should be hanging their heads," Parmelee said. "Our pitching wasn't there at the beginning, but we went out and played extremely well. We've got a day game coming up, and we'll come back and get them tomorrow."
Mauer opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the top of the first, but it was largely forgotten when the Indians scored six times off Walters in the bottom of the frame. It was Mauer's eighth home run of the season and extended the Twins' homer streak to seven games in a row.
Swarzak worked 3 1-3 scoreless innings, while Ryan Pressley followed by allowing two runs in working the fifth, sixth, and seventh. Caleb Thielbar tossed a perfect eighth to keep Minnesota within striking range.
Walters, however, had dug too deep of a hole to dig out of. He became the first Twins starter with five walks in an inning since Joe Decker also turned the trick in Cleveland on June 10, 1975.
"We did a really good job there in the first," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "There were some instances when he had a couple of four-pitch walks, but there were also some balls that we took that were close and we didn't give in. We extended the inning and did a really good job."
Willingham was not in the lineup because of a sore left knee, but was available to pinch hit. He is hitting a career-low .212 and has struck out 74 times in 226 at-bats, including three times in five at-bats in the series.
"Our bullpen did a fantastic job and our hitters gave us a chance at the end, which was fun to watch," Gardenhire said. "We just came up a little short because you can't fall behind that big, that early."
NOTES: Twins CF Thomas batted leadoff, while 2B Brian Dozier was dropped from first to eighth in the order. Gardenhire says "they've both done a great job, so we're going to keep going back and forth. Dozier swings well against lefties and Clete hits well against righties." Thomas went 2 for 4 with two runs, but Dozier was hitless in two at-bats. ... Twins OF Austin Hicks (left hamstring strain) could start a rehab assignment at Triple-A Rochester on Sunday. He has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 10. ... Twins OF Wilkin Ramirez (concussion) played five innings Friday for Single-A Fort Myers. He has been on the 7-day DL since May 26. ... The teams wrap up their three-game series Sunday. Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey (3-6) takes on Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco (0-2).