Corey Kluber pitched like a guy in a pennant race Sunday, delivering a masterful seven-inning outing manager Paul Molitor labeled “polished.”
That’s not a word you can use about the Twins.
They added four more errors to their runaway AL-leading total, and Kluber, the 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner, gave up only three singles and a double over seven innings, improving to 8-1 since the All-Star break in Cleveland’s 7-1 victory at Target Field.
“You watch how he works and the focus he has with each pitch — he slows the game down,” Molitor said in admiration of the Indians ace. “ I don’t think he made many mistakes. We had trouble from the left side with the cutters in, and from the right with that slider, and with plenty of velocity to back it up.”
The Twins finished their homestand with a 4-6 record and lost the season series to AL Central-leading Cleveland 10-9. The Indians got a three-run homer from Carlos Santana — whose 12 homers in Target Field are second only to Jose Bautista’s 14 by a visiting player — and widened their lead in the AL Central to seven games over Detroit, which lost to Baltimore 3-1.
It’s not like the Indians needed any help, but the Twins obliged anyway. Center fielder Byron Buxton overran a bloop hit in front of him, granting an extra base. Jose Berrios threw a pickoff attempt past first baseman James Beresford. Another pickoff throw burst through the webbing of Beresford’s glove, earning him an error. Third baseman Eduardo Escobar called for, then dropped, a popup in front of the mound. And while no error was charged when catcher Juan Centeno’s throw bounced past shortstop Jorge Polanco on a steal attempt, “as a middle infielder, you hope to keep that ball in front,” Molitor said. It increased the Twins’ error total to 114 on the season; no other AL team has even 90.
“There are little things that add up, and you make four errors in a game, it doesn’t help your cause,” Molitor said. “We know our number of total errors this year is extremely high. it’s not good baseball.”
Mauer can’t go full speed
Joe Mauer was not in the Twins lineup Sunday, but he intends to play on the upcoming road trip, and for the rest of the season. Even if he can’t move around at top speed.
The Twins first baseman hasn’t been healthy since playing Atlanta on Aug. 16, when he scored from first base on Trevor Plouffe’s first-inning double. He strained both quads during that run, sat out the next night, then three more a week later, hoping the injuries would heal quickly.
“They got a lot better [during those days off], but it’s still there,” Mauer said. “It’s going to be there until the end of the season.”
But so is he. Mauer has been visibly slowed by the injury, but “I don’t like to sit and watch, especially when things aren’t going so well for the team,” he said. “I’m grinding it out. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. I want to finish the year. Mostly, I just want to play.”
That’s what Molitor wants, too, “but it’s not going to be every day,” he said. “He sees that people watch him and what he does and how he responds. He’s hit a couple balls where he’s had to hustle down the line to beat a play. Your instinct tells you to run and your body tells you you can’t.”
• Buxton made a diving attempt at Roberto Perez’s seventh-inning triple on the center field warning track, but he couldn’t hold on. He was feeling the affects afterward. “I feel like I hit the ground harder than when I hit the wall” earlier this season, he said.
• Relievers Trevor May, Tommy Milone and Michael Tonkin, all out for a few weeks because of injuries, each made their returns Sunday. Only May gave up any runs, two of them in two-thirds of an inning.