CLEVELAND – The two starting pitchers for the Twins in their doubleheader Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians left the visitors’ clubhouse together at the end of a long day at Progressive Field.
One held his head up as he walked toward the team bus. The other, hands stuffed inside the pockets of his jeans, had his head down. Guess who had the better day?
The Twins won the opener 7-1 behind a strong outing by Kyle Gibson. Then all momentum stopped when Mike Pelfrey crumbled in Game 2, a 10-2 loss. And it was Pelfrey looking at the ground at the end of the night.
The split of the doubleheader means that the Twins’ room for error in their pursuit of the postseason has shrunk even more. Pelfrey’s inability to throw quality strikes left them one game back of the second AL wild-card spot — with Houston’s late game pending — with only four games left in the regular season.
Los Angeles lost at Oakland on Wednesday — ending a seven-game winning streak — and fell into a tie for the second-wild card spot with the Astros.
“The positive is we didn’t get swept and the Angels didn’t win,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Gotta take out what you get. The reality is that the Angels had a hiccup — it has been a while.”
Pelfrey worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning of Game 2 but gave up four runs in the second. Down 2-0, Pelfrey covered first as Francisco Lindor tried to beat out a grounder to first baseman Joe Mauer. Lindor was called safe, but the Twins challenged. Replays suggested Pelfrey’s foot seemed to touch the bag before Lindor’s, but the call was upheld.
The replay took 4 minutes, 23 seconds, so Pelfrey took a few warmup tosses during the wait. When play resumed, Pelfrey still threw a wild pitch to Carlos Santana, allowing a run to score and Lindor to move to second. Then Santana delivered an RBI single to make it 4-0.
Pelfrey was pulled with two outs and two runners on in the second inning, his shortest outing of the season. His past two starts have come against Cleveland, and he’s posted a 20.79 ERA. A free agent after the season, Pelfrey might have started his final game as a Twin.
“I wasn’t very good,” Pelfrey said. “It was one of those days [when] it was a pretty tough time to have it. I let these guys down, and it ended up being too much.”
Cleveland added a run in the third, two in the fourth on a home run by Lindor, then Jose Ramirez hit a three-run homer in the ninth off Ricky Nolasco. Ramirez held out his bat as he ran to first, then flipped it. Molitor and catcher Kurt Suzuki were seen yelling at Ramirez.
“That’s part of the game that’s growing a lot,” Molitor said. “Some players get comfortable in doing things that some people interpret as disrespectful, so we reacted a little bit, yeah.”
Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario homered for the Twins. Rosario’s came in the ninth, and he yelled at Ramirez as he circled the bases.
Gibson gave the Twins a chance for doubleheader sweep in Game 1. In six innings of shutout ball, he held Cleveland to four hits and two walks. And his nine strikeouts tied a career high.
Gibson won for the second time this month and is in position to start Sunday on three days’ rest if needed. He had early run support thanks to a first-inning Joe Mauer homer, then Torii Hunter added a bases-clearing double as part of a four-run fourth.
“I don’t know how long I’m going to pitch in the game, but I would love to have the reputation of being able to pitch in big games,” Gibson said. “I don’t know if this starts that reputation because it is in the regular season, but it’s fun to pitch in big games that mean something, and it is fun to go out there and execute pitches under pressure and execute pitches for five, six innings at a time.’’