MINNEAPOLIS — Cleveland’s bullpen threw inning after inning of shutdown relief Saturday night after starter Mike Clevinger had what his manager said was his best performance.
The Indians’ bats, though, couldn’t solve Minnesota’s own pitching staff and it cost them a chance to add to their AL Central lead.
Joe Mauer’s single off Joe Colon (1-2) scored Brian Dozier from second in the 12th inning to lift the Twins over the Indians 2-1. Colon was the 10th different Indians pitcher to take the mound on Saturday night — a season high for Cleveland.
Up to that point, the Twins had threatened a few times but couldn’t push anything across the plate against Terry Francona’s carousel of relievers.
“We did a great job,” said Zach McAllister, whose 11 pitches were good to make it through 1 1-3 innings. “You can’t be mad about it. It was a tough loss no question about it. You always want to win games especially at this time of year, but the way that we were able to go out there and compete and have our defense pick us up with some key plays was beneficial.”
J.T. Chargois (1-1) pitched a perfect 12th for his first major-league victory, preventing the Indians from adding to their six-game lead over Detroit in the AL Central.
Francona lifted Clevinger after four innings. Clevinger allowed only two hits and retired his last seven batters — including four straight strikeouts — throwing only 62 pitches.
“That was the best we’ve seen,” Francona said. “The first couple innings there were some walks, but I thought as he sped up his rhythm you saw him be more aggressive and be in the strike zone with good stuff.”
It’s the second straight Clevinger start where the Indians have used at least eight pitchers.
“I felt like I could have (went further), but I understand the building process,” Clevinger said.
Earlier in the day, Francona said Danny Salazar would miss his next scheduled start on Wednesday in Chicago due to an injured forearm, and that Clevinger could be called on to pitch a day earlier than normal.
“Anytime a pitcher like him, an All-Star, goes down with his stuff it’s definitely tough,” McAllister said. “But at the same time we have confidence in all of us down there, and there’s even more guys now, and those guys that came in and pitched and pitched successfully as well.”
Miguel Sano’s second-inning homer — his 23rd of the year — made it 1-1. Neither team managed much offense after that.
Twins starter Hector Santiago worked seven strong innings after walking four batters and allowing seven baserunners his first two innings. He allowed only two baserunners in his final five.
“From the third inning on I kind of felt like I was in control,” Santiago said.
Dozier hit a two-out single and advanced to second when Colon was called for a balk by homeplate umpire Vic Carapazza. That set up Mauer for his first hit of the long night, a sharp liner into right-center that allowed Dozier to score easily. Catcher Chris Gimenez said he couldn’t call time out fast enough before the balk was called.
“He said he looked in and didn’t see the first sign that I put down. I think he kind of just flinched a little bit because I immediately went to the second one,” Gimenez said.
The Indians recalled RHP Austin Adams from Triple-A Columbus. Adams has pitched with the Indians twice before this season, going 0-0 with a 7.04 ERA in 15 outings.
Indians: Francona said Salazar will return to Cleveland on Sunday to be examined by doctors. He said either Clevinger or Josh Tomlin will start in Salazar’s place on Wednesday in Chicago against the White Sox. “If Tomlin doesn’t pitch or pitches minimally, he’ll start Wednesday. If he ends up throwing a lot, then we would flip flop.”
Twins: 3B Trevor Plouffe went back on the DL with a left oblique strain. He missed 32 games earlier with a fractured left rib and was batting .277 with five homers and 20 RBIs since being reinstated Aug. 8. . Manager Paul Molitor said right-handed reliever Michael Tonkin (shoulder) could be ready to pitch again in Sunday’s series finale. Tonkin last pitched August 26 at Toronto.
Indians: RHP Corey Kluber (15-9) makes his 29th start of the season in Sunday’s finale. Kluber is 7-4 in 14 road starts this season.
Twins: Jose Berrios (2-5) will try to bounce back from a rocky start against Kansas City on Monday, when he allowed five runs off a career-high nine hits in five innings.