MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Joe Mauer’s two-out RBI single in the eighth inning lifted the Minnesota Twins to a 3-2 victory over Cleveland on Friday, after an error by Indians first baseman Nick Swisher set up the winning run.
Four Twins relievers struck out six over 3 1-3 hitless innings, including Casey Fien (2-2) in the eighth and All-Star Glen Perkins in the ninth for his 22nd save in 24 tries.
Trevor Plouffe’s hit a tying two-run single in the sixth against Scott Kazmir, who stifled them for two hits over six innings.
With Joe Smith (4-1) pitching in the eighth, Pedro Florimon singled and Brian Dozier reached on an error when first baseman Nick Swisher let third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall’s throw bounce in and out of his glove.
Smith got Plouffe to ground into a double play, but Mauer followed with the go-ahead single.
The Indians stayed 1 1-2 games behind first-place Detroit, which lost 1-0 at Kansas City, in the AL Central race. Their four-game winning streak ended.
The Twins have won three in a row after losing 16 of 18.
Kazmir’s no-hitter ended questionably with one out in the third when Asdrubal Cabrera casually tried to backhand a grounder hit slightly to his right by the speedy Clete Thomas. The ball bounced off his glove, and official scorer Gregg Wong awarded Thomas a single.
With two outs in the sixth inning, after a two-out walk by Florimon, Dozier hustled for second base when Chisenhall bobbled his bouncer for an error at third.
Then Plouffe followed with a clean line drive that bounced in front of Drew Stubbs in right field, driving in the two unearned runs with his team’s first solid hit of the night.
Kazmir has started to get his career back on track this year with Cleveland, and the Twins can certainly attest to his improvement.
In three starts against Minnesota this season, he has pitched 19 innings with just 12 hits and three earned runs allowed. Kazmir beat the Twins at home in May and June.
The 29-year-old left-hander, whose last full effective season in the majors was in 2008 with American League champion Tampa Bay, walked three and struck out three.
Indians starters, who entered the night with the fourth-fewest innings in the league, haven’t taken a loss in their past nine games. They have a 2.14 ERA in that span with only two homers allowed and a .192 batting average against them.
The bullpen, tied for the league high with 17 blown saves before the break, is the bigger concern. That and the 3-9 record against the Tigers so far. And the recently quiet bats of Cabrera and Mark Reynolds.
Twins starter Mike Pelfrey had plenty of help, with a lunging catch by shortstop Florimon, a sliding grab from left fielder Thomas and a slick play by second baseman Dozier to end the third with a jump to snag a line drive and a same-motion sidearm throw to Florimon to finish a double play.
Florimon also made a barehanded pick up of a slow bouncer to barely throw out All-Star Jason Kipnis to start the fourth, and he dived to catch a bloop in shallow left field for the first out of the ninth.
Pelfrey gave up a pair of deep doubles the inning before to Chisenhall and Michael Bourn, whose drive drove in both runs.
The Twins, from manager Ron Gardenhire to cornerstone first baseman Justin Morneau, are more concerned about finishing the season here and being able to come back next year.
In this third straight lost season for the Twins, Morneau’s name is at the top of the could-be-traded list.
“It’s a place where I’m happy and we’ve won here, which is always the goal. But it’s not up to me, so we’ll see what happens,” said Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP who’s in his 11th season, all with Minnesota.
Over Pelfrey’s past six starts, three on each side of his back injury, he has allowed 15 runs in 37 innings (3.65 ERA) with three homers, eight walks and 24 strikeouts. Pelfrey only won one of those turns.
This was, strangely, Cleveland’s first visit of the season to Minnesota. The way the Twins have been playing, though, that’s good for the Indians.
Beginning with Friday’s game, more than 19 percent (13 of 67) of their remaining games are against the Twins. Ten of them in this second half are here at Target Field, including a four-game series to finish the regular season from Sept. 26-29.
“We could probably take up residency here,” manager Terry Francona joked.
NOTES: The Indians will send RH Corey Kluber (7-5, 3.88 ERA) to the mound on Saturday night, with RH Kevin Correia (6-6, 4.23 ERA) pitching for the Twins. Correia leads the team with 110 2-3 innings. Kluber will make his third start against the Twins this season. … The Twins won for the first time in 14 games on Fridays this season. They’ve had two rainouts. Five of their previous seven such games were shutouts. … Francona said RH Zach McAllister, out with a sprained middle finger on his throwing hand, is on track to return to the rotation on Tuesday at Seattle. He’s been out for six weeks.