CLEVELAND (AP) — It’s easy to see why Indians manager Manny Acta isn’t happy these days.
Acta’s team, which has been riddled by injuries, poor starting pitching and uninspired play in general, is in its worst stretch of the season.
Sunday’s 6-3 defeat to Minnesota was Cleveland’s seventh loss in nine games and ended a week Acta certainly would like to forget. The Indians dropped two of three at home to both Kansas City and Minnesota, the two worst teams in the AL Central.
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“Not a good homestand, especially when you win the first game of both series and you’re not able to win another ballgame,” Acta said. “We continue to struggle as a team.”
The Indians were flying high when they swept a three-game series at home against Detroit late last month. Since then they were swept by surging Chicago in a three-game series and then fell flat at home.
“Against two teams at the bottom of the division, you need to take advantage of that,” designated hitter Shelley Duncan said. “We didn’t play very good baseball on this homestand.”
Cleveland has been without catcher Carlos Santana (concussion), designated hitter Travis Hafner (knee surgery) and third baseman Jack Hannahan (calf and back).
The Indians were a step behind the Twins all day. Starter Justin Masterson (2-5) pitched out of trouble several times, but still lost. All of Cleveland’s runs were unearned thanks to Minnesota’s sloppy defensive play. The Twins had three bunt hits and an infield hit that turned into a double.
Scott Diamond (4-1) gave up seven hits without a walk as the Indians fell to 4-12 against left-handed starters.
“I wish I had it,” Acta said when asked if there’s a solution to the problems against lefties. “We do have a lot of lefties in our lineup and the majority are better hitters against right-handers, but when we try to sneak in some of our right-handed bats in there to help out, they’re not hitting them either.”
“It’s a mystery,” said Duncan.
Masterson was hit by two batted balls in the third. He was struck in the back by Denard Span’s line drive, but recovered to throw him out at first. Masterson was hit in the foot by Justin Morneau’s hard grounder, which turned into an RBI single.
“I’m a big guy,” Masterson said. “I’ve got a lot of extra space.”
Masterson gave up three runs and seven hits in six innings in one of the better outings by a Cleveland starter of late. In their previous eight games, Indians starters went 2-6 with a 9.52 ERA. That included a poor outing by Masterson on Tuesday when he gave up nine hits and all the runs in six innings of an 8-2 loss to Kansas City.
Joe Mauer hit an RBI single in the first. The Twins star left in the ninth with a sprained right thumb. Matt Capps pitched the ninth for his 12th save in 13 chances.
Minnesota made three errors, but improved to 5-1 since a five-game losing streak.
“It is really good to come in here and take two of three,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We manufactured some runs and got a lead. Then we missed the ball a few times and let them back in the game. The good thing is every time they got close, we were able to score and get the lead back.”
Alexi Casilla hit two sacrifice flies. Mauer drew a two-out walk in the third, went to third on a double by Josh Willingham and scored on an infield single by Morneau to make it 2-0.
The teams exchanged sacrifice flies in the fourth. Casilla gave the Twins a 3-0 lead in the top half, then Jose Lopez countered for Cleveland. Duncan’s RBI single later in the inning got the Indians within 3-2. Twins shortstop Brian Dozier’s second error of the game fueled the rally.
Willingham and Ryan Doumit singled home runs off reliever Nick Hagadone in the seventh. Ben Revere reached on a bunt and stole second. After replacing his belt, broken on the slide into the bag, Revere scored easily on Willingham’s single.
Matt LaPorta, called up from Triple-A Columbus before the game, reached on an error by Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe to start the seventh and scored on Lou Marson’s one-out double.
The Indians are 16-16 at Progressive Field and begin a nine-game road trip Tuesday in Detroit. The Indians play 18 of their last 24 games this month on the road.
“June is going to be a challenge for us,” Acta said. “We’re going to have to kick it up a notch. That’s all there is to it.”
Acta hopes that Santana, who hasn’t played since May 25 because of a concussion, will return Tuesday.
“Carlos feels pretty good,” Acta said. “Maybe we can get him a game on rehab, to get him some swings (Monday). He’s passed all the (concussion) tests for Major League Baseball. He’s past that.”
NOTES: Indians CF Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 12 games. … LaPorta replaced LF Johnny Damon, who is on paternity leave. Damon will rejoin the Indians on Wednesday. … LHP Glen Perkins worked a scoreless eighth for the Twins. Minnesota relievers have held Cleveland to a .175 average and allowed one run in 18 innings in five games this season. … The Indians travel to St. Louis and Cincinnati for six interleague games after playing Detroit. Cleveland is 12-9 away from home.