Tough to figure how, but Indians beat Twins 3-1

CLEVELAND — The Indians won a game and a series Sunday over Minnesota.

How they did it might defies conventional logic.

The Indians kicked the ball around, were assessed four errors, and gave up nine hits. They won 3-1.

“If you’d have told me after all had been said and done we’d be up 3-1, I’d head straight to the casino,” manager Terry Francona said.

“It felt like we were trying every way we could to give one away,” said outfielder Drew Stubbs.

Except they didn’t.

Improbably, illogically and unpredictably.

Sort of like their season. Add up the parts and pieces and it might not equal a playoff chase as September approaches, but they somehow figure out ways to win and they somehow are fighting with Oakland, Baltimore and the Yankees for a wild card spot.

Sunday the Indians botched a rundown, threw two pickoff attempts away, dropped a line drive and misplayed two bunts. This was uncharacteristically sloppy defense that continually put pitchers in bad spots.

But time and again, the Indians kept the Twins from the big hit. The only run Minnesota scored was on a bunt, as Scott Kazmir, Cody Allen and Joe Smith stranded 12 and Chris Perez one.

Minnesota, playing without Joe Mauer and Justin Mourneau, went 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position.

In the fourth inning, Asdrubal Cabrera botched a rundown, which allowed Twins runners to reach second and third with one out. Kazmir got a popup and strikeout on a 95 mph fastball.

In the fifth, the Twins had first and third with one out and the bases loaded with two out, and scored just one run, Kazmir getting a strikeout and line out.

In the seventh, the Twins had first and third nobody out after Nick Swisher misplayed a bunt. But Cody Allen got a pop up, a strikeout and a strikeout to end the inning.

That set up the Indians eighth, when Stubbs homered just to the right of dead center with two outs, and Michael Bourn scored on Swisher’s single after Bourn had used his speed to leg a single into a double. The eighth inning rally came with two out.

“You gotta do something, man,” Swisher said of an RBI base hit that followed his miscues in the field.

“We didn’t play our best game,” Kazmir said. “We know it.”

But they won. Which says something about this Indians team. Francona says they have to play “cleaner,” but he credits his team for playing the entire game. There’s some sense of fight and determination in this group, with different players or elements of the team coming through at different times.

Sunday the pitching saved the defense.

“It’s not always pretty, fellas,” Swisher said. “We got a scrappy squad. A couple blunders out there, myself included on a couple. But to have our pitchers pick us up …”

“You can boot the ball around and lose,” Francona said. “Everybody can say we had a bad day. But you can boot it around and fight back and win … Knowing we have to play cleaner. But we won. That’s what we came to do.”

Swisher didn’t handle a bad pickoff attempt, then threw the ball into left field (though the runner didn’t advance past second). He didn’t go home on a bunt with a runner on third, then looked to first where there was nobody covering. Then he fell trying to field another bunt.

But he got on base four times (two hits, two walks) and drove in the third run that gave the Indians some breathing room. He admitted he can play better, but as Stubbs said, “An ugly win is as good as a pretty win.”

The Indians won two-of-three on this oh-so-brief stop at home, and they have a day off before starting three-game series in Atlanta and Detroit before playing Baltimore at home three times.

The players are aware of the schedule.

“It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” Swisher said. “But I feel like we’re in a great spot right now.”