By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
The Indians didn’t exactly “knock” the opposing starter out of the game in the first inning. It was more like they waited him out.
Minnesota starter P.J. Walters faced just nine batters on Saturday night, five of whom he walked and one who was hit by a pitch. The Tribe used it to post a six-run inning, and went on to defeat the visiting Twins, 8-7.
Down 8-3, the Twins chipped away for single runs in the seventh and eighth innings and two in the ninth, but fell one run short.
The victory kept Cleveland (38-35, 4 straight wins, 8 of last 10) three games behind Detroit in the AL Central Division.
Things began ominously for the Tribe when the second batter of the game, Joe Mauer, landed a Corey Kluber pitch 429 feet away, in the right-center field stands with a man on.
However, that outlook changed quickly. The Indians bounced back with six in the bottom of the first against a very wild Walters. Walters (2-3, 4.88 ERA) o gave up just one hit — a two-run double to left by Jason Kipnis (3 hits) that plated two to knot the game at two. However, he couldn’t find the plate. He forced in runs with bases on balls to Jason Giambi and Drew Stubbs. After walking Stubbs, he was removed.
“(Kipnis) is doing some damage,” manager Terry Francona said. “He’s not just getting hits; he’s stealing bases, he’s hitting the ball in the gap, hitting the ball out of the ballpark. He’s doing a lot of good things.”
The next batter, Michael Bourn (3 hits, 3 RBI), who had started the rally by drawing a walk, hit a broken-bat bloop single to left-center off Anthony Swarzak to bring home two more.
“I thought we did a really good job,” Francona said. “(Walters) had a couple (5-)pitch walks, but there were also some balls that we took that were close. We didn’t give in, and we extended the inning and did a really good job.”
Oswaldo Arcia’s homer to left-center cut it to 6-3 in the fourth. The Twins (33-38) proceeded to put men on the corners with one out in the fourth, but Kluber was able to escape further damage.
Cleveland scored two in the fifth against Ryan Pressly when a walk to Giambi and double by Lonnie Chisenhall set up run-scoring singles by Stubbs and Bourn.
Kluber (6-4, 3.68) lasted 5 2/3 innings. He received help in the form of defensive gems by Chisenhall at third base and Mark Reynolds at first base, and was replaced by Nick Hagadone.
“I didn’t think (Kluber) commanded tonight as well as he has,” Francona said. “If that’s one of his outings that’s not his best, and he still gets us where he did, that says a lot about his growth.”
“I wasn’t sharp,” Kluber said. “Most of the game, (I) had to go out there and work with what (I had).”
Hagadone was charged with a run in the seventh when Trevor Plouffe’s single against Cody Allen drove in Clete Thomas, who had doubled.
Chris Parmelee’s homer against Bryan Shaw made it 8-5 in the eighth. Shaw left with two on and one out, but southpaw Rich Hill struck out the only two batters he faced.
“Rich Hill was really good in a spot that was really important,” Francona said.
“He’s been working so hard in the bullpen. Every time he throws in the bullpen, (pitching coach) Mickey (Callaway) and (bullpen coach Kevin Cash) are always so positive that he’s making strides. And it was nice to see him take it into the game. His fastball had a lot of life on it, and his breaking ball, he got ’em to chase out of the zone.”
Vinnie Pestano worked the ninth for his third save, but it was anything but easy. He gave up a leadoff double to Justin Morneau, who later scored on a ground ball, and then Parmelee’s second home run of the night with two outs. But after walking Brian Dozier, he got pinch-hitter Josh Willingham to swing at a pitch in the dirt on a full count. It was his 34th pitch of the frame.
“I actually thought tonight, Vinnie threw the ball better,” Francona said. “That was a really long inning. Any pitcher, when you start getting up around 30 pitches, that’s a tough inning. But I thought he was more crisp tonight than he has been before. He just made a couple mistakes, and then when you get in a situation where you’re in a game like that, you have to really pitch, because one swing can beat you.”
“We used a lot of (the pitchers in our bullpen), and there were some highs and lows. Fortunately, the highs won out.”
Swarzak pitched out of a situation with runners at the corners and two outs in the second. He didn’t let the Tribe score after Kipnis hit a one-out triple in the fourth.
Caleb Thielbar also pitched for Minnesota.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.