CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Indians’ goals have changed considerably in the last two months.
Instead of battling for the AL Central title, they’re fighting to stay out of the division cellar. The Indians took a step toward that Thursday with a 4-3 victory over Minnesota in 10 innings.
Cleveland, 12-39 since July 26, moved into a fourth-place tie with the Twins in the Central. Minnesota won 12 of the 18 games between the clubs this season.
“No one wants to finish last,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “It’s a pride thing. … It just doesn’t sound good.”
Casey Kotchman ended the game with a bases-loaded single.
“The objective is the same every day for us, whether you’re in first place or last,” he said. “You’re trying to win. Unfortunately, the last month and a half or two months, it hasn’t happened a whole lot. It still doesn’t change why we show up each and every day.”
The Twins came within a win of sweeping the series.
“Bummer,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “This was a bummer of a day at the end there.”
Pinch hitter Shin-Soo Choo doubled off the wall in left-center to start the inning against reliever Anthony Swarzak (3-5). Choo took third on Jason Kipnis’ groundout before Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley were intentionally walked to load the bases.
Kotchman fouled off the first pitch before bouncing a ground ball up the middle against the drawn-in infield for his third hit of the game.
“I wanted to get a pitch to hit and put it in play and see what happens,” Kotchman said. “Luckily, it found a hole.”
“We felt good at the end of the game,” Acta said. “Choo has been scuffling, but he got us started. It was a great at bat by Kipnis, getting the runner over, and Casey, we felt good with him up there because he smoked the ball the whole day, and he got the game winning hit.”
Gardenhire thought his strategy worked, but the results didn’t pay off.
“We gave up a leadoff double in the 10th,” he said. “After that happens, you just try to find the right guy to face. We got a ground ball, which we wanted, but unfortunately it went right up the middle. Kotch is a veteran hitter and hit it in the right spot.”
Both of Cleveland’s wins on its six-game homestand came on walk-offs. The Indians scored two runs off Detroit closer Jose Valvedre for a 7-6 win Sunday.
“I felt we could have done better on this homestand, but we won today,” Acta said.
The Indians open a six-game trip Friday in Kansas City. Cleveland then plays three games in Chicago before finishing the season with a six-game homestand against the Royals and White Sox.
“It’s nice to get on this flight with a win,” Kotchman said. “Winning makes everything a little bit better.”
Esmil Rogers (3-1) pitched a perfect inning for the win. Both teams used five pitchers.
Minnesota’s Joe Mauer was hitless with a walk in four at-bats, dropping his average to .321.
Neither starter was involved in the decision. Cleveland’s Corey Kluber allowed three runs in six innings, while Esmerling Vasquez gave up three runs in 5 2-3 innings.
Minnesota scored the game’s first run in the fourth on Kluber’s wild pitch. Run-scoring singles by Kotchman and Brent Lillibridge gave Cleveland the lead in the bottom of the inning. Denard Span’s RBI double tied it in the fifth. Trevor Plouffe’s solo homer in the sixth gave Minnesota the lead, but Jack Hannahan’s RBI single made it 3-3.
Plouffe, swinging at a 3-0 pitch, hammered a drive to center that caused confusion on both sides. Brantley went back toward the warning track, but never saw the ball, which cleared the wall a few feet to his left. Plouffe, not realizing the ball had left the park, stopped between first and second. He finally began his trot around the bases after an umpire gave the home run signal.
NOTES: Twins 1B Justin Morneau, who has six homers and 20 RBIs against Cleveland this season, wasn’t in the lineup, but pinch hit in the ninth and was hit by a pitch. … The Twins begin a three-game series in Detroit on Friday. Samuel Deduno faces Rick Porcello in a battle of right-handers. … Indians SS Asdrubal Cabrera didn’t start after re-injuring his right wrist Wednesday night. Acta thinks Cabrera will be able to take batting practice Friday. … DH Travis Hafner also got the day off. … On Friday night, Cleveland RHP Justin Masterson will start against Kansas City RHP Luis Mendoza in the series open. … Former Notre Dame football player and motivational speaker Rudy Ruettiger threw out the first pitch.
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