CLEVELAND (AP) — The Twins aren’t going anywhere in October except home. Until then, they intend to ruin some other team’s plans for the fall.
Samuel Deduno pitched six solid innings and Josh Willingham busted out of a slump with a two-run double in the seventh as the Twins beat Cleveland 5-1, slowing the Indians’ climb in the AL wild-card standings.
After winning two of three against first-place Detroit, the Twins came to Cleveland and slowed momentum the Indians created while going 6-3 on the road and getting back into contention.
The Twins are spoilers, and if that’s all they can be, then so be it.
“Unfortunately, that’s going to be the role this year; it was the role last year,” Willingham said. “You play teams that are in the playoff run and hopefully beat them when it matters. I guess that’s the second-best thing, instead of being in it. You’d rather be in it, but if you can beat somebody when it matters, that’s good, too.”
Deduno (8-7) allowed just one run and three hits for his first win since July 27 as the Twins improved to 14-7 against the Indians since last September.
Willingham was in an 0-for-15 slide before his double off reliever Cody Allen put the Twins ahead 4-1.
“It was nice to help the team for once,” Willingham said. “I haven’t done very much lately to help us win games. We’ve been playing pretty good. It’s nice to be able to contribute. It was a big win for us.”
The Twins entered the weekend 17 1-2 games out of first. There’s not enough time to make up that kind of deficit, but manager Ron Gardenhire sees the next month as a chance to see what his team’s all about.
“We’re on a really tough trip,” Grandenhire said. “We’re going through Detroit and Cleveland who are battling each other for this division. We owe it to the rest of baseball to give it everything we have, which we do every game but definitely the atmosphere is different. You’re talking about teams that are in a pennant race.
“Our guys get excited about this stuff and some of our young kids are kind of getting a feel of what it’s like to be in a pennant race.”
Ubaldo Jimenez (9-8) struck out 10 in six innings, but the Indians didn’t support the right-hander and were leap-frogged by Baltimore in the wild-card chases. Also, the Indians dropped six games behind the Tigers, who won 6-1 over the New York Mets.
Cleveland was home after a 6-3 road trip that put it back in the playoff conversation. One of six teams fighting for two wild-card berths, the Indians, as close to first as they’ve been this late in the season since 2007, were hoping to keep their momentum going against a Twins team playing for just pride with just over a month left in the regular season.
Minnesota, though, stopped Cleveland’s postseason push. The Indians may want to make the playoffs, but didn’t show much urgency to get to October.
Michael Bourn, though, stayed positive.
“We ain’t lost no momentum,” he said. “We’re all right. We just lost a game, that’s all that was. We’ll be back tomorrow and be ready to play.”
Deduno, who has been slowed tendinitis in his right biceps, walked four, including three in the sixth. The right-hander was clinging to a 2-1 lead when the Twins, who are missing All-Star catcher Joe Mauer because of a concussion, scored twice in the seventh.
After walks by relievers Bryan Shaw and Rich Hill, Willingham came up with two outs and drove a pitch from Allen over right fielder Drew Stubbs’ head to give the Twins their three-run lead.
But it was the Indians’ inability to capitalize on those three walks the previous inning that cost them.
Deduno walked Bourn and Nick Swisher to open the inning, and manager Terry Francona had All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis try to bunt. But after failing twice to get the ball down and advance the runners, Kipnis struck out looking, dropping him into an 0-for-18 hole.
“I had him bunt because he’s had a tough time with Deduno,” said Francona, noting Kipnis was 1 of 11 with six strikeouts against the right-hander before the at-bat. “That one would be on me.”
Bourn was given the green light to steal on a 2-0 pitch to Carlos Santana, and thought he got a decent jump, but was thrown out by Herrmann, who is filling in for Mauer.
Then, following Deduno’s third walk, Michael Brantley tapped out weakly to end the threat.
“That was a big turning point,” Francona said. “I like when Bournie runs though. We encourage him to run and every once in a while that’s going to happen.”
Bourn felt like the risk was worth it.
“It kind of killed the inning a little bit,” Bourn said of his gamble. “If I would have stayed we would have had bases loaded, but that happens. I take blame for it. ”
NOTES: Mauer visited a concussion specialist at the Mayo Clinic and was cleared to begin a light exercise program. … The Twins have struck out 1,086 times and are on pace to break the club record of 1,384. … The Twins recalled RHP Liam Hendricks from Triple-A Rochester to start Saturday. The Australian got his first major league win in Cleveland, snapping a string of 17 starts without a victory, the third longest streak to begin a career in history. To make room for Hendricks, RHP Michael Tonkin was optioned to Rochester. … Twins OF Oswaldo Arcia, who has missed the last four games with a bone bruise, could play as early as Saturday.
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