MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Anthony Swarzak, for an afternoon at least, was a starter again.
He pitched like he didn’t want to go back to the bullpen. The rest of the Minnesota relievers picked him up with a strong performance in his honor.
Swarzak pitched five sharp innings in a short-notice start, Oswaldo Arcia homered and the Twins beat the Cleveland Indians 3-1 Wednesday.
“I missed that. That was fun,” Swarzak said.
Danny Santana scored after two of his three hits for the Twins, and five relief pitchers totaled six strikeouts over four scoreless innings. Glen Perkins finished up in the ninth for his 24th save in 27 tries.
When Kyle Gibson developed a sore back the day before, Swarzak (2-0) was summoned from the bullpen to fill in. He threw 75 pitches, 15 over the limit the Twins had in mind, but the right-hander allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out three. He was only in trouble once. The Twins were worried about his stamina, but he still hit 93 mph on the radar in the fifth.
“When you’re in as good a shape as him, and the hard work that he does in that training room and everywhere else in running and throwing, he can handle those things,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Swarzak has made 29 career starts dating back to 2009, but this was his first since Oct. 2, 2012. Such a surprise assignment can be a challenge for a pitcher, less than 14 hours after finding out, but that can also work against an opponent that hasn’t fully prepared to face him.
“Our hope would be to get the pitch counts up, give him a couple long innings and make them use their bullpen. We couldn’t,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Four of Swarzazk’s five innings were perfect.
“I felt like I might’ve had a little bit more in the tank,” Swarzak said. “I’ve always been a guy when I’ve started to get stronger as the outing goes forward and have the best stuff in the last inning I’ve thrown.
In the third, Jose Ramirez poked a perfectly placed double down the third base line to drive in a run. Shortstop Eduardo Nunez made a slick diving stab of Michael Brantley’s sharp line drive up the middle, ending the inning with runners at second and third.
“Play of the game, hands down. That’s why we won,” Swarzak said.
How the Twins needed this performance by Swarzak. They gave up 14 runs over the first three innings combined during the first five games of his homestand, losing four of those. After a recent return to respectability, the rotation has begun to backslide toward the level of those rough last three seasons.
Trevor Bauer (4-5) struck out seven in six innings, but he lost for the first time in five July starts.
Bauer gave up a triple to Santana in the third, followed by an RBI single to Sam Fuld. In the fifth, Brian Dozier drove in Santana with double. Then in the sixth, Arcia hit his two-out solo shot into the right field seats.
“It was a fastball, exactly where I wanted to put it,” Bauer said.
That was Arcia’s second homer in his last 35 games.
The Indians have only one error over their last 10 games. Their hitting with runners in scoring position has been productive lately. Their starting pitching has, too. But they still lost two of three to the Twins, after winning a four-game series at division-leading Detroit to close in on the Tigers in the AL Central race.
NOTES: The Twins plan to slide Gibson back into the rotation Saturday if he’s ready. “That’s just a hope. You never know with a back,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. … The Indians move on to Kansas City Thursday for a four-game series, with RH Corey Kluber (10-6, 2.95 ERA) starting opposite LH Danny Duffy (5-10, 2.66 ERA) of the Royals. Kluber has allowed only 10 earned runs over his last six turns, totaling 44 strikeouts and only seven walks in 43-plus innings. … The Twins begin a four-game series here Thursday against Chicago, with RH Phil Hughes (10-6, 4.05 ERA) pitching and RH Hector Noesi (4-7, 5.21 ERA) taking the mound for the White Sox. Hughes and Kevin Correia are the only Twins who have made every start this season. … Bauer finished six innings for the 11th time in 14 starts this season.
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