DIVISION SHOWDOWN Tribe falls to Twins in 10th
The loss keeps Cleveland two games behind Minnesota in the AL Central.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CLEVELAND -- The youth-laden Cleveland Indians' dream of achieving first place will have to wait for at least another couple of days.
Corey Koskie's two-run homer in the 10th inning put a chill on baseball's hottest team Sunday, as the Minnesota Twins overcame an early 2-0 deficit for a 4-2 victory over the Tribe before 38,019 fans at Jacobs Field.
The defeat was only the Indians' second in their last dozen games and dropped the Tribe (63-56) to two games behind the first-place Twins (64-53) in the A.L. Central race.
"We had our opportunities late to win, but we couldn't get that big knock at the end," Indians manager Eric Wedge said.
Mulholland stops Tribe
Former Cleveland pitcher Terry Mulholland, kept the Twins in the game by allowing one earned run in eight innings, his longest outing in four seasons.
"He's a crafty veteran," said Indians third baseman Casey Blake, who added that his 2003 teammate might have had an advantage. "He got to sit out in center field and watch a lot of games last year. I'm sure that helped with his game plan."
Reliever Rick White (4-5) suffered the loss after he hit Lew Ford with one out then surrendered Koskie's 407-foot shot to right-center field.
Lost in the frustration created by the defeat was a decent outing by Indians starter Chad Durbin, who blanked the Twins for five innings, allowing only two hits.
But Durbin needed 106 pitches to get 15 outs as he walked four batters and hit another.
"I wish I could have gone a little bit later into the game, but zeroes on the board was what I was looking for to keep us in the game," Durbin said.
Helped by defense
Durbin's (5-4, 5.24) outing was far from breezy. In the second inning, shortstop Omar Vizquel's diving stop on Christian Guzman's sharply hit ball triggered an inning-ending double play.
Two frames later, Justin Morneau doubled off the right-center field wall and Ford was struck by a pitch as Durbin faced a bases-loaded jam with one out. He escaped by striking out Koskie and retiring Christian Guzman on a line drive to second baseman Ronnie Belliard.
Thanks to walks, the Twins had two runners on in the fifth inning with one out when Jacque Jones lined out to Blake and Torii Hunter flew out to center.
"We made some outstanding defensive plays," Wedge said. "That's a pretty good hitting team over there."
But in the sixth inning, the Twins needed just five at-bats against reliever Rafael Betancourt to tie the score. After Ford's one-out single, Koskie doubled, setting up pinch-hitter Jose Offerman's two-out double.
Scored without a hit
The Indians jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning without the benefit of a hit. After leadoff batter Belliard walked, Vizquel hit a comebacker to Mulholland, who threw the ball wide of second base, allowing Belliard to take third. Belliard scored when Matt Lawton hit into a double play.
Another error helped the Indians double their lead in the second inning. Third baseman Koskie threw wildly to first on Josh Phelps' one-out infield hit, sending Phelps to second base.
Koskie also was unable to throw out Coco Crisp on an infield hit, moving Phelps to third base where he scored on Grady Sizemore's sacrifice fly.
But that was it for the Tribe on offense.
"I got to sit here for two nights and watch them attack our pitchers," Mulholland said of the Indians' 8-2 and 7-1 wins on Friday and Saturday. "I had a good idea of what they were doing and what I needed to do."