Joe Mauer’s two-out RBI single in the eighth inning lifted the Minnesota Twins to a 3-2 victory over Cleveland on Friday, after an error by Indians first baseman Nick Swisher set up the winning run.
Four Twins relievers struck out six over 31/3 hitless innings, including Casey Fien (2-2) in the eighth and All-Star Glen Perkins in the ninth for his 22nd save in 24 tries.
Trevor Plouffe hit a tying two-run single in the sixth against Scott Kazmir, who stifled them for two hits over six innings.
With Joe Smith (4-1) pitching in the eighth, Pedro Florimon singled and Brian Dozier reached on an error when Swisher let third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall’s throw bounce in and out of his glove.
Smith got Plouffe to ground into a double play, but Mauer followed with the go-ahead single.
The Indians stayed 11/2 games behind first-place Detroit, which lost 1-0 at Kansas City, in the AL Central race. Their four-game winning streak ended.
The Twins have won three in a row after losing 16 of 18.
Kazmir’s no-hitter ended questionably with one out in the third when Asdrubal Cabrera casually tried to backhand a grounder hit to his right by the speedy Clete Thomas. The ball bounced off his glove, and official scorer Gregg Wong awarded Thomas a single.
With two outs in the sixth inning, after a two-out walk by Florimon, Dozier hustled for second base when Chisenhall bobbled his bouncer for an error at third.
Then Plouffe followed with a clean line drive that bounced in front of Drew Stubbs in right field, driving in the two unearned runs with his team’s first solid hit of the night.
Kazmir has started to get his career back on track this year with Cleveland, and the Twins can certainly attest to his improvement.
In three starts against Minnesota this season, he has pitched 19 innings with just 12 hits and three earned runs allowed. Kazmir beat the Twins at home in May and June.
The 29-year-old left-hander, whose last full effective season in the majors was in 2008 with American League champion Tampa Bay, walked three and struck out three.
Indians starters, who entered the night with the fourth-fewest innings in the league, haven’t taken a loss in their past nine games. They have a 2.14 ERA in that span with only two homers allowed and a .192 batting average against them.
The bullpen, tied for the league high with 17 blown saves before the break, is the bigger concern. That and the 3-9 record against the Tigers so far. And the recently quiet bats of Cabrera and Mark Reynolds.
Twins starter Mike Pelfrey had plenty of help, with a lunging catch by shortstop Florimon, a sliding grab from left fielder Thomas and a slick play by second baseman Dozier to end the third with a jump to snag a line drive and a same-motion sidearm throw to Florimon to finish a double play.