MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins are leaving too many men on base. Their pesky slap-and-run game is rarely getting off the ground despite a sharp increase in power this season.
That's what happens when the starting pitching stops working.Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore hit early homers Saturday to lead the Cleveland Indians to a 7-3 victory over the Twins, another failure by Minnesota to create some late-season momentum."When you're behind so much, it really makes it difficult," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You have to have some people go out there and stop 'em."About 17 hours after Scott Baker pitched a two-hitter in an 11-0 win, the Twins watched rookie Anthony Swarzak (3-6) get roughed up for the third straight start. Following two strong performances out of the All-Star break, here are Swarzak's August totals: eight innings, 25 hits, 16 earned runs, four homers.Gardenhire wasn't ready to say whether he'll stay in the rotation. Injuries prompted the Twins to start Swarzak before they planned to, though he's not the only starting pitcher who has let them down this summer. All those early deficits have forced the hitters to be more conservative, taking first-pitch strikes and reducing their opportunities to steal bases.The third-place Twins have tried to stay optimistic during this most disappointing month, pointing to a deficit in the AL Central race that was at only five games when the day began. Division-leading Detroit was hosting Kansas City later.The Twins, though, dropped to 4-10 in their last 14 games. Half of those losses have come to the Indians and Royals, teams already looking ahead to next season.Though their last four wins, amazingly, have been by a combined 39-2 score, the Twins have been unable to generate the kind of good vibes and comeback-at-any-time mentality they used to rally for the 2006 division title and tie for the 162-game lead in 2008."It has been a little frustrating to not get over the hump," outfielder Denard Span said. "It kind of gets old saying that. I'm getting tired of saying that."Swarzak sounded tired, too."Mechanical, and mental," he said, assessing his problems. "I don't know. I need to figure it out soon."Choo started the second with a drive that ended Cleveland's homerless streak at 38 innings. Sizemore did the same in the third, his shot to center barely eluding the outstretched glove of Carlos Gomez.Choo was dealing with a power outage of his own. He last homered on July 7, but hitting coach Derek Shelton had been encouraging him that the stroke would come."I'm never trying to hit home runs. But the last 40 days, not hitting home runs, it's a little bit of pressure," Choo said.The Indians just kept on hitting, usually with solid contact. Swarzak gave up a walk and a single to start the fifth, before being relieved by Brian Duensing. Cleveland batted around and took a 7-0 lead.Having traded CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee in successive summers, the Indians are holding unofficial auditions for next year's rotation. Rookie David Huff (7-6) was so-so, needing 102 pitches to finish the fifth inning and failing to put much of a dent in his ERA that still stands at 6.55.He toughened up when the Twins threatened, though, leaving the bases loaded in the first and stranding nine runners in all."They've got a bunch of great hitters over there, guys that are going to put the ball in play," Huff said. "You've just got to try to do some damage control and just try to keep your team in it."Joe Mauer had three more hits for the Twins, extending his hitting streak to 12 games and raising his league-leading average to .378 with a ninth-inning homer, his 22nd. Justin Morneau hit an RBI double during a two-run rally in the fifth that was too little too late.Jamey Carroll, getting his first start in the outfield this season, had three hits and Choo drove in two runs for Cleveland, which won at the Metrodome for only the third time in its last 13 tries.
Twins 2B Alexi Casilla left after the sixth inning because of a bruised left foot. His status will be determined Sunday. ... Carroll was playing RF for Trevor Crowe, who has a strained right oblique muscle but entered as a pinch runner. ... Twins LHP Glen Perkins will go to Florida on Sunday to start a rehab assignment for his inflamed shoulder. ... Jeff Manship pitched a scoreless ninth for Minnesota in his major league debut.