Talbot, Indians beat Twins to avoid sweep

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Cleveland Indians needed a game like this, with their lagging offense finally keeping up with the pitching and defense.

Mitch Talbot set the bar high, and Andy Marte and his teammates were up to the task.

Talbot turned in another strong start, Marte homered and drove in three runs and the Indians finally got some hits in an 8-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday.

Cleveland came into the game last in the league in batting average and slugging percentage, raising those marks to .222 and .351 after hitting six doubles -- five off Minnesota starter Scott Baker -- and matching a season high with eight runs.

"I know that at the end of the season that the runs are going to be there and that our offense is going to be there," manager Manny Acta said, adding: "I just want to see quality at-bats from all the guys, and it'll happen because you just can't have that many guys for the whole year struggle."

Talbot (2-1) followed his first major league win, a complete game last weekend against the Chicago White Sox, with six impressive innings. He held the Twins to two hits and no earned runs to keep them from sweeping the three-game series. He walked three and struck out three with help from an effective changeup.

The Indians turned four double plays, highlighted by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera's diving stop of a sharp grounder by Michael Cuddyer to turn two and end the seventh inning. Marte hit a two-run homer to left in the fourth inning and a sinking RBI single to center during a three-run sixth.

"When you get runs and you get ahead, it makes your job a lot easier -- a lot less stress," said Talbot, who spent last season in the minors, hindered by a sprained right elbow.

This was only his fourth major league start.

"He knows he's not on a tryout basis here and that he belongs up here and belongs in our rotation," Acta said. "He looks more comfortable out there."

The Indians were happy to leave with a 7-8 record with all their problems at the plate -- especially Marte, who was 1-for-8 entering the game but played in place of sputtering third baseman Jhonny Peralta.

"We've not been scoring a lot of runs," Marte said. "That feels good, you know?"

Russell Branyan doubled and drove in two runs, and Luis Valbuena also hit an RBI double.

Baker (2-2) gave up 10 hits, the first such time since exactly a year ago in a game at Boston against the Red Sox. He was hurt by some well-placed hits, starting with back-to-back ground-rule doubles -- one down each line -- by Cabrera and Grady Sizemore to start the game. Baker allowed six runs before his day was done, allowing five straight one-out hits in the sixth while a two-run Indians lead grew to 5-1.

"I think it was probably one of the best worst outings I've had in awhile," Baker said, adding: "If there was a hole out there, they found it."

Marte, who hits fastballs well, called Baker's down-the-middle offering with two outs and a 2-2 count in the fourth a mistake. Baker? He said he thought he threw a good pitch.

The Twins have won all five series this year, though they had only four extra-base hits while taking two of three games from the Indians and finishing 6-3 on their first homestand at Target Field.

"We're not exactly killing it right now, but we've been catching the ball and throwing it over to this point," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We have a good offense. We'll be fine."

The weather was a winner, too, with nary a delay or postponement and mostly sunny skies at the open-air ballpark. The Twins won't play here again until May 3.

"We've had some wonderful days," Baker said.

Game notes
Twins third baseman Nick Punto missed his sixth straight game because of a sore groin muscle. ... Marte cost Talbot his only run, dropping a foul popup hit by Orlando Hudson, who then walked, moved up on a balk and later scored. "He just hit a two-run homer. Why get mad at him for letting one in, you know?" Acta said. ... Twins rookie Drew Butera started for Joe Mauer for only the second time in 16 games, throwing out Marte trying to steal in the sixth and getting a single in the third for his first major league hit. He's the son of former Twins catcher Sal Butera, to whom he said he'll give the ball as a memento: "For all the years that he's thrown me BP and hit me fungoes, I think that's the right thing to do."