MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Twins are hitting the ball like
they expect to -- just not when it counts the most.
Casey Blake drove in three runs for Cleveland, which came back
from an early 4-1 hole. The bullpen excelled, with Bobby Howry
(2-1) picking up the win with two perfect innings. Bob Wickman
needed 25 pitches to get through the ninth for his seventh save in
nine tries, but he retired Lew Ford on a hard-hit fielder's choice
to shortstop with the bases full to end it -- fittingly.
The Twins are now batting .135 (5-for-37) with 12 RBI with the
bases loaded after failing to get a hit and scoring just one run in
six at-bats in this one.
"I don't think it's about pressing," second baseman Nick Punto
said. "It's just a streaky game."
Justin Morneau homered for the second straight night for
Minnesota, which left nine men on base in the first four innings --
and didn't get anybody on after that until the ninth. In losing the
first two games of this series, the Twins have left 21 runners on.
"It looks like we're just rushing to get there," manager Ron
Gardenhire said, lamenting his team's habit of letting opposing
pitchers escape unfavorable counts. "They're the ones in trouble.
It just kind of looks from the dugout like we're the ones in the
J.C. Romero (0-2) surrendered Bard's unlikely homer, just his
third hit of the season that raised his average to .176. It came on
a full count and a high-and-away fastball, barely clearing the big
blue bag in right field.
"I was just grateful it went over, and not off the wall,
because you've all seen how I run," said Bard, who gave regular
catcher Victor Martinez a break. "The last thing in my mind was to
hit a home run."
Both starting pitchers escaped several difficult situations, but
they weren't exactly sharp. Cleveland's Kevin Millwood tied his
career high by yielding 11 hits, and he allowed four runs -- three
earned -- and a walk through five innings while striking out six.
Minnesota's Carlos Silva gave up 12 hits and four runs in eight
innings, pumping his fist after Morneau scooped a low off-balance
throw from Punto on Aaron Boone's inning-ending groundout that
ended his night.
Though they brought a league-best .329 team batting average with
runners in scoring position into the game, the Twins have struggled
this year with the bases loaded. And that was painfully evident in
the first two innings.
The first three men in the first reached on singles against
Millwood -- who then struck out Morneau and Torii Hunter before
retiring Jacque Jones on a soft line drive to shortstop. The second
started the same way, on two singles and an error. Punto sandwiched
an RBI groundout between Shannon Stewart's strikeout and Joe
Mauer's flyout to center.
Morneau sent his homer into the upper deck leading off the
third, Michael Cuddyer hit an RBI double and Stewart added an RBI
single to make it 4-1.
Blake pulled the Indians within 4-3 on his homer in the fourth.
Grady Sizemore tied it on a single in the fifth, but Cleveland
wasted a bases-loaded chance of its own later in the inning.
Bard's sharp grounder to second was stopped with a dive by
Punto, who whirled and threw to shortstop Juan Castro to start a
highlight show-worthy double play.
The bullpen has given the Indians problems over the past few
years, but Scott Sauerbeck, Howry and Wickman helped bail Millwood
out. Millwood was so excited he jumped into Wickman's arms as the
burly closer entered the clubhouse.
After an awful April, Cleveland's lineup is starting to show
signs of life.
"To get these wins, especially against a team in our division,
shows these guys have never given up," Millwood said. "Some guys
are starting to swing well and we're going to score a lot of
Boone ended an 0-for-17 slump with a swinging bunt that
went for a fifth-inning single. ... Twins RHP Kyle Lohse, who left
his last outing on Thursday early because of shoulder stiffness,
threw successfully in the bullpen before the game and is on track
to make his next scheduled start this Saturday. ... Blake has nine
homers and 23 RBI in 171 career at-bats against Minnesota, for
whom he played in parts of three previous seasons. Four of his last
nine hits have been homers.