MINNEAPOLIS: The Indians did not start off the second half with a bang, unless you count the sound of two baseballs clanking off the gloves of Lonnie Chisenhall and Nick Swisher.
Two resulting errors were largely responsible for the 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Friday night at Target Field.
The winning run scored in the eighth, which began with Pedro Florimon delivering a single off Joe Smith. Brian Dozier followed with a ground ball to Chisenhall, whose letter-high throw bounced off Swisher’s glove to put runners on first and second.
Trevor Plouffe almost ruined the rally by bouncing into a double play, but with two out and a runner at third, Joe Mauer singled to center to score Florimon with the game-winning run.
“In a game like that, you don’t want to ever give them extra opportunities,” manager Terry Francona said. “And it came back to haunt us.’’
Smith took responsibility for the run.
“The error had nothing to do with it,” he said. “Getting that double play was like he never get on base in the first place.”
Smith was critical of the pitch he threw Mauer.
“I was trying to get it in but off the plate,” he said. “I got it in, but it was on the plate. I knew he was going to be a tough out, and once I got ahead, I was going for the punchout.”
Francona was asked if the four-day layoff for the All-Star Game might have made his defense more vulnerable.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “But sometimes you have a game where both teams don’t do a lot offensively, and that might be a product of it [the down time].”
Starter Scott Kazmir obviously deserved better. Despite throwing a one-hitter through five innings and holding a 2-0 lead, one play got the Twins right back in the game.
Kazmir retired the first two batters in the sixth without much resistance, but Florimon walked one pitch after Francona and head trainer Lonnie Soloff went to the mound, thinking that their starting pitcher might be injured.
When they got there, someone must have said something funny, because Kazmir had a smile on his face, and the session broke up quickly.
“We thought he might have a cramp in his calf,” Francona said. “But he was fine.”
After Florimon walked, Dozier slapped a routine ground ball to the left of Chisenhall at third. Chisenhall muffed it, and by the time order was restored, Florimon stood at third and Dozier at second, courtesy of the error.
“I didn’t keep my head down,” Chisenhall said. “I made the same play earlier in the game, so it was really frustrating not to make it then.”
Plouffe took advantage of the situation and dumped a soft line drive in front of Drew Stubbs in right for a two-run single to tie the score.
For the record, Plouffe’s hit probably should have been the first by the Twins. With one out in the third inning, Clete Thomas hit a looping ball toward shortstop that Asdrubal Cabrera had a chance to pick out of the air. Instead, the ball eluded his defenses, and the official scorer called it a hit.
Until the sixth, Thomas and Plouffe, who walked in the fourth, were the only Minnesota runners. Kazmir faced the minimum number of batters through five, thanks to Yan Gomes, who threw out a would-be base stealer, and a double-play ball that erased Plouffe.
Kazmir left after the sixth, having allowed only the two hits and three walks, while striking out three. He was charged with two runs, but both were unearned.
For the second time this season, the Tribe had problems making Mike Pelfrey work up a sweat.
In 5⅔ innings, he gave up two runs four hits and three walks, striking out five.
He showed weakness only in the third inning, which began with Chisenhall ripping a double to center field. One out later, Stubbs was hit by a pitch, and Michael Bourn followed with a double that scored both runners.
With only one out and two Tribe batsmen having hit the ball with authority, it looked like the inning would go on for awhile.
Instead, Cabrera hit a scorching line drive to second. Dozier caught it and doubled up Bourn at second to end the inning.
“Pelfrey is a tall guy, so the ball gets on you faster than you think,” Chisenhall said. “He was around the zone, but he never gave you a really good pitch to hit.”
Pelfrey faced the Indians on May 5 in Cleveland and gave up only one run and four hits in six innings, earning the win.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.