Twins power past Cleveland
MINNEAPOLIS — With 13 victories entering the day, Minnesota Twins right-hander Phil Hughes has established himself as the best pitcher on the team.
A performance like the one against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday is what makes him a true ace.
Hughes pitched seven innings of one-run ball against one of the best pitchers in baseball this season, backstopping the Twins to a 4-1 win over the Indians at Target Field.
The Twins, losers of four straight entering the game, salvaged the final game of a three-game series. Hughes struck out eight, walked none and allowed only five hits in improving to 14-8 this season.
“Going against a guy (like Corey Kluber), trying not to get swept, and all those things, you go out there and give it the best shot you have,” Hughes said. “It’s nice to get this one.”
Hughes was rarely in trouble, allowing only a home run to designated hitter Zach Walters in the fifth inning, a solo blast that tied the game at 1-1. Other than that, it was four singles against the right-hander, who lowered his season ERA to 3.65.
“He’s back to the basics now,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Hughes. “He’s pounding the strike zone, a nice little breaking ball when he needed it and moved the ball in and out. He was in control of the game.”
Indians manager Terry Francona said, “I thought Hughes was really good. The ball was jumping up on you a little bit. He could cut it and was painting away and the ball was getting past out barrels. Saw a lot of lazy fly balls. He just has that ability.”
Kluber was solid too, but walked four and allowed six hits and three runs over seven innings, losing for the first time since June 30 — a span of six decisions and eight starts.
“I was a little off, just wasn’t quite able to reel it in and find it,” Kluber said. “Did a good job battling, trying to keep the team in the game but just didn’t quite have enough to pull out the win.”
Twins designated hitter Kennys Vargas had three hits, including a solo home run to the opposite field in the fourth inning, a blast that gave the Twins a brief 1-0 lead.
The difference came in the sixth, when following a ground-rule double and a walk, Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe slapped a chopper down the third base line that reached the corner for his 33rd two-base hit of the season, driving in both runners and giving Minnesota its second and final lead of the day.
“Kluber’s got such good stuff, you really have to let the ball travel. His slider, his main pitch, comes out just like a fastball,” Plouffe said. “That was my approach, just see it as long as I could. That one backed up on him and caught a lot of the plate and I just shot it down the line.”
Right fielder Oswaldo Arcia doubled in a run in the eighth inning to provide the final margin.
Right-hander Casey Fien worked a scoreless eighth inning ahead of closer Glen Perkins, who pitched a perfect ninth for his 32nd save.