Cleveland Indians pitcher Derek Lowe throws against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, May 15, 2012, in Minneapolis.
Associated Press Enlarge
MINNEAPOLIS -- Derek Lowe has lasted 16 seasons in the major leagues with one of the sharpest sinkers around, a simple pitch that has helped stabilize Cleveland's rotation.
It was working so well Tuesday against Minnesota's languishing lineup that Lowe threw it a whole lot.
About 120 times.
Lowe posted his first shutout in nearly seven years, throwing a six-hitter and leading the Indians past the Twins 5-0. He became the first pitcher to throw a shutout without a strikeout since Scott Erickson for Baltimore against Kansas City on April 28, 2002.
"It's been a really gratifying start. Coming into this season there were so many questions about, 'Are you done? Are you going to retire?'" Lowe said. "I worked my tail off, not just to prove people wrong but to get myself back to where I knew I should be."
Shin-Soo Choo, the Indians' new leadoff man, scored after a leadoff double in the third inning and then hit the first of three Cleveland home runs in the fifth against Jason Marquis (2-3). Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana also homered to break the game open for Lowe (6-1), who induced four double-play grounders to win his fourth straight decision.
Lowe threw a season-high 127 pitches for his 10th career complete game, and first since Aug. 26, 2008, for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This was his fourth big league shutout, and first since Aug. 31, 2005, for the Dodgers at San Diego.
He said he threw "seven or eight" breaking balls the entire game. The rest were fastballs, and they sure did sink.
"You have to use your eyes. The hitters are the ultimate answer to what you're doing," Lowe said, adding: "Sometimes if you deviate from throwing fastballs, you give them a break. You just want to keep going at it until they make a big enough adjustment to make you change your plan."
The only time the Twins truly came close to scoring was in the seventh when they loaded the bases with two outs on two singles and a walk. But Alexi Casilla swung at the first pitch for a lazy fly to right field.
The first-place Indians rebounded from five losses in their previous six games with a two-game sweep at Target Field of the majors-worst Twins, who entered the game with the most groundballs hit in the league, an average of more than 14 per game.
This was Lowe's longest outing in eight starts this season. He's allowed three runs or less with six innings or more in seven of them. Acquiring Lowe from Atlanta for a minor leaguer has turned out to be arguably the best move the Indians made for 2012.
"He's one of the best teammates I've ever had," catcher Lou Marson said.
The Fausto Carmona false-identity fallout and inconsistency by Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson have hurt the rotation, but Lowe has been a big boost.
"He's probably got the most sink I've ever seen," said Twins rookie Brian Dozier, who had three hits. "He knows how to miss barrels."
Lowe joked to manager Manny Acta about his trust in leaving him in the whole game that he's "going to be 39, not 19" next month.
"He was going to stay out there until he got the shutout or gave up a run," Acta said.
Marquis gave up nine hits, five runs and two walks in five innings while striking out only two. The last time the Twins surrendered three homers in one inning was on Sept. 25, 2010, when Carl Pavano did it at Detroit.
Casey Kotchman punched an RBI single down the line to drive in Santana after a double to lead off the second. Then Choo's drive reached the left-field seats to start the fifth. Two batters later, Cabrera smashed an 0-1 sinker to the upper deck in right-center. Finally, Santana turned on a changeup and sent it just inside the pole down the right-field line.
NOTES: Acta said Choo will be the leadoff hitter until further notice. "We're not going to go anywhere unless he produces," the manager said. ... The Indians improved to 12-6 on the road, the third-best mark in the majors. ... Indians 3B Jack Hannahan was held out for a second straight game because of a sore back. ... Mauer, who went 0 for 3 with a walk and three groundouts, batted second for the first time this season. ... The last time the Indians hit three homers in one inning was Sept. 27, 2010 against Detroit, when Travis Hafner, Matt LaPorta and Luke Carlin did it.
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