MINNEAPOLIS — One of the most intelligent pitchers on the Minnesota Twins staff, Kevin Slowey may have been over-thinking in his last start when he was constantly shaking off Joe Mauer early in a loss to Boston.
He did a lot more nodding on Tuesday night against Cleveland and the result was his best start of the season.
Slowey handcuffed Cleveland's struggling offense for eight innings and the Twins scored four runs in a quirky third inning to beat the Indians 5-1 Tuesday night.
“He wasn't shaking and we didn't call timeout and run out to the mound 10 times, so everything moved right along,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, referring to Slowey's last start, when he needed 98 pitches to get through five innings.
Slowey (2-1) needed the same amount to get through eight on Tuesday night, giving up one run on five hits with nine strikeouts and no walks.
“Joe and I at all times are trying to be on the same page. He's very good at that,” Slowey said. “When things don't appear like we're on the same page, we're working as best we can to get back together. It was good today and something certainly we'll be working on in the future.”
Justin Morneau had two hits and an RBI for the Twins.
Travis Hafner hit his second homer of the season for Cleveland, which got just four innings out of starter Justin Masterson (1-1) and returned to its losing ways on the road.
Masterson gave up five hits, five runs — only two earned — and struck out six. He also walked five, hit one batter and needed 96 pitches to get through those four innings.
“I threw a lot of balls,” Masterson said. “I didn't do anything to help us out with the walks and even kind of putting us in some bad counts that led to some hits.”
The Indians came unglued in the third inning after shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera let a ground ball that would have started an inning-ending double play go right between his legs. Instead, the Twins had the bases loaded and one out.
That was only the beginning.
Masterson walked J.J. Hardy to score one run. Then he threw a wild pitch and booted catcher Lou Marson's throw to him at the plate, allowing Michael Cuddyer to score from third and Delmon Young to race all the way around from second base. Brendan Harris followed with a sacrifice fly to center field that scored Hardy for a 5-1 lead.
“We just couldn't throw strikes and didn't help ourselves catching the ball, either,” Indians manager Manny Acta said.
It was Cabrera's first error of the season.
“It was a hard hit ball and he tried to be too quick,” Acta said. “I want every ball hit to that guy. He's very good.”
The way the Twins have been hitting with runners in scoring position this season, they need all the help they can get. They entered the game just 3 for 19 with the bases loaded and missed another chance in the second inning when Mauer, the AL batting champ and MVP who went 0 for 4, grounded out to first base.
“We don't care how we score runs and how we win games,” Young said. “We just want to win as many as possible. The bats are going to come around. As long as we keep putting ourselves in good position where we are in position to score every inning, we'll take that right now.”
Despite those troubles, the Twins were still tied for second in the AL with 5.3 runs per game when the day began.
Not so for the Indians, who entered the day last in the AL in batting average (.219) and slugging percentage (.343) and second to last in runs scored (3.75 per game).
Hafner hit a solo homer in the second inning, but Slowey allowed only one runner past first base the rest of the way. Shin-Soo Choo, the reigning AL player of the week, went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.
“Our offense has a ways to go,” Acta said. “We weren't even close in the game to get that timely hit.”
NOTES: The umpires reviewed a drive by Indians LF Austin Kearns in the fifth inning, confirming the initial ruling that the ball hit the top of the fence and bounced back into play and was a double. ... Indians backup C Mike Redmond returned to the Twin Cities. He spent five seasons as Mauer's backup with the Twins and was one of the most popular players in the clubhouse. Acta said Redmond would be in the lineup on Wednesday night. ... The Twins held a moment of silence for Colorado Rockies president Keli McGregor, who died on Tuesday.