CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians looked like anything but a playoff contender for most of today’s game against Minnesota.
The Indians committed four errors and made several other mistakes, both in the field and on the bases. In other words, they did just about everything a team could do to lose.
As has been the case several times this season, however, manager Terry Francona’s team defied the odds. Drew Stubbs hit a tiebreaking, two-out homer in the eighth inning and the Indians overcame themselves for a 3-1 victory.
“We were trying every way we could to give it away,” Stubbs said. “We played a very sloppy game, but it says a lot about this team that we were able to hang in there and pull out the win.”
Second baseman Jason Kipnis, who had one of the errors and drove in a run, had a similar point of view.
“When you try to lose and still win the game, that’s pretty impressive,” he said.
The win moved Cleveland to within 1½ games of Oakland for the AL’s second wild-card spot as the Indians start a crucial road trip to Atlanta and Detroit that begins Tuesday.
“It wasn’t pretty, but it’s a heck of a lot better when you win,” Francona said. “We know we can’t play like that, but we won and that’s what we came to do.”
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire struggled to come up with a reason for why his team lost.
“I don’t know who was supposed to win the game,” he said. “I know they won it with a couple of hits, but I don’t know who was supposed to win. Sounds like we were. You make four errors, you’re not supposed to win.”
Stubbs homered to dead center on a 0-1 pitch from Jared Burton (2-7) to snap a 1-all tie and lift the Indians to their fifth win in six games. Joe Smith (5-1) pitched a scoreless eighth and Chris Perez worked the ninth for his 21st save.
Stubbs is making a habit of late-game saves. His two-run homer in the 14th inning on Wednesday was the key blow in a 4-1 win.
“It’s just the way it goes sometimes,” he said. “There’s no real explanation for it.”
Burton retired the first two hitters in the eighth before Stubbs hit his ninth home run of the season to the deepest part of the ballpark. Michael Bourn turned his routine hit to center by hustling into second for a double and scored on Nick Swisher’s single.
Pitchers Scott Kazmir and Cody Allen and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera had throwing errors while Kipnis dropped a soft line drive. The Twins failed to take advantage of the Indians’ generosity. Minnesota stranded 13 runners and was 3 for 19 with runners in scoring position.
“That’s been our Achilles’ heel,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve left a lot of men out there and runners in scoring position hasn’t been a very good stat for us this year. We’ve been terrible.”
Neither starter was involved in the decision. Kazmir allowed one run and struck out eight in six innings while Mike Pelfrey walked six in five innings, but held Cleveland to one run and two hits.
The Indians, who stranded 12 baserunners, took a 1-0 lead in the third on Kipnis’ RBI single.
Cleveland’s shoddy defense helped Minnesota tie the game in the fifth. Clete Thomas led off with a single, took second on a sacrifice and moved to third on Brian Dozier’s single. Thomas scored when Doug Bernier pushed a bunt to the right side of the mound. Swisher fielded the ball, but no one covered first and Bernier reached with a single.
Josh Willingham struck out, but Ryan Doumit walked to load the bases. The inning finally ended when Trevor Plouffe lined out to third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall.
A double and Cabrera’s bad throw put runners at second and third with one out in the Twins’ fourth, but Kazmir worked out of the jam. Wilkin Ramirez flied out to shallow right field and Chris Colabello struck out.
The Twins played the final game of a stretch that saw them play 27 games in 27 days.
NOTES: Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony said that All-Star C Joe Mauer (concussion) is resting at home and is expected to return to Target Field on Tuesday when the team begins a brief three-game homestand against Kansas City. Mauer is on the seven-day concussion list, but it’s likely he won’t be activated until the end of the week at the earliest. ... Morneau wasn’t in the lineup against Kazmir. He pinch-hit in the eighth and reached on Kipnis’ error. ... RHP Josh Tomlin, who is attempting to come back from Tommy John surgery, was activated from the 60-day disabled list and optioned to Triple-A Columbus. He is expected to rejoin the Indians when rosters are expanded in September.