CLEVELAND — David Huff failed to match his success in two relief appearances when he was given a start Tuesday night, but he probably will get two more chances before the schedule plays out.
In the end, Huff didn’t keep the Indians from beating the Twins in the battle to stay out of last place in the Central Division, but the Twins eked out 6-5 win at Progressive Field long after Huff left.
A key blunder gave Minnesota the edge in the 12th inning. With two out and nobody on, Darin Mastroianni singled to right and stole second off Scott Maine, the Tribe’s 10th pitcher, a franchise record. Alexi Casilla followed with a ground ball to second baseman Jason Kipnis that reached the outfield grass.
Matt LaPorta, playing first, apparently thought the ball was going through to right field and began to set up to receive the throw. Before he realized that he should have hustled to first for the throw from Kipnis, it was too late. Mastroianni scored from second, and Casilla later scored on Pedro Florimon’s single.
Carlos Santana homered in the bottom of the 12th to cut the lead to one run, but it was too little, too late.
After Huff was called up Sept. 4 from Columbus, manager Manny Acta announced he would pitch out of the bullpen exclusively, because the club needed to look at other starters. But it didn’t take Acta and General Manager Chris Antonetti long to figure out they’d seen enough of Jeanmar Gomez for a while, so Huff was named as his replacement.
Before Tuesday night, Huff made two appearances as a reliever, giving up one walk and striking out eight in six innings. Inasmuch as Huff is a starter by trade, it was easy to give him a shot at the rotation.
Acta repeatedly has stressed that the reason why Huff was successful in his two relief outings: “He threw strikes; that is what he has to do.”
But even though Huff walked only one in 4 1/3 innings Tuesday night, he too often ran the count to three balls and got behind too many batters.
Huff started the game by giving up a double to Denard Span and singles to Ben Revere (a bunt) and Joe Mauer plus Justin Morneau’s sacrifice fly, all of which cost Huff two runs in an inning in which he threw 28 pitches.
His only walk led to another run in the fourth. Ryan Doumit led off by drawing the walk and eventually scored on Eduardo Escobar’s groundout after Jamey Carroll doubled to advance Doumit to third.
Huff was charged with three runs and seven hits, throwing 84 pitches in retiring 13 batters.
Not many Indians hitters put a charge into the ball, but Lonnie Chisenhall was an exception, driving a ball into the Tribe’s center-field bullpen almost 430 feet from the plate.
The Indians’ first run scored on Asdrubal Cabrera’s groundout in the first, after Shin-Soo Choo singled and sprinted to third on Kipnis’ single. The third and fourth runs happened because third baseman Trevor Plouffe committed an error on Casey Kotchman’s low liner in the sixth with the bases loaded and one out.
In the seventh, the Twins took the lead off Cody Allen, who gave up a leadoff bloop single to Span, who stole second and scored on Josh Willingham’s single with one out.
The loss dropped the Indians into a tie with the Twins for last place in the Central.