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MIN@CLE: Brantley makes superb over-the-shoulder grab

CLEVELAND -- There is only so much Indians manager Manny Acta can do to counter his club's struggles against left-handed pitching. On Sunday, Acta plugged six righties into his lineup in an effort to tilt the percentages in his favor.

It did not matter.

Once again, the Tribe's offense went mostly quiet against a southpaw. The latest setback came against Twins lefty Scott Diamond and resulted in a 6-3 loss at Progressive Field, sending Cleveland to its seventh loss in nine games and spoiling a quality start for Justin Masterson. In the process, the Indians also slipped to 4-12 against left-handed starters this season.

Acta has yet to find a simple solution.

"I wish I had it," Acta said.

None of this is to say Diamond is a slouch. The 25-year-old lefty has enjoyed a strong run so far for the Twins, posting a 4-1 record to go along with a 1.86 ERA.

That said, Diamond had to like his chances going into Sunday's meeting with the Major League's last-ranked offense against left-handers.

Prior to Sunday's defeat, which sent Cleveland (28-25) to its third series loss in a row, the Indians ranked last in the big leagues against left-handers in average (.212) and last in the American League in OPS (.630). That output came in an AL-leading 613 at-bats against southpaws.

It is easy to point to the Tribe's left-handed-leaning lineup, which can feature seven pure lefties and two switch hitters on days a right-hander is on the mound. Acta was quick to note that Cleveland's right-handed batters have not been picking up the slack.

"We do have a lot of lefties in our lineup," Acta said. "The majority of them are better hitters against right-handers. The numbers are there. But the issue is not only that. The issue is, when we try to sneak some of those right-handed bats in there that are supposed to help us out, they're not hitting them either.

"That's the main thing. It's not like the guys that we're putting in for the left-handers are crushing them. They're giving us a hard time. So our job has to be, beat the righties then."

In the finale of the three-game set against the Twins (20-33), the Indians had right-handed hitters Asdrubal Cabrera (switch hitter), Jose Lopez, Shelley Duncan, Matt LaPorta, Aaron Cunningham and Lou Marson in the lineup. Cabrera (.339 average) has done well, and LaPorta has not been up with the team long enough to judge him one way or another.

The hope is that LaPorta, who hit .333 against lefties at Triple-A Columbus before being promoted to Cleveland on Sunday, can help correct the issue.

As for the others, Lopez leads the way with a .267 average against southpaws, with Duncan (.245), Marson (.235) and Cunningham (.172) following.

Against Diamond, the Indians' right-handed bats combined to go 4-for-17. The Tribe plated a pair of unearned runs in the fourth inning, when Lopez contributed an RBI sacrifice fly and Duncan chipped in a run-scoring single. Marson added an RBI double off Diamond in the lefty's seventh and final frame.

"I've done a pretty good job of going inside to right-handers," said Diamond, who scattered seven hits and walked none. "I caught a couple of them off-guard today just because of it. I think working both sides of the plate has really helped. I'd rather attack a guy and give up a base hit than walk him."

Between Diamond's effort, and Minnesota's work against Masterson, the Twins were able to send Cleveland to a second straight loss. The Twins scored single runs in the first, third and fourth innings off Masterson (2-5), who took the loss after giving up seven hits in six innings. Two of the three walks issued by Masterson led to runs.

Minnesota's offense benefited from five infield hits, including three bunts. Masterson took a line drive off his back, had a shattered strip of a bat fly his way and watched the Twins turn consecutive bunt singles in the fourth into a run.

"A lot of balls in the infield and they laid down some nice bunts," Masterson said. "I don't think anybody could really get to those. They tried to hit me with some balls. They tried to get me with a bat.

"You look up and you think maybe a run or two, but then they got three of those runs in there. It's a hair disappointing, but we kept it close. Our guys were battling."

The Twins added a pair of runs off lefty Nick Hagadone in the seventh inning and another off right-hander Jeremy Accardo in the eighth. The 6-3 advantage proved sufficient in sealing another Cleveland loss against a left-hander.

The players inside the Indians clubhouse are hard-pressed to explain what is going on.

"I don't know. It might all just be coincidence," Duncan said with a shrug. "We don't really all come together on the same day. I don't know. It's a mystery."

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