Twins edge Tribe with strong 'pen
Cuddyer drives in two runs; Garza exits after four innings
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ask Twins manager Ron Gardenhire what the catalyst has been for his team's recent spark, and his answer is very clear -- starting pitching.But a question remained: What would happen when that starting pitching disappeared? That answer came on Saturday, when the bullpen stepped up to help carry the Twins to a 3-2 victory over the Indians at the Metrodome. Starter Matt Garza struggled from the very beginning of his outing. He labored to make it through four innings, giving up two runs while throwing 93 pitches in that span. So with Garza clearly unable to get things going, the club turned to the bullpen for the next five innings. And the result was exactly what the team has come to expect from its stoic bullpen. With the team's main setup man, Pat Neshek, unavailable after having thrown 30 pitches in Friday night's game, Gardenhire had to turn to other members of the bullpen to help carry the load. And carry they did, as Ramon Ortiz, Dennys Reyes, Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan combined to pitch five scoreless innings. "They've been very, very good and they've taken the ball," Gardenhire said. "I'm always afraid I'm going to use them too much. We had to go with what we had, and the rest of the guys stepped up and took the ball and did a great job." Gardenhire's concern over the bullpen being a bit taxed was enough for the club to make a roster move after the game. The Twins optioned outfielder Lew Ford to Triple-A Rochester and called up left-hander Carmen Cali to join the team for Sunday's game against the Indians. But while the work of the bullpen was a bit more than the club hoped Saturday, it did help to keep the game within reach. The Indians took a lead against Garza in the third on Victor Martinez's two-out RBI double to right field. It looked like more trouble was on the way when Garza then loaded the bases on an intentional walk and a hit-by-pitch. He managed to escape trouble by striking out Trot Nixon to end the inning, but it wasn't the end of his woes. Garza would give up one more run in the fourth before his day was over. It came on a Casey Blake sac fly to right field after Garza had loaded the bases with one out in the inning. Blake's hard-hit ball appeared like it might be damaging, but Michael Cuddyer's leaping catch against the baggie in right field prevented that.
"That probably would have been a bases-clearing double," Garza said of Blake's ball. "I was real fortunate he was able to make that play."Garza's day ended after that rough fourth inning. Without Garza having his usual command of the fastball and his breaking pitches, his skipper felt he was fortunate to get by the way he did on Saturday. "He was Houdini a little bit today," Gardenhire said. "He sure made some messes, but he made enough pitches to get through it anyway. One of those days where he didn't really have his location. He gave us four really long innings and it led to a nice win." One of the biggest heroes in relief Saturday might have been Ortiz, whose work has been very limited since joining the bullpen in late May. The two scoreless innings earned Ortiz (4-4) his first victory since April 17 at Seattle. "For him to come out there and show us that he can get that job done was a great thing," Joe Mauer said of Ortiz. "It's not an easy thing to do. it's kind of like coming off the bench and trying to get a pinch hit when you haven't played in a while. He goes about his business and he gets his work in. He showed everybody tonight, when he came out there and threw well for us." Ortiz entered the game in the bottom of the fourth with the score tied at 2, thanks to the Twins finally getting to left-hander Aaron Laffey, who was making his Major League debut. A ground-rule double by Jason Bartlett was followed by Mauer's RBI single to left. Cuddyer then added a double down the left-field line to drive Mauer in from first base and knot the game, but Cuddyer was thrown out on the play while trying to make it to third. The club would then take the lead off Laffey (0-1) in the sixth when Jason Tyner scored from third on a Cuddyer RBI single to left field. The victory put the Twins just 5 1/2 games behind the Indians, who currently are in first place in the American League Central Division. The Twins know how critical it is to take advantage of the head-to-head matchups if they are to get back in the midst of the division race. So it seemed no surprise that the players considered this win one of the biggest of the season. "That was one of the most fun wins we've had in a long time," Cuddyer said. "I think it was all because of the importance of the game and the fashion that we won it in. Our bullpen came in and did an unbelievable job again. We got runs when we needed to get runs. It was just a good win."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.