Before their current series is over, the Cleveland Indians could find themselves tied for last place in the AL Central.
On Sunday, the Indians play the third of four games against the current last-place club, the Minnesota Twins .
Cleveland's miserable turn in the second half has been compounded by its struggles against Minnesota, which is only two games behind the Indians.
The Twins (57-82) are 8-5 in the season series, winning eight of the last 10 including a 3-0 victory Saturday.
The Indians (59-80) finished with four hits as they lost for the 18th time in 23 games. They've been shut out five times during that span."We hit a lot of fly balls on the wrong day with the wind blowing in," Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. "We couldn't string any offense together. I think our best chance was in the very first inning when we had first and second, no outs and we didn't do anything."
Mauer continues to be a source of frustration for the Indians. He's hitting .333 (13 for 39) with 11 RBIs and 10 runs scored over the last 10 meetings between these teams. He's also batting .400 with eight RBIs in his last nine games overall.
Despite Mauer's production, Minnesota (57-82) had lost four of five - including the opener of this series - before Saturday's win.
While both teams play out the string looking toward next year, two pitchers will get another chance to make an impression on their respective clubs.
Corey Kluber (1-3, 4.79 ERA) will take the ball for Cleveland, coming off his first career win in his seventh start of the season and 10th career appearance.
Kluber gave up two runs in six innings of a 3-2 victory over Detroit on Monday."He's got good stuff - big, strong kid, throws hard, has a lot of movement," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said.
Kluber was similarly effective against the Twins on Aug. 7, allowing three runs - one earned - over six innings of a 7-5 loss. He didn't factor in the decision after a blown save by Chris Perez .
Esmerling Vasquez (0-1, 7.94) will make his second career start Sunday for Minnesota.
Acquired off waivers last September, Vasquez made his debut with the Twins on Sept. 1 and allowed five runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 6-4 loss to Kansas City."He pitched pretty good for his first start in the big leagues," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I thought he handled himself well. He got us into the sixth, I think with a chance to win and that's what you're hoping for."
The right-hander been used entirely as a reliever with Arizona between 2009-11, but the Twins believe he can be a part of their rotation in the future. Vasquez has never faced the Indians.
|August 27, 2012||Roberto Hernandez||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained right ankle|
|August 13, 2012||Josh Tomlin||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|August 13, 2012||Jason Kipnis||Day-to-Day||Stiff neck|
|August 06, 2012||Travis Hafner||Day-to-Day||Back soreness|
|August 06, 2012||Travis Hafner||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|June 30, 2012||Lonnie Chisenhall||60-Day DL||Fractured right ulna - out 4-6 weeks|
|September 02, 2012||Josh Willingham||Day-to-Day||Slightly strained left hamstring|
|August 28, 2012||Denard Span||Day-to-Day||Sore right collarbone|
|August 28, 2012||Denard Span||15-Day DL||Strained right sternoclavicular joint|
|August 24, 2012||Josh Willingham||Day-to-Day||Stiff neck|
|August 12, 2012||Denard Span||Day-to-Day||Left game - right shoulder injury|
|July 25, 2012||Anthony Swarzak||15-Day DL||Mild right rotator cuff strain|
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Justin Morneau provided a reminder Sunday of what he can do when he is healthy.
After injuries caused the former AL MVP to miss all or most of the past three Septembers, Morneau is finally finishing a season in good health. And his two home runs certainly were the difference as the Minnesota Twins beat Cleveland 8-7.
When Morneau stepped into the batter's box in the ninth inning against reliever Vinnie Pestano , he was looking for something he could drive.
When Pestano (3-2) threw an inside fastball, Morneau turned on the pitch and hit it just inside the right-field foul pole for his 19th homer of the season.
Morneau, who has four two-homer games this season, also hit a two-run shot to right in the third.
"I faced him a couple nights ago, he jammed me, so I had a feeling he might try to come in there again," Morneau said. "And he did and left it over the plate just a little bit. I just kept it fair enough and we get to jump up and down and have fun."
Cleveland manager Manny Acta summed up the game-winner pretty simply: "It left the yard pretty quick."
The Twins have won two in a row and are now 5-4 in September. The victory also moved Minnesota within one game of Cleveland in an attempt to get out of last place in the AL Central.
While that isn't close to being in a pennant race, Morneau does take a little encouragement from being able to be on the field at the end of the year after having recent seasons ended by concussions and a wrist injury.
"The last couple years have been a little frustrating, but hopefully this is the start of good things to come in September," Morneau said. "Hopefully we get off to a better start as a team next year and give ourselves a little better chance to play pennant-chase baseball in September."
Morneau's first homer of the game might have been the hardest home run he has hit at Target Field. The ball bounced on the concrete plaza beyond the right-field seats and bounded toward downtown Minneapolis.
"He hit that one really well, that was a bomb," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He got all the way through that ball and it really traveled. And the last one was a laser. That ball was really hit hard, too."
The first homer, off of Cleveland starter Corey Kluber , was on a changeup that got too much of the plate.
"It was an 0-2 pitch that if you asked him, he'd probably say he made a mistake on it," Morneau said. "You have to take advantage of those mistakes, and he's got pretty good stuff, so I took advantage and ended up getting to jog around the bases which is always fun."
Cleveland had an opportunity to take the lead in the ninth when Matt LaPorta singled and moved to second on the first out of the inning. However, neither Carlos Santana nor Russ Canzler could drive in the go-ahead run off Brian Duensing (4-2), who pitched 1 1-3 innings of scoreless relief to pick up the victory for the Twins.
Santana had three hits, including a home run, and scored twice for Cleveland. Brent Lillibridge and Michael Brantley each scored a pair of runs for the Indians.
Minnesota took a 7-6 lead in the seventh when Chris Parmalee hit a bases-loaded single through the right side of the infield, scoring Jamey Carroll and Joe Mauer .
Mauer raised his batting average to .317 by getting three hits - a single, double and triple - while also scoring twice.
NOTES: Gardenhire indicated before the game that he is growing more comfortable with Glen Perkins serving as the team's closer both for the rest of the season and into 2013. Perkins had served as Minnesota's primary eighth inning pitcher, but his past six appearances have all come in the ninth inning. He also has recorded 11 saves this season. ... OF Josh Willingham was not in the Twins lineup, but Gardenhire said it was simply about giving him rest. Willingham, who has been limited to a DH role recently because of a hamstring injury, is expected to return to left field on Monday. ... RHP Justin Masterson (11-12, 4.84) will make his 30th start of the season for Cleveland in Monday's series finale. Masterson has won four of his last six decisions and is 9-6 over his last 15 decisions since June 15. RHP Samuel Deduno (5-3, 3.66) is scheduled to counter for Minnesota. Deduno is 1-0 with a 4.09 in two previous starts this season against Cleveland. ... Cleveland activated infielder Lonnie Chisenhall from the 60-day disabled list before the game. Chisenhall has missed more than two months after having a bone in his right forearm broken by a pitch from Jake Arrieta in a June 29 game at Baltimore.