The Cleveland Indians led the AL Central in late June and were in contention through most of July, making it difficult to understand the collapse that has them on the verge of being in last place.
A loss in the finale of this four-game set with the host Minnesota Twins on Monday night would tie the teams at the bottom of the division with the worst record in the AL.
Cleveland was 37-33 and held a half-game lead in the Central on June 23. An 11-15 July - ending with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Twins - and a 5-24 August has contributed to the Indians (59-81) being one loss away from being tied at the bottom of the Central.
Only three teams in major league history have held a division lead after 70 games and finished in last place - the 2006 Colorado Rockies , the 2005 Washington Nationals and the 1991 California Angels.
Cleveland blew a 4-0 lead in Sunday's 8-7 loss to Minnesota."We did a very good job on taking advantage of the walks earlier and moving guys over and scoring them," manager Manny Acta said. "Still, you can't be giving up eight runs and be expected to win ballgames."
Minnesota could give itself some company at the bottom of the league with a win Monday.
Justin Morneau hit a walk-off homer to go along with his two-run shot in the third inning Sunday for the Twins (58-82), who are 5-4 this month while closing out another disappointing season."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."
Minnesota has won nine of the last 11 meetings with Cleveland and seeks another victory with help from Samuel Deduno , who has pitched well over his last two outings.
Deduno (5-3, 3.66 ERA) allowed two hits in seven innings of a 10-0 win over Seattle on Aug. 29 before yielding two runs in six innings of a 4-2 loss to the White Sox last Monday."He has great stuff," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He can throw a breaking ball over just about any time and his fastball moves all over the place."
The right-hander allowed one run and two hits in seven innings to beat Justin Masterson 12-5 at home on July 28, then didn't earn a decision after giving up four runs in four innings of a 7-5 loss at Cleveland on Aug. 7.
Masterson (11-12, 4.84), who has been up and down for most of the second half, will oppose Deduno again Monday. He gave up seven runs to Oakland on Aug. 19 and eight in a rematch with the Athletics on Aug. 30, taking the loss in each outing.
The right-hander mixed in a solid performance to beat the Yankees on Aug. 25 and allowed two runs and four hits in six innings of a 3-2 win over Detroit on Tuesday during his inconsistent stretch."He's a guy we look to every five games to do just what he did (Tuesday) because he has the stuff to do it," Acta said.
Masterson is 1-2 with a 6.27 ERA in three starts versus Minnesota this season, last allowing two runs in seven innings of a 6-2 victory Aug. 8.
|September 09, 2012||Asdrubal Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right wrist|
|August 27, 2012||Roberto Hernandez||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained right ankle|
|August 13, 2012||Josh Tomlin||60-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|
|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) -- This season has long been lost for the Minnesota Twins . The problems created by an overmatched starting rotation and underwhelming performances in the middle infield proved to be too much to overcome.
A second straight miserable season has opened the door for a bevy of new faces going forward, and Samuel Deduno and Pedro Florimon are pushing hard to be a part of the solution going into next season.
Deduno struck out six in seven innings and Florimon made two stellar defensive plays to go with a double and a triple, lifting the Twins to a 7-2 win over the Cleveland Indians on Monday night.
"He knows he's making a good impression on the coaches and the team, and just keep playing the way he's playing, and he feels a lot of confidence he's going to be back next year," second baseman Alexi Casilla said while serving as the 25-year-old Florimon's interpreter.
Deduno (6-3) gave up just three hits and walked three, Ryan Doumit homered and Justin Morneau drove in two runs for the Twins, who took the final three games of the four-game series.
"Everything was working tonight," Deduno said. "Changeup, curveball, slider. Everything was working."
Lonnie Chisenhall homered in his first game since June 29 for the stumbling Indians, who are an AL-worst 15-41 since the All-Star break to fall into a tie with the Twins for last place in the Central division. Justin Masterson (11-13) gave up six runs and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings.
It was a dangerous game for baserunners. Deduno hit Shin-Soo Choo in the helmet with an errant pickoff attempt in the third, a play reminiscent of the one from Boston reliever Franklin Morales in June that knocked Seattle's Franklin Gutierrez out for almost two months. Choo remained in the game.
After his RBI double in the seventh, Florimon was hit in the back of the head on a throw from Masterson while diving back to second base. There was an audible thud from the impact, and the shortstop remained down for a minute while trainers rushed to him. He too remained in the game and eventually scored from third on a wild pitch.
"He said it just hurt in the moment but nothing major to come out of the game," Casilla said.
Being a little wild is nothing new for Deduno, who walked 36 batters in his first eight starts. But the Dominican right-hander has been able to harness his control a little better of late, allowing just 11 hits and walking six in his last three starts. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning against the Tribe and has now allowed three hits or fewer over seven-plus innings in three of his 12 starts.
"I was going, `Oh, no. He's going to throw a 150-pitch no-hitter and I'm going to leave him out there,"' manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Deduno was the beneficiary of several solid defensive plays, including a diving catch from Ben Revere in center field in the second inning, Joe Mauer leaning over the Indians' dugout railing to snag a foul ball in the fourth and Florimon barehanding a soft grounder to get Casey Kotchman in the seventh.
That play may have been the biggest, because Chisenhall, who broke his right arm after being hit by a pitch from Baltimore's Jake Arrieta , hit a solo homer to right field on the next pitch, making it 3-2.
Minnesota scored three more in the seventh and Doumit hit a drive to center in the eighth to put the game away.
"We couldn't do anything against Deduno," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He had a good slider and he threw it at any time in the count, and we couldn't do much against him."
Mauer had two hits and an RBI to raise his average to .319 and Casilla added two more highlight-reel plays at second for the Twins.
The Indians played without All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera , who was given the day off after leaving the game on Sunday with a sore right wrist. The injury first flared up last week during batting practice. Cabrera had X-rays that showed no broken bones and is day to day.
The Indians (59-82) have lost 11 of their last 15 to fall a season-worst 23 games under .500.
NOTES: Acta on Cabrera: "We're not going to put him out there until he's ready to play pain-free." ... Twins OF Chris Parmelee was scratched a few hours before the game with a strained right groin. He is day to day. ... The announced attendance of 27,526 was the lowest in Target Field's two-plus seasons. ... Doumit's 16 HRs this season are a new career high.