Liam Hendriks will continue facing questions about his winless streak until he's finally able to break through, but Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire seems to believe he's on the cusp of doing so.
Hendriks again seeks his elusive first career victory when visiting Minnesota looks to beat the Cleveland Indians for the 12th time in 14 meetings Wednesday night.
The right-hander, who made four starts in 2011, became the fifth player since 1920 to go winless in his first 17 career starts after giving up three runs in five innings of Minnesota's 4-3, 10-inning victory over Kansas City on Thursday.
The record for winless starts to begin a career is 20, shared by Bill Caudill of the Chicago Cubs (1979-81) and Mike Mohler of Oakland (1993-97), though Gardenhire thinks Hendriks (0-7, 6.14 ERA) pitched well his last time out.
"I told him he got a half of a win," Gardenhire said. "I'm just giving him one. I was a little disappointed in the first inning (because) he wasn't attacking."
The Indians (61-87) have denied Hendriks a victory twice, most recently Sept. 7 when he gave up four runs in five innings of Minnesota's 7-6 defeat. That was the last time the Twins fell to Cleveland, beating their AL Central rival for the fourth straight time with a 6-5, 12-inning victory in Tuesday's series opener.
The Indians got a two-out solo homer from Carlos Santana in the 12th, but they used a team-record 10 pitchers in the defeat. They had runners at the corners with no outs in the 10th but couldn't push the winning run across."If you can't drive in the runner from third with no outs to walk off a team, you pretty much don't deserve to win the ballgame," manager Manny Acta said.
Cleveland, which has lost 25 of its last 32 overall, will have a tired bullpen when it sends Zach McAllister to the mound Wednesday.
McAllister (5-7, 4.15) hasn't won since beating Boston on Aug. 11, but he allowed two runs - one earned - in six innings of Cleveland's 5-4 victory at Texas on Thursday.
The right-hander had lost his previous three starts with a 10.22 ERA.
"I really like him. We all like him," Acta told the team's official website. "I think he's a solid guy that is big and strong and can pile up innings. He doesn't back down.
"He's had a couple of rough outings, but I'm very happy with the way he has thrown the ball."
Both of McAllister's outings against the Twins, though, have been short. He allowed nine runs - two earned - in 1 2-3 innings of a 14-3 loss Aug. 6, then gave up two runs and walked three while throwing 87 pitches in three innings of a 3-0 defeat Sept. 8.
Cleveland has dropped 10 of its last 12 at home and five of the seven home meetings with the Twins this season.
The Indians activated designated hitter Travis Hafner from the disabled list, and he'll bat sixth Wednesday. Hafner had been sidelined since Aug. 6 with lower black inflammation, the latest in a series of ailments that have plagued the 35-year-old the past five years.
|September 11, 2012||Joe Mauer||Day-to-Day||Back spasms|
|September 09, 2012||Cole De Vries||15-Day DL||Cracked rib|
|September 02, 2012||Josh Willingham||Day-to-Day||Slightly strained left hamstring|
|August 28, 2012||Denard Span||15-Day DL||Strained right sternoclavicular joint|
|August 28, 2012||Denard Span||15-Day DL||Strained right sternoclavicular joint|
|August 24, 2012||Josh Willingham||Day-to-Day||Stiff neck|
|September 15, 2012||Jason Donald||Day-to-Day||Right forearm contusion|
|September 13, 2012||Michael Brantley||Day-to-Day||Sore left pectoral muscle|
|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|
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Liam Hendriks finally has a win, thanks in part to another productive night for Josh Willingham .
Willingham had four hits and four RBIs to help Hendriks and the Twins beat Cleveland 6-4 on Wednesday, dropping the Indians into last place in the AL Central.
Hendriks (1-7) allowed two runs and two hits in six effective innings to get the win in his 18th career start. The right-hander was pelted with shaving cream by happy teammates after picking up the elusive win.
"It took a long, long time," Hendriks said. "I could have done without the shaving cream in my eye, but I'm excited to become the 16th Australian to win a major league game."
Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire couldn't help but tease the 23-year-old pitcher.
"I told him if it takes him that long to win again, the shaving cream is going to be gasoline," Gardenire cracked.
Willingham belted a tiebreaking two-run homer off Zach McAllister (5-8) in the fifth inning, giving Minnesota a 4-2 lead. He also had three singles.
Willingham now has 35 homers and 110 RBIs in his first year with the Twins. It's the most homers by a Minnesota player since Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew 's 41 in 1970. His previous career high for RBIs was 98 set last season with Oakland.
"It has been a special year for me," said Willingham, who said he didn't predict any numbers when he moved to Minnesota as a free agent, turning down Cleveland's contract offer last winter.
"To make a long story short, I wanted three years and two teams offered that," he said. "Cleveland was not one of them."
Gardenhire is glad.
"He can put it in the seats and we knew that when we signed him," he said. "He has some big RBIs for us."
Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera homered, but left in the seventh with a sore right wrist as the Indians fell to 5-12 against Minnesota. Manager Manny Acta said Cabrera will not play Thursday.
Glen Perkins worked the ninth for his 14th save.
Minnesota's Joe Mauer went 1 for 4 with a walk and had an RBI single taken away when the umpires reversed a call. Mauer is hitting .324 while contending for his fourth AL batting title. Detroit's Miguel Cabrera leads at .333.
Mauer hit a sinking liner to left with Jamey Carroll on second base in the eighth. Vinny Rottino made a diving catch, but third base umpire Mike Muchlinski gave a safe sign as Carroll scored.
Acta argued with Muchlinski, a fill-in ump from the minors. The entire crew huddled for a moment and Muchlinski reversed his call, ending the inning and keeping the score at 6-2.
"I thought I could see he caught the ball," Acta said. "It's always a tough call."
Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley each singled in runs in the bottom half, but Cleveland fell to 11-39 since July 26. It has dropped 11 of its last 13 at home.
The Indians led the AL Central for 40 days and held a four-game advantage on May 17, but are 39-72 since.
Hendriks, who made four starts in 2011, was the fifth pitcher since 1920 to go winless in his first 17 starts, three shy of the record shared by Bill Caudill of the Chicago Cubs (1979-81) and Mike Mohler of Oakland (1993-97).
"It's nice to get the young man a win," Gardenhire said. "He stayed away from the big inning. Willingham had a heck of a night, but the night goes to Liam."
Cabrera put Cleveland ahead 1-0 with his 15th homer in the first. He later aggravated a wrist injury that caused him to miss four starts last week.
Mauer and Willingham had consecutive run-scoring singles in the third to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead.
Rottino hustled for the tying run in the bottom half. He walked, stole second and advanced to third on a groundout. He waited until shortstop Pedro Florimon fielded the ball hit by Shin-Soo Choo and threw to first, then took off and beat Justin Morneau 's throw back across the diamond. He scored on a single by Kipnis.
Chris Herrmann made it 5-2 with a run-scoring groundout in the fifth off Chris Seddon . Willingham added an RBI single in the sixth.
McAllister gave up four runs and eight hits over 4 1-3 innings and dropped to 0-4 in seven starts since beating Boston on Aug. 11. In 12 starts since defeating Tampa Bay on July 16, the right-hander is 1-7.
NOTES: Gardenhire's son, Toby, who once played in the Twins organization, is playing for Germany in a qualifying round for the World Baseball Classic that starts Friday. ... Twins OF Darin Mastroianni likely will be limited to pinch-running the rest of the season. He hurt a tendon in a finger on his left hand while sliding head first to score in the 12th inning Tuesday. His finger struck the bat that was left at home plate by Alexi Casilla , whose infield hit scored Mastroianni. ... Herrmann made his first career start at catcher. He caught two innings Sunday in his debut. ... Cleveland activated DH Travis Hafner , out since Aug. 6 with back inflammation. Acta said Hafner will play three times a week, as advised by the medical staff. ... Twins OF Chris Parmelee will fly to Los Angeles on Thursday to be his wife, who is expecting.