Tribe capitalizes on Twins' shaky defense
Peralta drives in two, Brantley gets first RBI to back Sowers
CLEVELAND -- The Indians made five errors in a loss to the Tigers on Wednesday, so the Tribe knows what it's like to see a defensive effort fall apart.Perhaps, then, the Indians can empathize with a Twins team that made four errors Friday night. But the Tribe won't make any apologies for taking advantage of those Minnesota mishaps and turning them into a 5-2 victory in front of 24,402 at Progressive Field. The opportunistic offense made a winner out of Jeremy Sowers, who was solid for the better part of six innings, and snapped a four-game losing skid. "We were on the flip side of that the other night," manager Eric Wedge said. "At this level, it's tough to overcome that. When you give a team an extra out or another opportunity, more often than not, it's going to hurt you." Indeed, the Indians were able to put the hurt on their old pal Carl Pavano, who made his first start against them since the Aug. 7 trade that made the Metrodome his new home, because the Twins' defenders were not their characteristically sharp selves. Minnesota entered the game with the fewest number of errors (59) of any team in the American League, but it certainly wasn't clicking on this night. In the third inning, it was a throwing error by shortstop Orlando Cabrera that helped the Tribe put together the game's first three runs. Michael Brantley, replacing the surgery-bound Grady Sizemore in the leadoff spot in just his fourth Major League game, reached on a one-out single and moved to second on a Jamey Carroll single. Asdrubal Cabrera grounded into what looked to be an inning-ending 3-6-1 double play. But Cabrera's relay throw went wide. Brantley scored, and Cabrera advanced to second on the error. The Tribe took further advantage through Jhonny Peralta's RBI double and Travis Hafner's RBI single to make it 3-0. Did the error rattle Pavano? "Those things happen," he said. "You still have to make pitches." Sowers made his pitches, yet the Twins still managed to keep it close. For the fourth time in his past seven starts, Sowers held the opposition hitless for the first run through the order. But he gave up an RBI single to Brendan Harris in the fifth and a sacrifice fly to Justin Morneau in his sixth and final inning of work to make it 3-2. Still, this was a strong overall showing from Sowers, who didn't fall apart in the game's middle innings, even though that possibility presented itself. Sowers eked a double-play ball out of Alexi Casilla with two on and one out in the fifth. And he left a pair of runners stranded in the sixth by getting Michael Cuddyer to fly out. "The big thing is early fastball command," Sowers said. "Throwing strikes early forces them to put the ball in play and make guys take defensive swings. If you command your fastball on both sides and are getting first-pitch strikes, you're working in the right direction." Meanwhile, the Twins' defense looked lost all night. And that did nothing to help the club's dwindling playoff hopes. In the bottom of the sixth, thanks to a fielding error by Harris at third, the Indians extended their slim lead. Luis Valbuena reached on that error, moved to second on an Andy Marte groundout and scored when Brantley punched a single into center. Valbuena just barely beat the throw home from center fielder Carlos Gomez to make it 4-2. That was the first Major League RBI for Brantley, who has looked like a natural at this level this week. "It's not easy," Brantley said. "I'm just trying to play the best I can and help the team win." Pavano left the game after the sixth, but the Twins' defensive troubles didn't stop. In the seventh, Morneau missed a catch at first that allowed Asdrubal Cabrera to reach and advance to second, and Peralta drove Cabrera home with a single to left to make it 5-2. As if the Twins' transgressions on the defensive end weren't helpful enough, the Tribe got a stalwart effort from its bullpen. Jose Veras, resurrected from the waiver wire and a stint in Triple-A Columbus, worked a perfect seventh. Tony Sipp, who has allowed just one run over his past 15 appearances, pitched a perfect eighth. And Kerry Wood kept the run of perfection going in the ninth to earn his 18th save. "The bullpen was outstanding," Sowers said. "That was really fun to see." And after enduring an awful night of defense just 48 hours earlier, the Indians had fun being on the other end of things in this win.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.