Twins take finale behind Hernandez's clutch spot start
Lefty delivers sharp five-inning outing after Pelfrey placed on DL
CLEVELAND -- In an emergency situation, Pedro Hernandez accomplished just about everything Minnesota could have asked for.
After the club scratched Mike Pelfrey because of a back strain, the task of starting Sunday's game at Progressive Field fell to Hernandez, who had rode overnight in a rental car with his family to Cleveland from Louisville just in case. Hernandez held the Indians to two runs over five innings, providing some relief to a bullpen that had thrown 7 1/3 innings a day earlier.
Supported by Hernandez's sturdy outing and two-RBI performances from Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia, the Twins fought off a sweep and took the series finale, 5-3.
"We knew after all the things that had taken place yesterday we were going to have to have somebody," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after the win. "We didn't know how it was going to turn out in the first few innings, when he walked the bases loaded. We were just hoping he'd give us some innings more than anything else. He got through five pretty good."
After the game, Hernandez was optioned back to Triple-A Rochester, and the Twins will recall right-hander Kyle Gibson on Tuesday.
Hernandez surrendered runs on a sacrifice fly by Yan Gomes in the second and an RBI double by Jason Kipnis in the third.
Hernandez began the second inning by issuing free passes to Mark Reynolds, Carlos Santana and Ryan Raburn, but the right-hander limited the damage to one run by striking out Drew Stubbs and inducing a flyout from Michael Bourn, after Gomes' sacrifice.
"The first and second innings, I [felt] a little tired," said Hernandez, who was pitching on about three hours of sleep and three days' rest. "After the third inning, I said, 'Come on. Let's go. This is my opportunity. I want to do my best right now.'"
Over five innings, Hernandez (3-1) gave up three hits and walked six batters. He also struck out two, while throwing 85 pitches (40 strikes).
"His first three innings, he was dodging bullets all day long," Gardenhire said. "Didn't really attack the strike zone. I thought his last two innings were pretty decent. The fifth was his best inning. And after coming on short days' rest, we thought that was plenty."
Hernandez first strode to the mound with one run already on the scoreboard for Minnesota. In the first inning, Joe Mauer doubled to left, moved to third on a wild pitch and came around on Willingham's bouncer between third baseman Mark Reynolds and shortstop Mike Aviles.
After Cleveland grabbed the lead with runs in the second and third innings, Minnesota stole it back in the fifth, which featured RBI singles from Oswaldo Arcia and Trevor Plouffe. Willingham singled in Mauer again in the seventh, and Arcia's ninth-inning, opposite-field double off the left-field wall brought Ryan Doumit around from first.
As he ran across the plate, Doumit banged up his ankle. Umpire Eric Cooper initially refrained from making a call, but Doumit was able to dive back and beat Gomes to the plate after realizing he hadn't actually scored.
"Just rolled the ankle a little bit," Doumit said. "One thing you don't do as a catcher is block the plate without the ball, and he did that. So, you know, it is what it is. It's not that big a deal as far as I'm concerned, but you don't block home plate without the ball."
Plouffe's fifth-inning scorcher past Reynolds brought about the departure of Indians starter Carlos Carrasco. In 4 2/3 innings, Carrasco (0-3) allowed three runs. He gave up six hits while walking four and striking out three.
"A lot of deep counts," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "They squared up a lot of balls. To his credit, he pitched, he never gave in, he limited damage. They just made him work really hard."
With Minnesota leading by two in the seventh, Stubbs cut the lead in half with a towering solo shot to left field. But the Twins got that run back in the ninth inning, and Glen Perkins closed the door for a save.
Overall, the Twins went 5-for-16 with runners in scoring position. Mauer, Doumit, Willingham, Arcia and Chris Parmelee all had two hits.
Hernandez, though, was the hero for Minnesota. In the clubhouse after the game, the pitcher packed his equipment in a Rochester Red Wings bag. His next stop isn't Miami, but Indianapolis, where the Twins' Triple-A affiliate begins a four-game series on Tuesday.
"I thought he did a tremendous job," Doumit said. "I thought the way he started off was justifiable. He had a long day yesterday and the start kind of snuck up on him. But he settled in nicely, and he pitched well enough to get the win."