Baker's gem lifts surging Twins past IndiansAug 5, 2007 - 11:01 PM By Anthony Maggio PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) - Scott Baker allowed just four hits in eight shutout innings and the Minnesota Twins topped the Cleveland Indians, 1-0, on Sunday.
Baker (6-4) outdueled Indians starter Fausto Carmona to win his second consecutive start and for the fourth time in his last five decisions while lasting at least seven innings in his third straight outing.
Joe Nathan worked around a two-out single in the ninth for his 26th save in 28 chances as the Twins pulled within 4 1/2 games of first-place Cleveland in the American League Central Division race.
The victory gave Minnesota a 2-1 edge in the four-game series. With Detroit's loss on Sunday, Minnesota is now four games back of the wild card lead.
"We smell blood right now," Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said. "We're ready to go."
Baker was solid throughout the contest and escaped his only two jams with ease.
Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner hit back-to-back singles to lead off the second inning, but neither made it past second base.
Baker struck out Ryan Garko on four pitches, induced a fly ball out in foul territory from Trot Nixon and forced a lazy fly ball to left field off the bat of Jhonny Peralta to end the inning.
"I was just mixing it up, keeping them off-balance, changing speed, changing locations," Baker said. "These guys are pretty aggressive. Anytime you can do that, it's pretty effective."
Garko's strikeout started a stretch of nine straight outs for Baker before Garko led off the fifth inning with a ground-rule double past a diving Torii Hunter in center field. But the Twins' starter shook it off and went right back to work.
Nixon followed with a chopper to the mound and Peralta struck out before Josh Barfield popped out to strand Garko at second base.
"You can see when he knows he needs to make a big pitch he can reach back and get a little extra," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You know, a little savvy out there on the mound along with understanding what he's trying to do there. He's not walking around the mound in circles. He gets back up on the mound, the game keeps a good pace."
Although he took his second straight loss, Carmona (13-6) was nearly as effective.
Carmona allowed one run on five hits with five walks - one intentional - and stranded nine Twins baserunners in the process.
Prior to losing his last two contests, Carmona had been on a five-start winning streak. Even with the consecutive losses, Carmona has a 1.68 ERA in his last seven starts.
Minnesota managed its only run off Carmona in the fourth inning.
After leaving four baserunners on in the first three innings, the Twins put together a two-out rally in the fourth frame.
After Carmona induced two groundouts to start the inning, Jason Kubel singled and Brian Buscher walked. Rookie second baseman Alexi Casilla then lifted a fly ball over the head of left fielder Kenny Lofton, who was playing in.
"It didn't move much," Carmona said about his sinker to Casilla through his interpreter, Indians first base coach Luis Rivera. "It stayed up in the zone."
Kubel scored and Buscher might have been able to come home as well, but the ball bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double. Buscher and Casilla eventually were stranded in scoring position.
Baker took over from there and punctuated his performance with a stellar double-play in the eighth inning.
Nixon led off the inning with a pop-up that fell safely between Jason Tyner and Jason Bartlett in left field. Peralta attempted to bunt pinch runner Jason Michaels to second, but his bunt attempt remained airborne long enough for Baker to move to his left and make a diving catch.
Michaels was running on the play, and Baker easily doubled him off first base.
Michaels was running on the play, and Baker easily doubled him off first base. Peralta laid down the bunt with two strikes in the count, a call that Indians manager Eric Wedge did not make but a decision he supported.
"I respect the fact that he still wanted to get it down and try to do it, but their pitcher made a great play," Wedge said. "(Michaels) was aggressive right there. If he holds there and (Baker) doesn't make the play, he's out at second base so we don't gain anything.
"If he doesn't make a great catch then we've got a runner at second base right there. So at that point in time you have to take chances and risks, and I understand that."
Kubel singled twice and walked twice for Minnesota, while Justin Morneau went 0-for-4 to remain hitless in his last 14 at-bats.
No Indians hitter made it past second base, and Grady Sizemore went 0-for-3 with a hit-by-pitch to end his season-high 12-game hitting streak.
Cleveland has now lost six of its last eight games, but thanks to Detroit's five-game losing streak, still leads the division by a half-game. The Tigers have lost nine of their last 10 games.
"We are still optimistic that when we do get it going we should be tough to beat," third baseman Casey Blake said. "But right now, these are times that are tough to deal with.
"We're pretty fortunate that things are maybe going on the way they are going on right now."
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
- - - - - - - - - - - -
CLEVELAND 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 0
MINNESOTA 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 x 1 5 0 (FINAL)
BATTERIES: CLE - FAUSTO CARMONA, RAFAEL PEREZ (8TH) AND VICTOR MARTINEZ
MIN - SCOTT BAKER, JOE NATHAN (9TH) AND JOE MAUER
HOME RUNS: CLE - NONE
MIN - NONE
Aug 5 4:46 PM
AT MINNESOTA - SCORING UPDATE
GROUND RULE DOUBLE BY ALEXI CASILLA SCORED JASON KUBEL.
SITUATION: 1 RUN IN, A CASILLA ON SECOND, B BUSCHER ON THIRD, 2 OUT
CURRENT SCORE: CLEVELAND 0
MINNESOTA 1 BOTTOM, 4TH
DUE UP FOR MINNESOTA: J TYNER (.279, 1-FOR-2)
Indians vs. TwinsAug 5 3:16 PM
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