Hunter, Twins continue surge against Indians

Hunter, Twins continue surge against Indians

CLEVELAND -- Torii Hunter continued his hot streak against the Tribe, Brian Dozier launched a home run, and the Twins spoiled left-hander Bruce Chen's return to the Majors in a 7-4 win over Cleveland on Saturday at Progressive Field.

Hunter belted a home run in the first inning -- his fifth long ball of the season and second in as many games in Cleveland -- and finished with three hits for Minnesota, which has won four in a row and nine of its past 10 games. With that showing, the 39-year-old outfielder improved to 7-for-9 at the plate in the past two tilts against the Tribe.

Hunter scores on double play

"I think he gets better with age," Chen said. "Last couple games, he's been hitting the ball really well. He pulls the ball, he goes to the opposite field. He's very tough. He also has some power. Right now he's on fire and he's hitting the ball well and he's a very tough out."

The bulk of the Twins' offensive damage came against Chen, who was called up from Triple-A Columbus prior to the game. Pitching for his 11th team in his 17th season, Chen lasted only four-plus innings and was charged with six runs with three strikeouts and a walk. After his exit, Dozier added a solo homer (his third blast of the year) off Indians reliever Ryan Webb.

"I feel bad, because I feel like the team was counting on me on delivering a good outing," Chen said. "I tried to do everything I could but I feel bad, because I didn't pitch well."

Minnesota starter Phil Hughes (2-4) blanked Cleveland's bats for five innings before finally flinching. Michael Brantley contributed an RBI single in the sixth and the Indians added three more runs in the seventh -- two on a homer by David Murphy. Hughes gave up four runs on 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings.

Murphy's pinch-hit two-run homer

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hunting fastballs: Two batters into the game, Hunter scorched an 84-mph full-count fastball from Chen deep to left field for a solo home run. That set the tone for a rough 2015 debut for the crafty left-hander, who was charged with six runs on 10 hits in an abbreviated effort for Cleveland.

"I have no idea," Hunter said when asked what pitch he hit out. "He throws so many different pitches, you just don't know what you hit out. I think it was a changeup. I think it was a fastball. I don't know."

More strikes, no problems: The Twins consistently found themselves in pitcher's counts during the game, but didn't let it bother them. Of the Twins' 16 hits, 11 of them came with two strikes, including Hunter's homer. Four of them came on an 0-2 count, and another two on a 1-2 count.

"I think some of the things that [hitting coach Tom Brunansky] was trying to incorporate with these guys to get results," Twins manager Paul Molitor said, "was by shortening their swings and trying to use the whole field and seeing the ball a little bit longer. Any time you're rewarded for trying to implement that, hopefully it makes you realize that's a good plan to have when you get deeper in the count." More >

Escobar's RBI single

Two-out rally: Chen gave up a double to Dozier and a base hit to Hunter to open the third, but was on the verge of escaping after consecutive strikeouts against Joe Mauer and Kurt Suzuki. Chen then surrendered three straight singles, each knocking in a run to help Minnesota run to a 4-0 lead.

Vargas' RBI single

"There was a lot of clutch hitting today," Molitor said. "They got a couple punchouts, but then Kennys got the big hit to extend the inning and followed by Escobar and Rosario. You go from potentially squandering an opportunity to putting the three up there. Those really change the complexion of the game."

Late push: Nick Swisher (4-for-4 in the game) and Michael Bourn opened the seventh with consecutive doubles, scoring one run. Murphy followed with a home run to trim the Twins' lead to 7-4. Cleveland went on to load the bases with two outs, but Minnesota lefty Aaron Thompson induced a flyout to shallow center from Lonnie Chisenhall to end the rally. In the ninth, Ryan Raburn pinch hit for Chisenhall with runners on second and third and no outs, but then flied out to end the game. 

Bourn's RBI double

"We really showed a lot of heart there late in the game," Swisher said. "It's hard to play from behind that big, but for us to at least get the tying run, or the go-ahead run, to the plate, we've really got to be proud of that. That's something maybe we can build on. I feel like it's just been a rough go for us." More >

QUOTABLE
"We're inconsistent. I think regardless of what happens today or what happened yesterday, we have a responsibility to try to get better every day. That means coming out tomorrow and trying to do everything in our power to find a way to win." -- Cleveland manager Francona, on the Tribe's struggles

WHAT'S NEXT
Twins: Trevor May (2-2, 4.15 ERA) will look to build on some early season success in the series finale Sunday at 12:10 p.m. ET by keeping his pitch count down and working deeper into games. He's made five starts for the Twins this season, but has yet to pitch into the seventh inning and is averaging just a little more than five innings pitched per start. He took a loss in his last start against Oakland, throwing 5 2/3 innings and allowing two earned runs on five hits and two walks, with three strikeouts.

Indians: In the finale of a three-game set with the Twins Sunday at 12:10 p.m. ET, the Tribe will hand the ball to hard-throwing right-hander Danny Salazar, whose rate of 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings leads all Major League starters (minimum 20 innings). Salazar struck out nine and walked none on Tuesday, but took a loss against the Royals after giving up four runs in seven innings.

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Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.