CLEVELAND -- As one of Tyler Duffey's curveballs dropped through the strike zone, shortstop Francisco Lindor swung through the pitch, then let out a frustrated shout before leaving the batter's box. It was a prime chance to break through against the Twins' starter on Sunday, and Lindor knew it.
What Lindor could not have known at the time of that strikeout in the third, however, was the extent to which Duffey would toy with Cleveland's lineup in this 5-1 loss -- a loss that helped Minnesota to its first series win since late April. That knuckle-curve was one of many Duffey used to frustrate the Indians, who flirted with a pile of two-out rallies that went nowhere.
"He could have told you [Duffey's] curveball was coming," catcher Chris Gimenez said. "He's very deceptive."
Cleveland was hardly overpowered, but the lineup could not convert its opportunities.
The Indians had at least one baserunner in five of the seven shutout innings that Duffey logged, but the bulk of those came with two outs already on the board. On the day, Cleveland actually produced a 7-for-16 showing with two outs on the day, but none of that offensive work led to a run. The Indians ended the game 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners; eight of their nine hits were singles.
The Tribe's lone run came in the eighth, when Jason Kipnis belted a leadoff homer off Twins reliever Trevor May.
Duffey allowed back-to-back hits with two outs in the third before striking out Lindor with a 2-2 curveball. The righty then gave up two-out hits in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings, but sidestepped harm at every turn. He logged a season-high 49 knuckle-curves and held the Indians to a 2-for-10 showing (four strikeouts) against that pitch.
"I just told myself to slow down a little bit," Duffey said of the many two-out jams. "They fouled off a lot of pitches, especially the curveball. You could tell they were looking for it. Fortunately, they were just fouling them off. I just had to adjust and throw fastballs where they were looking for curves. I had to adjust with what they gave me."
That led to an assortment of quieted comeback attempts.
"It seemed like we got frustrated," manager Terry Francona said. "On a day like today, you're going to have to string some hits together -- unless you hit the ball like Kip did down into right field -- and we weren't able to do that. We weren't able to get guys on early in innings, and we didn't get any two-out hits."
That continued after Duffey's exit, too.
In the ninth inning, Minnesota closer Kevin Jepsen struck out Juan Uribe and Tyler Naquin before allowing consecutive two-out singles to Gimenez and Michael Martinez. That was as far as Cleveland's push went, though, as Carlos Santana stuck with the day's trend and flied out to center field to end the game.
"We couldn't just get that one," Gimenez said. "I feel like offensively, if we can just get that one hit, I think it's going to snowball off of that. The last couple of games, unfortunately, we just haven't been able to put that timely hit together."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.