MINNEAPOLIS -- Max Kepler has been a thorn in Cleveland's side all season long. On Saturday night, the Twins outfielder tormented the Tribe once again, using a highlight-reel diving catch to halt a rally and help set the stage for a 2-1 walk-off win in 12 innings for Minnesota at Target Field.
Kepler robbed Rajai Davis of a would-be go-ahead hit to end the top of the ninth, and the Twins' offense delivered in extras. Facing rookie reliever Joseph Colon -- the 10th pitcher of the night for Cleveland -- Joe Mauer pulled a pitch into right-center field for a walk-off single, scoring Brian Dozier from second to set off the fireworks.
"We were just hoping to get a big hit somewhere along the way with how good the pitching was," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Joe was having a night where he had to battle a little bit, but he finally got the big hit to win the game. So a lot of positives. When you win a close game at home against a good team, you have to feel good about that."
The loss was only the third in the past 12 games for the Indians, whose lead atop the American League Central remains six games over the second-place Tigers.
"Everybody did great," Indians manager Terry Francona said of his relievers. "You get into 11 or 12 innings on the road, when you give up a hit, you go home. But, we had a chance, even though we weren't scoring. We've won some of those games and we will in the future."
Working with a limited pitch count, rookie Mike Clevinger gave Cleveland an admirable performance during another bullpen day for the Tribe. The righty logged 62 pitches in four innings, in which he allowed two hits and struck out five. His lone blemish came courtesy of a towering solo homer by Twins slugger Miguel Sano in the second. The bullpen then combined for seven shutout innings, leading up to the Twins' final breakthrough.
"That was the best we've seen. He gave us four and the way he held his stuff," Francona said of Clevinger. "The first couple innings, there were some walks and some deeper counts, but I thought as he sped up his rhythm, you saw him be more aggressive and in the strike zone with good stuff. That was really good to see."
While Cleveland's bullpen combined to hold Minnesota at bay, Twins lefty Hector Santiago did what he could to stay in step. He allowed one first-inning run, but then locked in and cruised through seven strong frames against the Tribe. Santiago scattered five hits and issued four walks, but dodged the potential damage of that traffic for his final six innings.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Balk off: Dozier delivered a two-out single against Colon, who took over in the home half of the 12th inning for Cleveland. With a 1-2 count on Mauer, the rookie right-hander flinched with his back leg before stepping off the rubber, resulting in a balk that moved Dozier up to second base. Rather than intentionally walk Mauer, Colon went after the veteran. Mauer then took advantage of a hanging breaking ball for his game-winning hit.
"We're not trying to pitch to him in any way, shape or form," Indians catcher Chris Gimenez said of their approach with Mauer. "I wanted the ball in the dirt, and I know he was trying to execute it there. He left it up a little bit, middle, and that's one of the best hitters to ever play baseball."
Beresford gets first hit: Twins third baseman James Beresford, who played 1,070 Minor League games in 10 seasons before getting called up for the first time Tuesday, picked up his first Major League hit with a single in the seventh. Beresford's parents made the 25-hour trip from Australia to see him in his debut. Beresford, though, was stranded at second after a sacrifice bunt from Byron Buxton.
"I don't really remember anything other than I hit the ball and then next thing I know, it's the next inning," Beresford said with a smile. "So it's all a bit of a blur now. I do remember looking into the dugout and it looked like there were 40 people standing up on the rail clapping. It just goes to show that all the guys in this clubhouse have been amazing towards me and made me feel really comfortable." More >
Kepler's catch keeps it tied: With two on and two out in the ninth, Davis hit a sinking liner down the right-field line that was snared by a sliding Kepler to keep the Indians from taking the lead. It was yet another impressive catch from the rookie right fielder, and saved closer Brandon Kintzler from allowing to go-ahead run. It was fitting, as it was Davis who robbed Kepler with a great catch Friday.
"When the ball was hit I thought it was going to be catchable but it was kind of dying out there," Molitor said. "He closed on it well. He's shown the ability to give us good range. His defense has been solid for the most part, and that was a big play."
Quick start: Three batters into the game, the Indians had a 1-0 advantage. Davis led off the first with a double that center fielder Buxton could not catch with a diving attempt. Jason Kipnis then singled and Francisco Lindor brought Davis home from third with a sacrifice fly. From there, Santiago settled in, holding Cleveland to a 3-for-22 showing over the rest of his outing.
"Early, we had some good chances and didn't do much with it," Francona said. "And [Santiago] got into a comfort zone. He started throwing his fastball for a strike and, off of that, the changeup and breaking ball. He really got comfortable and he looked better."
"Mollie presented me with the ball, and I had to make a speech. Of course, when I talk, everyone has something to say, because I guess I pronounce everything a little differently." -- Beresford, an Australia native, on the postgame ceremony in the clubhouse to celebrate his first hit
"Overall, we did a great job. You can't be mad about it. It's a tough loss, no question about it. You always want to win games, especially at this point of the year. But, the way we were able to go out there and compete, and have our defense pick us up with some key plays, was really beneficial." --Indians reliever Zach McAllister
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Ace Corey Kluber (15-9, 3.16 ERA) will continue his bid for the American League Cy Young Award on Saturday, when he takes on the Twins in a 2:10 p.m. ET clash at Target Field. Kluber has gone 7-1 with a 2.23 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 76 2/3 innings across his past 11 turns for Cleveland.
Twins: Rookie right-hander Jose Berrios (2-5, 9.21 ERA) is set to start for the Twins in the series finale on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. CT. Berrios went five innings his last time out, allowing five runs on nine hits against the Royals on Monday after a short stint at Triple-A Rochester.