The subpar defense was a big factor in lefty starter Brian Duensing being outpitched by Cleveland right-hander Justin Masterson, as the Twins lost for just the fourth time in their past 12 games.
"It was a tough ballgame for us," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Duensing actually deserved a little better than he got. We just didn't play very well out there. Masterson, I don't think pounded the strike zone like he normally has against us, but he was effective and went deep into the game."
Duensing gave up six runs (four earned) on 11 hits and a walk over seven innings, and he struggled early before settling down.
The lefty gave up two runs in the first inning, when Shin-Soo Choo laced an RBI double and scored on a single from Carlos Santana.
The defense didn't help Duensing's cause in the second, when Nishioka made a throwing error while trying to flip the ball with his glove to second base to start a potential double play. The Indians capitalized on the missed play, as Asdrubal Cabrera and Choo both provided RBI singles with one out.
"If I make the play, I could get double play, so there is a very fine line between a good and bad play," Nishioka told Japanese reporters. "I did my best to make a play, so I'm not worried too much. I will try to focus on next game now, and I will do my best if I have a chance to play next time."
Nishioka again had troubles defensively in the sixth, when he let a popup hit by Shelley Duncan drop for a bloop double. Duncan ended up scoring from third base on a grounder hit to Nishioka with the infield in, when Nishioka's throw home was high. Jason Kipnis brought home another run with a sacrifice fly.
"[Nishioka] had a rough day out there," Gardenhire said. "He lost a ball in the sun and made a diving play, but you got to get an out. He's part of our baseball team and we brought him up here to see what he can do. Today wasn't a good day."
It was a series to forget for Nishioka, who committed three errors and went 0-for-12 in three games. But his teammates said they have his back despite his struggles.
"He's our teammate," Duensing said. "Everyone makes mistakes; it happens. Everyone loses a ball in the sun. Physical errors happen all of the time; that's just part of the game. We're looking for him to keep doing his job and keep his head up."
The offense, meanwhile, was held in check by Masterson, who gave up two runs on just three hits and four walks over seven strong innings.
Alexi Casilla brought home both Twins runs with a two-run homer in the fifth inning. It was his first homer of the year and his first since June 21, 2011, but it was all Minnesota could do against Masterson.
"Pitching got us into this mess and pitching got us out of it, too," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Masterson did a tremendous job. He just stepped it up a notch a little bit after that two-run homer and really went after it those last two innings."
Despite the loss, the Twins still finished their seven-game road trip to Boston and Cleveland with a 5-2 record. They head into their three-game series against the Rays that starts Friday at Target Field with confidence.
"You're not going to win every game, and to go to Boston and win three out of four and come here and win two out of three, that's a good trip," closer Glen Perkins said. "We're going to go home and start a new series, and I think having an off-day, we'll forget about today."