MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — For the first time this month, the Cleveland Indians lost a series.
Trevor Bauer lost for the first time in five starts this month as Cleveland lost 3-1 to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday to drop two of three in the series.
"We just didn't do much offensively," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I would say (Bauer) held up pretty good for the most part. If we were winning, we'd probably have put him back out there."
Anthony Swarzak (2-0) pitched five sharp innings in a fill-in start for Kyle Gibson, who was a scratch the day before with a sore back. He threw 75 pitches, well over the limit the Twins had in mind, but the right-hander allowed two hits and one walk while striking out three.
The Indians had a chance to pile on runs in the third, when Jose Ramirez poked a perfectly placed double down the third base line to drive in a run and give Cleveland a 1-0 lead. But shortstop Eduardo Nunez made a slick diving stab of Michael Brantley's sharp line drive up the middle, ending the inning with runners stranded at second and third.
"Then Brantley hits the ball up the middle, that's like taking two runs off the board," Francona said. "We might still be playing. That's a great play."
The Indians' chances in the AL Central had been looking up after winning a four-game series at division-leading Detroit to close in on the Tigers, before Cleveland lost a series to the division-worst Twins.
The Indians have lost three of the last four, averaging under two runs in each loss.
Cleveland had the go-ahead run at-bat with Brantley in the eighth facing Brain Duensing with runners at second and third. But Brantley popped out to end the inning.
Bauer (4-5) kept the Indians close with seven strikeouts in six innings, but was relieved an inning after he gave up a home run to Oswaldo Arcia on a 2-2 count, which put the Twins ahead 3-1.
"It was a fastball, exactly where I wanted to put it. He hit a good pitch," Bauer said. "Runs hurt, no matter how they come. Especially when they score a run on a ball with two balls."
Bauer also gave up a triple to Danny Santana in the third, followed by an RBI single to Sam Fuld. In the fifth, Brian Dozier drove in Santana with a double.
Ramirez batted second, immediately after being called up from Triple-A to play shortstop with Asdrubal Cabrera out for the second straight game.
Ramirez had two of the Indians' five hits as Cleveland struggled to get much off Swarzak, who has made 29 career starts, but took his first since Oct. 2, 2012 on Wednesday. Such a surprise assignment can be a challenge for a pitcher, but that can also work against an opponent that hasn't prepared to face him.
Four of Swarzak's five innings were perfect.
"We've seen him a bunch. He's not going to pitch different because he starts, we've seen him a lot," Francona said. "Our hope would be to get the pitch counts up, give him a couple long innings and make them use their bullpen. We couldn't do that."
NOTES: Cabrera's back was much better after a day of significant discomfort. He likely won't need to go on the disabled list. ... The Indians move on to Kansas City Thursday for a four-game series, with RH Corey Kluber (10-6, 2.95 ERA) starting opposite LH Danny Duffy (5-10, 2.66 ERA) of the Royals. Kluber has allowed only 10 earned runs over his last six turns, totaling 44 strikeouts and only seven walks in 43-plus innings. ... Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater threw out the ceremonial first pitch, the day before he reports to his first NFL training camp.