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Mike Berardino / St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published April 04 2014

Swisher carries Cleveland to win against Twins

CLEVELAND – For Mike Pelfrey, what happened to him Friday evening felt like “a kick in the stomach.”

Perfect through four innings and still firing a one-hit shutout through five, the Twins right-hander fell into a stunning downward spiral that was all too familiar.

“I just kind of lost it,” Pelfrey said after a 7-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians. “The game just got away from me, and it just fell apart real quick.”

Cleveland’s Yan Gomes homered to open the sixth, Nick Swisher added a two-run homer to wipe out an early Twins lead and the Indians were on their way to claiming their home opener at Progressive Field.

As Swisher’s 418-foot shot sailed into the right-field seats, Pelfrey dropped into a deep crouch beside the pitcher’s mound and stayed there while Swisher rounded the bases.

What was he feeling at that moment?

“Anger, frustration,” he said. “You throw the ball down the middle, belt-high, that’s what’s going to happen.”

The loss dropped the Twins to 1-3 and left manager Ron Gardenhire stuck on 999 career victories. It also marked the Twins’ seventh straight loss to the Indians and their ninth in the past 10 meetings between the clubs.

An announced crowd of 41,274 sat through a 2-hour, 13-minute rain delay to watch, although there were plenty of empty seats by the time the game finally started.

Josh Willingham’s sacrifice fly and Chris Colabello’s solo homer staked the Twins to a 2-0 lead in the first against hard-throwing Cleveland righty Danny Salazar. That marked the Twins’ first lead in 55 innings against their American League Central rivals, dating to August.

For Colabello, that shot to right-center gave him seven RBIs over a span of eight innings. He nearly added to the Twins’ lead in the fifth, but his bases-loaded liner found the glove of second baseman Jason Kipnis.

“That was a missile,” Gardenhire said. “If that ball goes through, we’ve got action.”

Pelfrey, meanwhile, was dominant in retiring the first dozen batters he faced on just 36 pitches. Armed with a heavy sinker, Pelfrey waited until his 49th pitch of the day before throwing anything off-speed.

“He was really filthy those first few innings,” said second baseman Brian Dozier, who had his first three hits of the season. “He was throwing darts. His sinker looked like a left-handed slider, making people look bad.”

Carlos Santana broke up the perfect game with a ringing double to right to start the fifth. That hit came two pitches after catcher Kurt Suzuki dropped a foul tip that would have been strike three, but Pelfrey still took a shutout into the sixth.

Then the wheels came off.

“Goodness gracious, that was pretty quick,” Gardenhire said. “He went out for the sixth and he just wasn’t the same pitcher. He just lost it out there and he couldn’t find it.”

Pelfrey insisted he didn’t tire, even after Gomes sent a full-count fastball into the Indians’ bullpen. Lonnie Chisenhall worked a six-pitch walk and Nyjer Morgan sacrificed him over.

That bunt marked one of two first-pitch strikes Pelfrey threw to his final nine batters. After Swisher homered, Pelfrey issued eight straight balls to Kipnis and Santana, ending his night after 81 pitches.

A fastball that consistently registered 92-94 mph on the stadium radar had dipped to 89-90 mph.

“As fast as it unraveled in the sixth inning there, who cares about the first four?” Pelfrey said. “That kind of takes away from all of it.”

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.