MINNEAPOLIS -- That rough first half of the season for the Minnesota Twins is inescapable.
But they emerged from the All-Star break strong, taking advantage of several Cleveland mistakes, a bunch of highlight-reel plays by their defense and one of their liveliest crowds of the summer.
Joe Mauer's two-out RBI single in the eighth inning lifted the Twins to a 3-2 victory on Friday to end the Indians' winning streak at four.
Four Twins relievers combined for six strikeouts over 3 1/3 hitless innings, including Casey Fien (2-2) in the eighth and All-Star Glen Perkins in the ninth for his 22nd save in 24 tries.
"Huge crowd out there, which really picked up the guys," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Trevor Plouffe hit a tying two-run single in the sixth against Scott Kazmir, who stifled them for two hits over six innings.
Then with Joe Smith (4-1) pitching in the eighth, Pedro Florimon singled and Brian Dozier reached on an error when first baseman Nick Swisher let third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall's throw bounce in and out of his glove.
Smith got Plouffe to ground into a double play, but Mauer followed with his go-ahead single. Indians manager Terry Francona said he never considered intentionally walking Mauer, though Smith was instructed to pitch carefully. Until he got ahead of the catcher with a 1-2 count.
"Then my approach changed. I was going for a punch out. I wanted to get out of the inning," Smith said.
Mauer stroked a single to center field.
"It was good that they pitched to Joe and gave him a chance," Perkins said. "So thanks for that."
The Indians stayed 1 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit, which lost 1-0 at Kansas City, in the AL Central race.
The Twins have won three in a row after losing 16 of 18.
"Baseball's a funny game," Plouffe said. "Just when you think you're out of it, you can run off some wins and get right back in it."
The Twins need a lot more of those. From manager Ron Gardenhire to cornerstone first baseman Justin Morneau, many of them are more concerned about finishing the season here and being able to come back next year than focusing on a pennant chase.
In this third straight lost season for the Twins, Morneau's name is at the top of the could-be-traded list.
"It's a place where I'm happy and we've won here, which is always the goal. But it's not up to me, so we'll see what happens," said Morneau, the 2006 AL MVP who's in his 11th season, all with Minnesota.
With two outs in the sixth inning, after a two-out walk by Florimon, Dozier hustled for second base when Chisenhall bobbled his bouncer for an error at third. Then Plouffe followed with a clean line drive that bounced in front of Drew Stubbs in right field, driving in the two unearned runs with his team's first solid hit of the night.
Kazmir walked three and struck out three. Indians starters, who entered the night with the fourth-fewest innings in the league, haven't taken a loss in their past nine games. They have a 2.14 ERA in that span with only two homers allowed and a .192 batting average against them.
But the bullpen and the defense were the problems, just the opposite of the Twins.
Twins starter Mike Pelfrey had plenty of help, with a lunging catch by shortstop Florimon, a sliding grab from left fielder Clete Thomas and a slick play by second baseman Dozier to end the third with a jump to snag a line drive and a same-motion sidearm throw to Florimon to finish a double play.
Florimon also made a barehanded pick up of a slow bouncer to barely throw out All-Star Jason Kipnis to start the fourth, and he dived to catch a bloop in shallow left field for the first out of the ninth for Perkins.
Pelfrey gave up a pair of deep doubles the inning before to Chisenhall and Michael Bourn, whose drive drove in both runs. Pelfrey said his bullpen warmup was "terrible." But he bounced back.
"I guess I found a way, you could say," said Pelfrey, who has a 3.65 ERA over his past six starts.
This was, strangely, Cleveland's first visit of the season to Minnesota. The way the Twins have been playing, though, that's good for the Indians.
Beginning with Friday's game, more than 19 percent (13 of 67) of their remaining games are against the Twins. Ten of them in this second half are here at Target Field, including a four-game series to finish the regular season from Sept. 26-29.
"We could probably take up residency here," manager Terry Francona joked.
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