Minnesota Twins' Eduardo Escobar (5) celebrates his solo home run off Cleveland Indians relief pitcher John Axford with Chris Colabello (20) in the 10th inning. ASSOCIATED PRESS
CLEVELAND — Eduardo Escobar usually shows off his power during pregame batting practice.
On Monday night, he did some flexing in the 10th inning.
Escobar homered on Cleveland closer John Axford’s second pitch of the 10th, giving the Minnesota Twins a 1-0 win over the slumping Indians.
Escobar, who entered as a pinch-hitter in the seventh, connected on a 1-0 pitch from Axford (0-3), driving it over the wall in right for his first homer since June 20 and fourth of his career in 344 at-bats.
“He can swing it, we’ve all seen that,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “You watch him in batting practice, he hits them as far as anybody. It’s a big moment. It’s cool. You see the big smile on his face and everyone else.”
It was the second straight gut-wrenching loss for Axford, who gave up a three-run homer in the ninth to Chicago’s Dayan Viciedo on Sunday as the White Sox rallied for a 4-3 win. In that game, Cleveland catcher George Kottaras homered twice, becoming the first player in franchise history to homer in his first two plate appearances, and Corey Kluber struck out 13.
“Bad pitch,” Axford said of his fastball to Escobar that caught too much of the plate. “It’s unbelievable. It’s a shame that my performances have kind of taken precedence over a great hitting performance by George and outstanding pitching performances by Kluber and Zach.”
Caleb Thielbar (2-0) pitched a perfect ninth and Glen Perkins struck out two in the 10th for his eighth save.
Escobar came in for Pedro Floriman and grounded out with two runners on in the seventh. He more than atoned with his game-winning shot into the seats.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to come up with a big swing in that spot,” he said. “I’m really happy for the team more than anything else.”
The Indians, who only got two runners to second base, had been the only team in the majors not to play in an extra-inning game.
Cleveland has dropped eight of 10, and scoring is a huge issue. The Indians have scored three runs or less in 19 of their 32 games.
“We’re fairly inconsistent right now,” manager Terry Francona said. “Even in hitters’ counts, we’re not getting real good swings. I think when it’s team wide, everyone is trying to do much. It’s a good quality but we’ve got to fight through it together and keep the line moving and we’re not doing that.”
Both teams got strong efforts from their starting pitchers.
Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson allowed only two hits in seven scoreless innings, and Cleveland’s Zach McAllister gave up five hits while blanking the Twins over 6 2-3 shutout innings.
The Twins played without first baseman Joe Mauer, who is day-to-day with lower back spasms.
Gibson has been blessed with an abundance of runs all season. The Twins came in averaging 7.14 runs in his first five starts, but they couldn’t push one across against McAllister, who was pitching on regular rest after going on three days’ last week in Los Angeles.
Gibson and second baseman Brian Dozier combined on a sparkling defensive play in the fourth.
Michael Brantley hit a grounder toward right that Dozier stopped with a dive before spinning in one motion and throwing toward first. With first baseman Chris Colabello out of position, Gibson alertly covered and snagged Dozier’s throw on one hop before sliding into the bag ahead of Brantley.
“The only thing that could have made that play more funny than it was, was if Colabello had gotten hit right in the butt,” Gardenhire said. “He had no clue where the ball was going. That was a great, athletic play by Dozier. I’ve never seen a pitcher go sliding into first base like that to catch a throw.”
NOTES: Indians OF Michael Bourn missed his second straight game with a tight right hamstring, the same one he had surgically repaired in October. Bourn could be headed to the disabled list for the second time this season if it doesn’t respond. ... Cleveland placed DH Jason Giambi on the DL with a strained calf muscle. The 43-year-old is 0-for-10 this season. ... Twins rookie SS Danny Santana made his major league debut as a pinch-runner in the seventh and nearly got picked off second. Indians manager Terry Francona challenged the safe call but it was upheld. Santana got his first big-league hit in the ninth. ... Indians RHP Josh Tomlin will make his first start Tuesday since July 27, 2012, three weeks before undergoing Tommy John surgery. ... Twins RHP Samuel Deduno will start Tuesday after seven relief appearances. He had shoulder surgery in September.