CLEVELAND — Up comfortably after an opening-inning eruption Saturday night at Progressive Field, the Indians scored what appeared to be two insignificant runs in the fifth.
They wound up needing them both.
Cleveland scored six times in the first inning, then had to hang on for an 8-7 victory over the Twins, thanks to another shoddy effort from its bullpen — including closer Vinnie Pestano.
“We used a lot of them,” manager Terry Francona said of the five relievers he employed over the final 3⅓ innings. “There were some highs and lows. Fortunately, the highs won out.
“We kind of had to hang on for dear life, though. But we did, so we go home happy.”
One of the bigger lows came in the ninth inning with Pestano making another forgettable appearance in place of the injured Chris Perez. With a three-run cushion, the right-hander allowed a leadoff double to Justin Morneau, who scored on a groundout before Chris Parmelee hit his second home run of the night to bring the Twins within a run with two outs. Pestano walked the following batter to put the tying run on base before striking out pinch hitter Josh Willingham to earn his third save in five opportunities.
“I actually thought Vinnie threw the ball better tonight,” Francona said. “I thought he was more crisp. He just made a couple mistakes.”
It’s been a trying year already for Pestano, who has spent time on the disabled list with elbow issues and hasn’t been the same lockdown reliever he has been the past two seasons.
“This season hasn’t been anything other than challenging for me,” said Pestano, who owns a 4.50 ERA over 22 appearances. “I’ve definitely taken my lumps and bruises. That being said, we won the game. That’s the bottom line.
“I can’t keep putting my lack of execution in front of the team as long as we’re winning games.”
Cleveland won for the fourth straight time and for the eighth time in 10 games to remain three games off the pace of first-place Detroit in the Central Division.
The Indians got another big offensive night from red-hot second baseman Jason Kipnis, whose two-run double in the first scored Cleveland’s first runs and contributed to chasing Minnesota starter P.J. Walters before the inning was complete.
Kipnis fell a homer shy of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run. He has reached base in 24 straight games — fifth-longest active streak in the majors — and is batting .379 (25-for-66) with a homer, six doubles and 14 RBIs over his last 19 games.
“He’s definitely a catalyst,” Pestano said of his roommate and Cleveland’s third batter. “When guys like Kip get hot, they can definitely carry a team.”
The early uprising was beneficial for Indians starter Corey Kluber, who got the win despite lasting only 5⅔ innings and allowing three runs on eight hits. The right-hander entered the night having allowed just one earned run over his last two starts covering 16 innings.
“I wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked to be,” said Kluber, who allowed two runs in the first on a homer to No. 2 hitter Joe Mauer. “You just have to go out there with what you have and try to keep the team in the game.”
It was the third win in three starts for Kluber (6-4, 3.68 ERA), who allowed his other run on a homer to Oswaldo Arcia to lead off the fourth.
“I don’t think he commanded as well as he has,” Francona said. “But if that’s not one of his better outings, and he still gave us that, that says a lot about his development.”
The game took 3 hours and 47 minutes to complete, falling three minutes shy of the longest game of the season for Cleveland.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.