Phil Hughes pitches into 7th inning, keeps Twins close before Indians break away for 4-2 win

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MINNEAPOLIS — Phil Hughes had his best start by far of the new season. But that's not saying much for a pitcher who's historically struggled in the first month of the season.

The proclaimed ace of the Twins' staff held Cleveland in check until getting roughed up in the seventh inning, losing for the third time in as many outings, 4-2 Saturday.

In 31 career April starts, the right-hander is 6-15 with a 6.05 ERA.

"Maybe I need three extra weeks of spring training," said Hughes, who signed a three-year, $42 million contract extension in the offseason.

"But it's just one of those things," he said. "You get through it and manage it and not just say, Oh, I'm going to be terrible,' and throw out three terrible starts."

Hughes (0-3) has allowed eight hits in each of his three starts, giving up four runs twice and three in his other appearance. He said he was only "average" against Cleveland, which managed just one run on five hits through six innings.

Hughes broke down in the seventh, two innings after cracking a fingernail while warming up.

"I wasn't able to really throw a curveball or much of a cutter at all, so from that point on I just went change-ups and sinkers," said Hughes, who said he had the same problem last April.

"I was able to get through the fifth, sixth pretty clean, and then I ran into a little bit of trouble in the seventh," he said.

The Twins could do little at the plate against Danny Salazar, who matched a career high with 10 strikeouts in his first start since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus.

Salazar (1-0) limited the Twins to six hits and walked two before he was lifted after Kurt Suzuki's leadoff homer in the seventh.

"We saw him a number of times last year and he was a completely different pitcher," Twins cleanup man Brian Dozier. "He threw everybody change-ups, that's what he lived off of today."

Roberto Perez had a home run among his three hits for the Indians, and Jason Kipnis stopped an 0-for-16 slide with a two-out, RBI single in the seventh that prompted the Twins to pull Hughes.

Nick Hagadone retired all six batters he faced, and Cody Allen finished up with a hitless ninth for his third save in as many attempts.

Minnesota had won three in a row.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Indians: After missing six out of seven games because of a sore back before this series, OF Michael Brantley played left field for the first time after serving as the designated hitter the night before.

Twins: 3B Trevor Plouffe had his first game off of the young season after hitting the game-ending home run in the 11th inning the night before. "We were joking about that," manager Paul Molitor said. "If you hit a game-winning homer, you have to sit the next day."

UP NEXT

With rain in the forecast, the Indians will send LHP T.J. House to the mound after a bad first start last weekend against Detroit when he got only four outs and gave up six runs. RHP Trevor May will pitch for the Twins.

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