CLEVELAND -- The Twins didn't have much trouble getting on base in Sunday's series finale against the Indians. Making it all the way around to home plate was another matter.
Minnesota led off five innings with a hit or a walk, but its batters went 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position and left 13 men on base. Cleveland even tried to help the Twins' cause by committing four errors, and still they could manage only a single run. With the score tied in the eighth, Jared Burton gave up a solo shot to Drew Stubbs, and the Twins went on to drop the game, 3-1, as well as the series at Progressive Field.
"We missed a lot of opportunities," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They made a lot of mistakes, and we couldn't make them pay for it."
Burton, who took the loss, also allowed a double to Michael Bourn and an RBI single to Nick Swisher in the decisive inning.
The Twins (57-72) had plenty of chances to break the contest open. They stranded a runner on third in the third inning. In the fourth, they had two in scoring position and could not get a run across. Minnesota left the bases loaded in the fifth and squandered a leadoff double in the sixth. The Twins also had men on the corners with one out in the seventh and failed to scratch out a run.
"They're trying -- maybe trying too hard," Gardenhire said. "We've done a lot of that. That's been the norm. That's been our Achilles' heel, as they say. We've left a lot of men out there. Runners in scoring position hasn't been a very good stat for us this year. We've been terrible."
Minnesota entered Sunday ranked 28th in baseball in batting average with runners in scoring position. After Sunday's effort -- which included 12 strikeouts -- the Twins are hitting .228 in such situations.
Starter Mike Pelfrey issued a career-high six walks in his outing, which ended after five innings. Despite the lack of control, he allowed just two hits and one run to the Indians (71-59), while notching three strikeouts. The big right-hander used 94 pitches, only 49 of which were strikes.
Pelfrey said he felt his command get away from him during an at-bat by Stubbs in the third inning, and it never came back.
"Way too many walks. It's pretty embarrassing," Pelfrey said. "I thought it was a wasted day. The ball was moving. I had good stuff. I thought the velocity was there. I just couldn't throw it over the plate."
The Tribe got its first run in the bottom of that third inning, when Jason Kipnis hit a two-out RBI single with runners on first and second. Pelfrey had issued two walks earlier in the stanza.
"That really chapped me," the pitcher said.
Minnesota had four baserunners in the fifth inning, when it got the one run. Clete Thomas led off the frame with a single and moved to second base on Pedro Florimon's sacrifice bunt. Brian Dozier's single to right moved Thomas to third, and he scored on a bunt single by Doug Bernier, who later added another bunt single. Swisher fielded the bunt and held on to it, not trying for the out at home or first base.
After Indians starter Scott Kazmir struck out Josh Willingham, the lefty walked Ryan Doumit to load the bases. With the crowd at a roar, Trevor Plouffe lined out to third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, adding three stranded runners to what would be a very high total for the Twins.
"Especially with runners in scoring position, I felt like I was able to kick it up a little bit and just throw quality pitches," said Kazmir. "That was my main goal."
Kazmir danced out of danger all day. In his six innings, the Twins had seven hits but scored just once. The Tribe lefty also issued one walk and fanned eight.
"If you would've told me that after all is said and done we'd be up, 3-1, I'd say, 'Go straight to the casino,'" Indians manager Terry Francona said. "They had runners on base all day, and we're throwing the ball all over the field -- and we kept them off the scoreboard, except for the bunt to first."
With all the prime scoring opportunities, with all the gifts from Cleveland's defense, Sunday's game was one the Twins should have won.
"I don't know who was supposed to win the game," said Gardenhire. "I know they won it with a couple hits, but I don't know who was supposed to win it. Sounds like we were. You make four errors, you're not supposed to win."
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.