CLEVELAND -- C.C. Sabathia's defense deserted him -- again.
Sabathia (13-6) was coming off a hard-luck 1-0 loss to Boston's Daisuke Matsuzaka on Tuesday, when the only run scored on a misread flyball. Against the Twins, a flyball went over the head of right fielder Trot Nixon for a tying RBI double, and second baseman Josh Barfield made two errors on one play to put the Twins ahead.
"I could have made better pitches," Sabathia said.
Instead of becoming the first 14-game winner in the AL, the All-Star left-hander lost for the fourth time in five starts in July.
"I don't want to blame anybody," Sabathia said. "We're a team. We pick each other up. If guys don't get hits, it's up to me to shut down the opposition."
For seven innings, he did.
Leading 1-0, Sabathia hit Jason Tyner with a pitch with one out in the eighth. He struck out Jason Bartlett, but pinch-hitter Mike Redmond hit a flyball that dropped safely behind Nixon for a run-scoring double.
"I knew I hit it good," said Redmond, 8-for-15 (.533) with five RBI in his career against Sabathia. "I didn't realize he was playing so shallow until I hit it. It got over his head and we got a good bounce off the wall so the run could score."
Joe Mauer followed with a routine grounder to Barfield, who kicked it for an error and threw wildly to first for another, scoring pinch-runner Luis Rodriguez and sending Mauer to second. Justin Morneau followed with an RBI double to left for a 3-1 lead.
"You hate to see C.C. throw like that and not take advantage of it," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "He pitched as good as you can for the second time in a row."
Dennys Reyes (2-1) pitched 1 1/3 innings in relief of rookie Matt Garza, who struck out 11 in six innings. Pat Neshek induced a double-play grounder to end the eighth and Joe Nathan worked the ninth for his 22nd save in 24 chances as the Twins took two of three in Cleveland after being swept three straight in Toronto by a combined 26-5 score.
"It was a great win for our ballclub," said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire, who was livid at his club's poor play in a 10-4 loss Friday night. "We won the series after the first game was pretty ugly."
The Indians had runners on first and third with one out in the ninth but Nathan induced pinch-hitter Franklin Gutierrez to bounce into a game-ending double play.
Cleveland began Sunday a half-game behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central, but fell to 2-5 on a 10-game homestand that resumes Tuesday against the Texas Rangers.
"We're just in one of those tough stretches," Sabathia said. "We're not playing our best, but we can turn it around."
Sabathia gave up one earned run in 7 2/3 innings and struck out 11 for the sixth time in his career. He was at his best in stranding a runner at third with none out in the sixth. Bartlett doubled and stole third, but Sabathia fanned Nick Punto, reigning AL batting champ Mauer and 2006 AL MVP Morneau.
"I wasn't thinking strikeouts, until maybe with two strikes," Sabathia said. "I just wanted them to hit the ball on the ground to keep the run from scoring."
Mauer fanned three times in a game for only the third time and first since July 22, 2005, at Detroit.
Jhonny Peralta hit a leadoff single and scored on Nixon's double to right-center to put Cleveland ahead 1-0 in the second.
"I tried to put up zeros against C.C.," Garza said. "That's what you have to do when you go head to head with him."
- Scott Ullger was back coaching third base for the Twins after taking a line drive off his left jaw while in the Minnesota dugout Saturday night.
- Sabathia didn't walk a batter for the second consecutive game and fourth time in his last seven starts.
- Bartlett's sixth-inning double stopped a 1-for-14 (.071) slide.
- The only starters not to strike out were Tyner and Nixon. The 25 total strikeouts were the most in an AL game this season.