Scott Diamond was perfect for 4 2/3 innings on Friday night. He retired the first 14 Indians batters he faced, finally conceding a baserunner on Travis Hafner's two-out single in the fifth.
The 37,820 in attendance at Target Field responded with an ovation. But long before that point, his offense responded by backing him with production that would have sustained a lesser pitching effort.
Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham paced Minnesota's 15-hit night by each hitting a three-run homer, supporting Diamond's shutout and leading to an 11-0 Twins win over Cleveland. The victory halts Minnesota's losing streak at three while also tying the season series with the Indians at three.
"I took a deep breath [after the first hit]," Diamond said. "I thought I made a good pitch to [Jose] Lopez the next at-bat. At that point, it was just trying to get us a win and go as long as I could. We did have the day off [Thursday], but our bullpen is overworked a little bit so I'm sure they could use the extra day as well. So I was just trying to go as deep as I could."
Diamond turned in only the second complete game by a Twins pitcher this season, as P.J. Walters threw one on May 22 at Chicago. It was also his 10th quality start in 15 outings.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Diamond's preference for pounding the strike zone has been the key to his consistent season, which now includes nine wins.
"Being able to throw multiple pitches over first pitch," Gardenhire said. "He can throw his changeup over, he can throw his fastball, and the breaking ball. Being able to do that, moving the ball in and out. He was able to set them up and push them off inside, then throw the changeup away."
His impressive performance also comes on the heels of two of his worst outings of the season. Diamond yielded nine runs on 19 hits over a combined 12 innings in his last two starts
"I wasn't going to change my gameplan. I was trying to attack," Diamond said. "I wasn't going out there for strikeouts. I wanted them to put the ball in play and you saw our defense. It was outstanding. So when that happens, all I'm trying to do is get ground balls."
Morneau propelled the Twins to an early advantage by launching a 421-foot three-run shot to right field with two outs in the first. It was Morneau's 12th home run of the season and his first since July 6. Denard Span and Joe Mauer were driven in on the play after reaching on singles.
Minnesota's offense blew the game open in the fourth, scoring five runs after making two outs. Alexi Casilla, Span, and Ben Revere notched consecutive two-out singles, with Casilla scoring on Revere's hit. Mauer followed with an RBI single of his own before Willingham crushed a three-run homer to left-center field, his 26th of the season. He is already three shy of the career-high 29 homers he hit last season with Oakland.
"Any time you get three runs with one swing, it's great," Willingham said. "Obviously, I would've taken a single there as well, but to get one up and out of the ballpark was good for us and gave Scotty a good cushion."
Cleveland's Josh Tomlin lasted only four innings, giving up eight runs on 10 hits. The Indians were shut out for the fourth time this month.
"Diamond was good," Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. "He threw strikes all night to both sides of the plate and changed speeds. We couldn't do anything against him, and Josh just lacked command of his stuff today. Too many pitches right down the middle of the plate."
Mauer, Willingham and Doumit each added RBI singles in the sixth against reliever Jeremy Accardo to increase the Twins' cushion.
Diamond also benefitted from numerous nice plays in the field, including a handful from Brian Dozier at shortstop. But the 25-year-old's aggressive pitching style is conducive to allowing the defense to make plays.
"That was one of our better ballgames, if not our best all-around game this year," Gardenhire said. "Everything kind of worked tonight."