MINNEAPOLIS -- As fans enjoyed the seventh-inning stretch, Justin Masterson took the mound, still pursuing a no-hitter.
Through six innings, he kept the Twins offense on their heels and hitless. Minnesota pulled off late-inning heroics in the first two games of the series, but facing a six-run deficit, they were still looking for their first hit with only three innings left to play.
Brian Dozier stepped into the batter's box to lead off the inning. At the time, Masterson had faced the minimum through six. His only blemish was hitting Aaron Hicks in the third, but he was thrown out trying to steal second. Dozier finally did what no other Twin had been able to do: He got a hit. With a bloop double to center on a sinker that shattered his bat, Dozier went on to score the Twins' lone run on a fielding error by second baseman Jason Kipnis two batters later.
Dozier may have interrupted Masterson's bid for history, but the Twins fell to the Indians on Sunday at Target Field, 7-1.
"He was filthy," Dozier said. "The whole game, he kept powering sinkers and just fell off the table. ... I was going to take one to try and work the count, and I thought 'You know what, I might fall behind.' So I went up there hacking."
Masterson ended his day after seven innings, allowing one run on one hit. He struck out eight batters and didn't issue a walk.
"Just mixing and matching, trying to keep them off their toes," Masterson said. "The slider got a little bit better as the game went on. I was able to mix that in. Early on, I was mixing in some sinkers, some four-seamers here and there. I was trying to stay in, get away and just really keep them guessing. Being able to throw a lot of strikes is what helps."
"It's one of those where you just tip your cap to him," said bench coach Terry Steinbach, the Twins' acting manager on Sunday due to Ron Gardenhire's stomach flu. "We have some pretty good hitters in our lineup. He went through it pretty easily. I went back and looked at video, and he had his good stuff going. It was nasty. In a situation like that, you just have to battle. I tip my cap to the guys out there. They were doing the best they could, but he just had his good stuff going."
Meanwhile, Twins left-hander Scott Diamond labored through 4 2/3 innings and exited the game after giving up six runs, five earned, on seven hits and three walks.
"My stuff was really bad," Diamond said. "Coming out of the 'pen, I felt like everything was gonna be good. First inning went OK, second inning was OK, and then after that everything started to slip. I think I tried to overdo some things, and I kind of let what happened -- I was one pitch away in the fifth, and it was frustrating that I just couldn't get that last one."
Diamond, who is 5-9 with a 5.53 ERA and has struggled to string together quality starts, may find himself fighting for his job.
"Anything's possible," Diamond said. "I know I'm not pitching well, so anything is possible, and anything could happen. But I'm still confident with my approach and what I'm focusing on and my stuff. Even though it's just not playing out the right way, I'm gonna continue to attack and continue to pitch."
While Diamond struggled, the defense didn't back him up. Two miscues and an error led to Indians runs.
Cleveland jumped ahead early with a run in the second off a Mike Aviles sac fly to right, bringing in Mark Reynolds. Reynolds walked and reached second on a fielder's choice, as Pedro Florimon hesitated on the throw to first and was unable to get the force at second -- no one was on the bag.
An inning later, a fielding error by Trevor Plouffe allowed Asdrubal Cabrera to reach safely to lead off the third. Kipnis followed with his 15th homer and his second two-run blast in as many days for a 3-0 lead.
Before Diamond called it a day, the wheels came off in the fifth. After loading the bases with a Kipnis walk followed by singles from Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana, Diamond surrendered a three-run triple to Michael Brantley, giving the Indians a six-run lead.
Where the Twins' defense made some mistakes, it also made several big plays to limit the damage. One such play was Hicks' inning-ending diving catch in the fourth to rob Drew Stubbs of an RBI single, as Ryan Raburn was on second. Clete Thomas also robbed Cabrera of a hit off the wall to lead off the fifth.
"We faltered a little bit today. ... We had the miscommunication with Dozier and Florimon early," Steinbach said. "So it's things we need to iron out for us to compete and win. Defense is a big part of our game, and I thought those plays should've been made today."
Kelly Erickson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.