MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Phil Hughes has been pitching with a cracked nail on his right index finger, a common side effect of the sharp curveball he throws. He’s kept the nail intact with super glue.
The big righty has done a nice job of holding the Minnesota Twins’ rotation together, too.
Kennys Vargas homered and sparked rallies with two other hits, leading Hughes and the Twins past Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians 4-1 Thursday.
Hughes (14-8) struck out eight over seven innings to forge a four-way tie for the American League lead in victories, with Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer and Scott Kazmir, and improved to 4-0 with a 1.32 ERA in four August starts.
“When you get on good stretches, everything’s kind of working for you mechanically and your game plan, everything, just kind of falls into place,” Hughes said.
Including that pesky finger nail.
“As long as it stays where it’s at, I’ll be fine,” Hughes said.
Zach Walters, who has four home runs and six RBIs in nine games since joining the Indians, took Hughes deep in the fifth to tie the game. But Trevor Plouffe put the Twins back in front with a two-run double in the sixth inning after Vargas hit a one-out double.
Vargas singled in the eighth, and pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez scored on a double by Oswaldo Arcia. Then Glen Perkins pitched a perfect ninth for his 32nd save in 36 attempts for the Twins, denying the Indians their first sweep of a road series this season.
Kluber (13-7) had his winning streak stopped at six, despite eight strikeouts over seven innings, and the Indians fell six games behind Kansas City in the AL Central. They also dropped into sixth place in the AL wild-card race, still 4 1-2 games out of the second spot.
“Anytime you lose a ballgame it’s disappointing, whether it be going for the sweep or the first game of the series. They all count the same in the long run,” Kluber said.
Hughes avoided a walk for the 14th time in his 26 turns for the Twins and gave up just five hits.
“He’s got one of those sneaky fastballs,” Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said.
Hughes has 148 strikeouts in 165 innings, putting him on pace to sail past his career high of 165 Ks with the New York Yankees in 2012.
“Change of scenery, whatever you want to call it, he’s throwing the ball great,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The home run by Vargas ended a scoreless streak of 20-plus innings and 64 outs for the Twins since they tallied five runs with their first five at-bats to start the series Tuesday. Kluber tried to throw a cut fastball outside that hit too much of the plate. “I don’t want to say he got beat by it, but it looked like he was a little late on it, but he’s just big enough and strong enough that he lifted it out of the park,” Kluber said.
Indians: C Yan Gomes was replaced in the sixth inning by Roberto Perez because of illness. … RF David Murphy, who was placed on the disabled list Aug. 10 due to abdominal muscle tightness on his right side, has resumed core workouts but still feels discomfort.
Twins: RHP Alex Meyer, the top pitching prospect in the organization, has been handled carefully with Triple-A Rochester because of shoulder trouble last season. Meyer has logged more than 123 innings already, but when asked if he could get a September call-up general manager Terry Ryan did not rule that out.
Indians: RHP Carlos Carrasco (5-4, 3.27 ERA) starts Friday to open a three-game home series against Houston. RHP Brad Peacock (3-8, 5.47 ERA) pitches for the Astros. Carrasco takes his third turn since rejoining the rotation, following three months in the bullpen. He’s pitched 12 scoreless innings, with five hits and no walks allowed over the last two starts.
Twins: Host Detroit this weekend for four games in three days, including a doubleheader. RHP Tommy Milone (6-4, 3.99 ERA) starts following the shortest outing (only four outs, seven run) of his career. LHP Robbie Ray (1-3, 5.33 ERA) pitches for the Tigers.