For three innings Tuesday night at Target Field, Bartolo Colon was a veritable Harry Houdini.

The 44-year-old righty worked in and out of danger, and was staked to a 1-0 lead before allowing three solo home runs over a two-inning span on the way to an 8-1 loss to Danny Salazar and the Cleveland Indians in front of nearly 30,000 fans at Target Field.

The loss sent the Twins to a stunning 0-8 record against the Indians at home this season. The Twins are 5-1 against Cleveland at Progressive Field this season, however.

Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Edwin Encarnacion issued the gut punches that sent Colon to the showers after just five spotty innings, with Austin Jackson and Santana again adding long balls later in the game as Cleveland scored all eight of its runs on the night via the home run.

Santana homered from both sides of the plate for the second time this season and fifth time in his career. The second home run was also his 14th at Target Field — tying him with Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays for the most as a visiting player at the park since its inception in 2010.

Salazar was absolutely brilliant for the Indians, and has been since returning from the disabled list five starts ago after battling a shoulder injury. Salazar fanned 10 Twins batters and walked none, his second double-digit strikeout game in his last three outings and the third time in a row he’s allowed just one earned run. In his five starts since returning, Salazar has allowed just five earned runs (1.39 ERA).

“He threw the ball well,” manager Paul Molitor said of Salazar after the game. “He had some of our guys looking a bit confused. He had a combination of good velocity and location. He’s always had that good changeup.”

The only damage Salazar really allowed came in the second inning, as Eddie Rosario hit a booming double into the right field corner and scampered home on a two-out single off the bat of Byron Buxton.

That gave the Twins a 1-0 lead. The next Twin to reach base did not come until Max Kepler doubled to the right-center gap in the sixth — when the team trailed by a 3-1 margin.

Kepler was the final Twin to reach, as Salazar finished his night by recording outs on 16 of the final 17 batters he saw. Dan Otero and Zach McAllister picked up the slack with perfect innings to close it out, and ultimately 22 of the last 23 batters for the Twins were set down on a punchless three-hit night.

Despite it being a weak night for the offense, the defense shined brightly, as both Miguel Sano and Buxton made terrific plays in the field. Sano ranged to his right and made an off-balance yet strong throw that Mauer scooped out of the dirt to nip the fairly-speedy Jackson at first to end the fifth.

Buxton, on the other hand, robbed Encarnacion of extra bases — if not his second home run of the night — on a terrific play at the wall in left-center in the top of the seventh.  

Before giving up the home runs, Colon walked the tightrope impressively the first three innings to keep Cleveland at bay. In the first inning, Francisco Lindor rapped an 0-2 fastball to left for a game-opening single, moved to second on Colon’s first balk in 12 years and was stranded at third when the righty got Kipnis, Jose Ramirez and Encarnacion out in order.

The second inning was even more precarious, as Jay Bruce opened the frame with a ringing double off the fence. Santana followed with a walk and Jackson loaded the bases with an infield hit before Colon got strikeouts from Bradley Zimmer and Yan Gomes and a liner to center off the bat of Lindor. Colon also needed an inning-ending double play in the third after walking Kipnis and Encarnacion.

If Colon dug the Twins a hole, the relief corps — which came into Tuesday night fourth in MLB in ERA in August — did the team few favors. Alan Busenitz was first out of the chute, and he tossed 1.2 clean innings before giving way to Buddy Boshers with the lefty-lefty matchup against the newly-acquired Bruce.

After getting Bruce down 0-2, Boshers nibbled and ultimately walked him on seven pitches. Molitor left Boshers in to face the switch-hitting Santana, and the former catcher nubbed a ball just outside of the dirt by the plate, reaching on an infield single without a throw that moved Bruce to third after he’d stolen second with a huge jump just a few pitches earlier.

That set up the showdown between Jackson and Boshers — a puzzling matchup for the Twins. Boshers has been hit hard by righties this season (.859 OPS against), and that pales in comparison to the punishment a rejuvenated Jackson has doled out against southpaws this season (.999 OPS).

Jackson squared up Boshers’ first pitch, driving it deep into the Minneapolis night for a three-run home run that more or less closed the door on Minnesota’s chances of winning — especially with how Salazar was pitching on the night. Santana completed the two-homer night with a two-run shot off Dietrich Enns in the ninth, capping the scoring at 8-1 in favor of the visitors.

“We dodged a couple bullets there early to get the game into the middle innings,” Molitor said. “Then we just kind of let things explode on us there at the end as they separated themselves. They outplayed us. They outpitched us and certainly out-hit us. File it away, and try to rebound.”

Notes and Quotes

  • Zimmer went 0-for-3, and is 0-for-32 in August.
  • The Twins have lost just twice in their last nine games.
  • Rosario’s double was his team-leading 25th. He’s on a modest five-game hitting streak, and is now hitting .296/.337/.504 on the season.
  • Robbie Grossman was the only Twins player to go without a hit and without a strikeout.
  • Every batted ball from a Twins reliever came in the air — three from Busenitz, one from Boshers, three from Enns and one from Ryan Pressly.
  • Molitor on Colon’s performance: “It just looked like his command was a little bit off, and when he made some pitches that were close, we didn’t get many calls. You don’t use that as an excuse or anything. He hung in there and did a nice job of pitching out of trouble early, then the home run ball got him.”  

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